In my quest to find interesting content for this blog of mine, I stumbled across this image of an arched doorway made of books, posted on Instagram by @enchantedlibraries. My mind went in two directions — first, are those books secured? And second, where is this bookstore located?
While I was not able to answer the first question based on careful examination of so many different Google images of the same arch (I’m willing to start a GoFundMe so I can answer this question in person), I learned a lot about the actual location in pursuit of the second question, and uncovered a neat story to boot.
To get the immediate questions out of the way first, this is a bookshop called Le Bal des Ardents located in Lyons, France, along the Rue Neuve (temporarily closed currently due to COVID-19). People call the bookshop small, quaint, but very distinctive in terms of its entryway and picturesque interior. It evidently champions the small, unknown authors and independent publishers, which I greatly respect.
The cool (ha!) story comes in when I started looking into the actual name and what it meant (because I don’t speak a word of French beyond food names). The name translates in English to “the dance of the burning ones”, and strangely enough has nothing to do with books. Le Bal des Ardents (otherwise known as Dance of the Savages) evidently was a masquerade ball held in 1393. People partied hard back then apparently, as all of the partygoers were dressed impersonating savages. The costumes they wore were extremely flammable (I imagine due to the materials used at the time), and several partygoers were carrying torches to complete the ensemble. I imagine you can see where this is going, but just in case, it was the King’s (Charles VI) brother who carried the fateful torch that really, ah, turned up the heat at the party. After the conclusion of the, ah, “dance of the burning ones”, only the King and one other dancer survived.
So there you have it! A really neat looking bookshop with a kind of morbid-but-fascinating name! I don’t see myself in Lyons anytime soon, but just in case, this place would be something I’d check out.
References and cool places to check out related to the bookshop:
Le Bal des Ardents Official Page
Le Bal des Ardents: Is This the Prettiest Bookshop in Lyon?
Bibliophile’s Corner: Le Bal des Ardents Bookstore