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We interviewed the Frenchman who founded the Portuguese bookshop of Emily in Paris.

We interviewed the Frenchman who founded the Portuguese bookstore “Emily in Paris”.

Space appears in the final season of the Netflix series. It has been selling works by Portuguese-speaking authors since 1986.

In the second season of “Emily in Paris”, the popular Netflix series, among other things, a Portuguese-language bookstore appears. The space is real, as we have already explained in this article, and it is called Librairie Portugaise & Brésilienne.

Founded in 1986 by Michel Chaneigne, it occupies one of the poshest blocks of the French capital. At 65 he runs the bookshop with the young Corinne Saulneron. Editor Chaneigne, a reference in this field, is responsible for Anne Lima – but of course Michel is also involved.

From Paris to Lisbon, the city where he lived and which made him fall in love with the Portuguese speaking culture, he gives a phone interview to NiT. With a heavy accent, his Portuguese is understandable, although Michel constantly apologizes for not being able to speak the language.

Why did you want to open this bookshop specializing in Lusophone literature?
From the beginning I wanted a Portuguese language bookshop with Portugal, Brazil and all the history of Portuguese travelers and Jews in the world. Lusophonia can originate from all continents and in many eras of history. This is what interested me and the French the most: the universal dimension of Portuguese culture.

Does Michel have family ties to Portugal?
No, I was simply called to teach biology at the French Lyceum [em Lisboa], in 1982. I discovered a unique and amazing city. Lisbon 1982 was an incredible thing. And then an incomprehensible, but great language. And literature and poetry… I quickly became a translator for Eugénio de Andrade, Sophia de Mello Breyner, Fernando Pessoa and many other authors. It was the shock of Lisbon and totally unfamiliar territory. I was very happy in Lisbon [risos]. Back in France I still kept a strong connection to the country and at that moment there was work on Portuguese culture. In 1982 only ten books on the history of Portugal were translated, which were very few. There was a lot to do in the editing and translation departments. And at the time when Portugal joined the EEC, there was a lot of financial means in culture to develop all these activities.

In addition to the bookstore, he did such editorial work.
Yes, in the beginning I worked with publishers to produce books, for example by Eduardo Lourenço. And I tried to persuade publishers to publish “Os Maias” by Eça de Queirós and titles about the Portuguese discoveries, but with the refusal of some publishers, I founded a publishing house in 1992 with Anne Lima, a former student [franco-portuguesa] from high school. And she has been in charge of the editions for 30 years. We make literary books, from the classics to authors such as Valério Romão, Dulce Maria Cardoso or Isabel Figueiredo. We have ten books translated by Mia Couto. And in the history section we have almost 70 books – on the history and art of Portugal. In 30 years there are almost 200 publications.

Is your audience mainly French? People interested in learning more about Lusophone culture?
Yes, at the publisher, yes. But in the bookstore, it’s very difficult to define an audience. There are Portuguese, Brazilians, Franco-Portuguese couples who want to discover each other’s cultures, and also bilingual children who need books. And of course historians. It’s a very diverse audience. And that’s why I think the bookstore can hold out for a few more years.

He is 65 years old.

Was it a challenge as it is a niche market?
The problem is the internet, platforms like Amazon have given everyone the opportunity to go through the publishers website with special offers or used books etc. It’s hard to resist. But we also have a website that is a showcase for the whole world. We have customers all over the world.

Do you feel that you have a mission to promote lusophone culture and that it has been accomplished?
Well, we’ve been doing this work for 35 years and we have a track record of success. But it’s not a mission, it’s a pleasure. This is what makes Portugal famous, it’s just a joy to live in this open world.

Who are your favorite Lusophone authors?
Personally Eça de Queirós and Mia Couto. But I’m always curious. I really liked the books by Valério Romão, some by José Cardoso Pires. And also Brazilians like Machado de Assis or Milton Hatoum. I’m not fixated on any author, but I had a long relationship with Fernando Pessoa, I translated him for a few years and continue to publish bilingual editions. I have always been very fond of Portuguese poetry, I have translated many books – I am always impressed by the work of Herberto Helder – and it is a beacon and reference point in my education. We have just completed a 2000 page bilingual anthology on Portuguese poetry, a monumental work by Max de Carvalho.

Her bookstore appears in the Netflix series Emily in Paris. How was it for you?
That was very good, because every day of shooting there is a small compensation, which is very nice. [risos]. And now there are many young girls who are showing up to take selfies, but they are not potential readers.

More people showed up, but sales didn’t increase because of it.
Yes, they didn’t come up. But it has produced some journalistic reports talking about Emily in Paris and our bookshop. But it’s still not a phenomenon like Livraria Lello [no Porto] and the “Harry Potter” [risos].

It is already 65 years old. Do you plan to continue this work?
Yes, it’s not a job, it’s a pleasure. I hope to continue to the end. Of course it depends on my health, one day it won’t let me anymore, but I want to continue. I never felt like I was working, it’s a pleasure to be in the bookshop, to receive people and to imagine books being published.

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