By Mathieu Galtier.
Tripoli, 29 September, 2013:
The first exclusively French bookshop opened in Tripoli this month. The owners’ ambition is to make . . .[restrict]Dar al-Jaliss the place to be for all lovers of everything French in the capital of Libya.
Customers are welcomed by Eiffel Tower sign hung on the façade of an Italian art deco building that famously used to be known as the Fiat building, at the top of Istiqlal Street, not far from the King’s Palace. A small shop in the basement, just 20-square metres in size, is dedicated to French literature and other books in French. Opened on 14 September, Dar al-Jaliss is almost certain to be the only bookshop focused entirely on a foreign language in the country.
“I got the idea about six or seven years ago. Then it came back more strongly in my mind in November 2012, when the French language became more or less compulsory at secondary schools”, explains Anne Mollon-Deschamps. She owns the bookshop with her Libyan husband, Khairi Ben Miloud. She has been living in Tripoli since April 2001, working as librarian at the French Institute.
French editions only
Mollon-Deschamps was very determined in her decision. First of all, she decided that the bookshop had to respond to the two main requests from Libyans: getting accurate textbooks specialised in learning French as a foreign language and, secondly, specific school books.
The study of foreign languages as a whole has skyrocketed since the end of the Qaddafi regime but it is still very hard to find out decent book to learn them: “I buy textbooks published by French editors only so I am sure there are no grammatical or spelling mistakes – and there are good pictures and good quality paper”, Mollon-Deschamps insists.
The stationery sector is important as well. It is almost impossible in Tripoli to buy a notebook with large squares in it – essential in learning how to have a decent French writing. Dar al-Jaliss has a stock of the precious material, coming from Tunisia.
The bookshop also offers classic novels such as Victor Hugo’s Les Misérables , Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert) and Alexandre Dumas’s celebrated masterpiece Le Comte de Monte Christo (the Count of Monte Christo) in abridged versions.
French, “language of law and love”
Right now, most of the customers are either French teachers or Libyan students. All the students at the French school, La Colombe (the Dove school), fro example, obtain their supplies of stationary from the shop.
“A lot of law students learn French so they can study in France because French law is international law. And 80 percent of women consider French as the true language of love, ahead Italian one”, Hannan Draa, a French professor, says.
Mollon-Deschamps plans to visit soon French departments at universities and private schools to promote French textbooks.
Targeting the students and professors are only the first step. She dreams of making Dar Al-Jaliss a friendly place in which customers can talk about all sort of things French sharing a coffee. But that will need a bigger location. For the moment, the initiative has already been a win-win move for Libya and French culture in Libya given that the French school and French Institute have been closed since the attack against the embassy on April.
“It is an excellent initiative which fills a gap for the Libyans eager to improve their French skills”, Jean-Pierre Vidal, an advisor to Ministry of Higher Education for the strengthening of French language in Libya, says gladly.
Dar al-Jaliss, Shara Istiqlal near the King’s Palace.
Opening hours : 10am-2pm, from Saturday to Thursday?Tel: [email protected]