The Crossed Bridge: from butcher to bookshop to café

The Crossed Bridge: from butcher to bookstore to café.

At 62 Rue de Vaugirard in the 6th arrondissement of Paris is Le Pont Traversé: The Crossed Bridge. Once a bookstore, and now a café.

Le Pont Traversé has a history. 

The writer and poet Marcel Béalu (1908-1993) founded the bookstore in 1949. 

He was born on 30 October 1908 in Selles-sur-Cher and worked in a haberdashery making hats while teaching himself classical French literature. His wife Marguerite Kessel encouraged him to study German literature too. 

He established a bookstore in 1949 and named it Le Pont Traversé after Jean Paulhan’s 1921 story. Marcel Béalu also wrote his own poems in two noted collections: Poèms 1936-1960 (Le Pont Traversé) and Poèms 1960-1980 (Le Pont Traversé). His store specialized in rare and second-hand books, illustrated book editions, modern literature, and surrealist literature.

But Le Pont Traversé, like other well-known bookstores in Paris (such as Shakespeare and Company Bookstore), did not begin where it ended. 

Le Pont Traversé began on Rue de Beaune, and moved to 16 Rue Saint-Séverin, where he also printed the journal Réalités Secrètes with René Rougerie from 1955-1971.   

In 1973, Marcel Béalu moved the bookstore to 62 Rue de Vaugirard, previously a butcher shop. It was an ideal location near the Luxembourg Garden and not too far from the Odéon.He painted his bookstore deep blue with carved ox heads and enamelled plaques. 

After his death in 1993, his second wife Marie-Josée Comte-Béalu managed Le Pont Traversé. It closed permanently in December 2019. 

Only one of Marcel Béalu’s books was translated into English during his lifetime, in 1991, published in French circa 1945 – L’Expérience de la Nuit – The Experience of the Night

On 15 November 2022, his 1954 novella (written in the 1940s) L’Aventure Impersonnelle – The Impersonal Adventure – was published in English. I’m now trying to find the 1993 Lys Flowerday 12-minute animated film inspired by and narrated by Marcel Béalu, called Petite Jeune Fille dans Paris – A Slip of a Girl in Paris. Great title!

Le Pont Traversé is now a café, open since March 2021.

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