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In Alsace, an itinerant bookseller travels through the cultural deserts

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber in his “bookshop ininérante” in Gundolsheim, in the east of France, August 12, 2017

On the shelves of a warm wooden caravan, nearly 3,000 works go to meet their readers: for a few months, a “traveling bookstore” travels the roads of Alsace to bring the books where there are none more.

The creator of this astonishing business on wheels, Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber, a former director of theater, achieved a feat this August weekend. Its nomad store blends perfectly into the rural landscape of the Gundolsheim (Haut-Rhin) vintage festival between the wheelbarrow racing circuit and a knacks selling stand.

The bookstore is called “Au vraie chic litterère”, and the spelling mistake is deliberate. “It is out of derision, to invite readers not to place literature on a pedestal,” says the bearded 40-year-old.

Arriving Friday evening Mulhouse at the wheel of a van pulling his bookstore, he spent nearly four hours to settle and slept in the mezzanine overlooking the “shelves” of the store.

More spacious than a caravan and more durable than a caravan, the “tiny-house”, the name of this type of dwelling on wheels with wooden frame, offers some 2,700 books arranged in its shelves.

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | Visitors to the itinerant bookstore of Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber in Alsace, France, August 12, 2017

Eleven square meters of culture where a survival guide in the forest, books of which you are the hero, the last Guillaume Musso or a classic tragedy of Racine, all second-hand. “I scoured the Emmaus of France to build a stock that resembles me,” says Megel-Nuber.

After thinking of investing in a truck or a bookstore in 2015, this lover of the trip finally chose the wooden cabin “more conducive to introspection and the reception of fiction”. Total cost of the project: 48,000 euros, paid to 15% by 170 lovers of reading via a participatory financing site.

– Zones without library –

In February, “To the true literary chic” began to travel the roads of the Greater East to “facilitate access to the book” in areas without bookstores, as in Gundolsheim, and to impeded audiences (prisons, hospitals, retirement homes. .). After a dozen trips, Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber considers to play, on his scale, his role of “cultural vector”.

Emmanuelle Grainder, a teacher and resident of Orschwihr, a neighboring village of some 1,000 inhabitants, was attracted by the initiative. “You do not have to drive at least 15 km to find a book shop … people do not necessarily make the move,” she regrets.

Ⓒ AFP – PATRICK HERTZOG – | Larger than a caravan and more durable than a caravan, the traveling bookstore offers some 2,700 books in its shelves

She went to the Gundolsheim festival for the buissonniere bookshop, packed by the “intimate” and “warm” aspect of the place, she left with four books, one in German, not without asking the bookseller if he intended to pass In his village.

“The bookshop has a vocation to go first where it will be called,” says Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber. Over the months, partnerships have been formed with elected officials and organizers of events in the Greater East.

A member of the county council of Bas-Rhin, Nathalie Marajo, asked the vagabond merchant to settle in Woerth, in the north of Alsace, next winter. For more than 15 years, the commune of some 2,000 souls no longer has a bookshop.

“People, especially the elderly, are very sorry about that. They would like to buy their books elsewhere than on the internet,” she says. Same observation in the canton of 45 communes where the literary offer is scarce, “with the exception of media libraries”, emphasizes the elected.

“It takes, I have a lot of demand”, ignites Jean-Jacques Megel-Nuber who organizes in addition the themed readings during his displacements. An alternative way to use his “stroller box” for the pleasure of others.

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