Thursday, 17 March 2011

Postcard of the Day No. 46, Café d’Harcourt

The café at the heart of the Latin Quarter, at Place Sorbonne (47, boulevard Saint-Michel) – it was said to be the first choice with students from the nearby Sorbonne. Café d’Harcourt would come to a sudden end in 1940 soon after the Nazi occupation of Paris. On Armistice Day, 1940 there was an easily suppressed minor revolt by students at the university to which the occupying authorities responded thus – if you’re going to make us feel unwelcome after all we’ve done for you, we will force your favourite café to close and it will reopen as a bookshop specialising in Nazi and collaborationist literature. The new bookshop, opened in 1941 as Librairie Rive-Gauche, had the largest and most palatial premises of any in Paris. It was intended to be on the front-line of the German master-plan for following up their military victory with a cultural blitzkrieg at the end of which a demoralised French intelligentsia would have no choice but to acknowledge the cultural superiority of the occupying power. The project was not a great success – the store quickly gained the reputation of being the most deserted in Paris and it was reported that the only customers ever seen to enter the shop were German officers in uniform. The café never reopened and 47, boulevard Saint-Michel is today a Gap store.

Reference: Frederic Spotts, The Shameful Peace, New Haven, 2008


Glenn Bater said...

Cafe d'Harcourt is the place where Ruben Dario met Paul Verlaine, introduced to him by Alejandro Sawa and Enrique Gomez Carrillo.

Giants walked the earth in those days.

Gary said...

Great pics! Phil, do you happen to know if the café d'Harcourt was previously occupied by the restaurant Flicoteaux? Many sites and casual commenters tend to indicate that is so, but I'm skeptical. Thanks!