10/6/08

Vive la Révolution

I've been to Bible study a few times now, so I decided it was time to buy an actual Bible. In naive American fashion, I thought this could be accomplished at a bookstore, so I went to Gibert Joseph - a chain, maybe not quite as large as B&N or Hastings, but same principle. First I looked around the religion section - nothing. Then I asked the saleswoman, who looked surprised by my request but directed me to the Livres de poche section (practically everything comes in a Livre de poche - literally, pocket book - edition) - nothing there either. So I asked another saleswoman, who looked similarly surprised and flagged down a coworker, who informed me with a shrug that they were out of Bibles. I waited momentarily for something like "...and we'll be getting more tomorrow." No such luck.

I recounted this experience to my host family over dinner, and was laughed over indulgently. Apparently no self-respecting French bookstore sells Bibles. I have to go to the librairie biblique for that, and, as Christelle said, I will never find it on my own (hopefully there was an implicit "I'll take you sometime" in there). The Revolution did its work well and thoroughly - most French people are aggressively secular, like my history professor, who finds it necessary to preface every remark vaguely pertaining to religious belief with "in the Christian imagination..." On the other hand, whenever I'm in churches (which is fairly often - I love them) I see a good number of lit candles and one or two people saying their rosary or praying to a saint - and this at random times on weekday afternoons. It's like the country has a split personality. Honestly, I think in all their efforts to separate religion from the state they've just made religion an even more constant specter - in the U.S. you can walk into any Wal-Mart and buy a Bible off the tiny book aisle and nobody thinks twice about it. Here I feel like any religious reference is followed by an awkward half-second pause. Ah well, hurrah for cultural differences.