The bookstore arose in the west

On the door of the small bookstore La Chenille, it is written: “To begin with not to understand” with the beautiful calligraphy of the letterer Claude Dolbec. This notice, apparently thrown in the middle of the path from alice to the country wonderful things, is a direct invitation to take a fresh look at things.

I crossed his threshold, of course. Coolbrook Street, near Queen Mary Road, on the outskirts of Hampstead, the place is a bit out of place. West Montreal is hardly teeming with friendly cultural spaces with shelves filled with second-hand books, mostly French and Quebecois. Books intended for children and adults alike, with enticing titles. I have chosen Surveys by Jorge Luis Borges and a primer of the moon.

My footsteps brought me back there very quickly. One of his booksellers, Laurent McDuff, a literature student, had then spread out on a table works by Sartre, Beauvoir and their associates. Most of the volumes come from private libraries, from those who work there among others, but the goal is soon to also offer new books, with a large radius in educational psychology, more English-language books as well.

This caterpillar opened its doors on August 15 without fanfare, but the official inauguration will be on October 2. The new place has grown on the site of a framing house that disappeared during the pandemic, like so many brands.

Of Corsican origin, Jérôme Mariaud, co-owner of La Chenille with his wife Natalia, had run a bookstore in Paris in the Opera district for five, six years. He has been living in Quebec since 2008, after having known several lives in France or elsewhere, exercising various professions, going through moments of rupture, various creations, flashes of fruitful commitments.

“Opening this bookstore is an act of resistance,” he tells me. Many get books from the Internet. An aberration, in my eyes! He believes in frequenting places to read, has nothing against the Web, circulates there like everyone else with fascination, but for him, the first document that prompts reflection is the book. “With the screen, the content does not print in the head. After all, if some people burn literary works, it is because they have lost their sacred aura.

All around him, he feels this vibrant fear of books among children and teenagers, whom he actually rubs shoulders with constantly. Jérôme Mariaud founded the Ateliers Kit Focus in Montreal in 2012, having initially created a psychocognitive method based on games and memorization exercises to support young people with learning difficulties. Kit Focus has occupied the first floor of La Chenille since 2016. A team, including his psychologist wife and many experts, receives between 80 and 100 young people in rotation. For him, children and adolescents with attention deficit are able to learn, but have difficulty digesting the information received. Each of them has its own history and remedies. To dreamers and the hyperactive are then offered different paths, which also go through reading.

“The reign of the screen makes it difficult to learn deep text,” he says. We show in the workshop that reading is a tool for thought, reflection, analysis, vocabulary acquisition, critical thinking. Because the impoverishment of words can be seen everywhere today. Jérôme Mariaud likes to open side roads.

An extension of his work as a teacher, this bookstore is an opportunity to recreate the direct relationship with the book. “This gesture must be part of everyday life. A house without books is terrible. At La Chenille, we wanted to offer the atmosphere of a surprise box, of a small labyrinth. We go on an adventure, because its space has been designed as a journey, woven with everyone’s tastes. One of our booksellers, Rachel Lamoureux, a literature student, is publishing a collection of poetry in December. He would like to organize events around launches such as existed at Olivieri, literary evenings, even a small cine-club with a patched-up screen. “We have to rediscover this magic of DIY. “

Jérôme Mariaud, who also exhibits his unusual photographs at La Chenille, talks a lot about the necessary transformation of the gaze, in order to open up to surprise, wonder, contact. “Chance is always born of an encounter, of words, of memories. Better to leave some free space for people to make it their own. Thus the bookstore offers visitors empty spaces to fill. It’s our yin and our yang, ”he says before rushing into it again.

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