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Ernest Hemingway’s Ode to Paris is Flying Off the Shelves in France

French bookstores and Amazon in France have sold out of "A Moveable Feast" after a TV interview with an elderly woman inspired readers to read and re-read Hemingway's famous homage to the City of Light.

by VICE News
Nov 19 2015, 8:20pm

Los escritores estadounidenses Janet Flanner y Ernest Hemingway leyendo una cartea y bebiendo en una mesa del café Deux Magots en París, Francia, el 1 de enero de 1945. (Imagen por David Scherman/The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images)

In the past few days, copies of A Moveable Feast – Ernest Hemingway's ode to Paris in the 1920s – have been spotted among the flowers and candles laid out in tribute to the 129 people who lost their lives in Friday's terror attacks.

Copies of the novel have sprung up outside the Bataclan concert hall and in front of the bullet-ridden windows of the bars and restaurants targeted by gunmen on Friday.

According to digital news channel iTélé, many of the mourners who observed a minute of silence on the streets of Paris Monday were also clutching copies of the book, which AFP reports has been flying off the shelves of French bookstores since Monday. 

Crafted from some old notebooks Hemingway had filled up in the twenties and then stashed away in the basement of the Ritz, the book is a largely fond – but at times, bitter – recollection of the author's life in the vibrant city between the world wars.

In a succession of vignettes and portraits, Hemingway recalls the cafés, bars and neighborhoods of the city, and his encounters with a host of luminaries, including James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and Gertrude Stein.

David Ducreux, a press officer for French publisher Folio, told AFP that bookstores were struggling to keep up with the demand. Bookstores generally sell up to ten copies of the book a day, he said, "but right now, it's 500."

Meanwhile, the book has also sold out on Amazon.fr, where it is currently topping the bestseller list.

As a result of the rush, the publishing house has planned to print an extra 15,000 copies of the book. According to AFP, French readers usually buy around 8,000 copies of the book each year.

This new wave of interest is being attributed to a televised interview with a French woman, known only as Danielle, in the days following the attack. Speaking to BFM TV Monday, the former attorney and human rights activist promised "to fraternize with five million Muslims who practice their religion freely and kindly, and […] fight the 10,000 barbarians who kill, supposedly in the name of Allah."

In the same interview, Danielle urged people to honor the dead with flowers and to read and re-read Hemingway's A Moveable Feast.

Attentats : Une mamie pleine de bon sens by Lol--tv

Danielle's reaction to the attacks quickly went viral and she was dubbed "the internet's favorite granny" by French daily Libération.

Meanwhile, Toulouse-based Karim Boucherka launched a crowdfunding campaign to track down Danielle and present her with a bouquet of flowers "on behalf of the internet." The campaign has already raised 14,000 euros ($15,000) from more than 1,600 people.

Danielle, who has since received "a magnificent bouquet of red roses," has asked for the money to be distributed to charities and to organizations supporting the victims' families.

As a result of the renewed interest in the book, French television channel France 5 dedicated part of its "La Grande Libraire" (The Big Bookstore) program to the autobiographical book this Thursday.

Philippe, a bookseller at Paris bookstore Gibert Joseph, said his store had run out of copies today and placed an order for extra copies of the book. He likened the rush to the resurgence of Voltaire's Treatise on Tolerance in the wake of the January 2015 Charlie Hebdo attacks that left 17 people dead in and around Paris.

At the time, French publisher Gallimard had ordered a new print run of 120,000 copies of the book to keep up with demand.

The closing sentence of A Moveable Feast is inscribed on plaque outside Hemingway's first Paris apartment at 74, Rue du Cardinal Lemoine, in the 5th Arrondissment. "Such was the Paris of our youth, the days when we were very poor and very happy."