No books or roses or people filling towns and cities, but the calendar continues to mark that it is April 23, St. George’s Day. The strangest day in recent years, without the usual gathering of readers, authors and booksellers on the street, comes with shops closed and online sales as the only possibility to maintain the tradition. There are many bookshops in the Girona region that sell at a distance these days, but, despite assuring that the level of orders is good, it does not reach “by far” that of a normal Sant Jordi.
“We are receiving a lot of orders on the web, and they are all very welcome, but nothing to do with Sant Jordi, it is a minimum percentage compared to the usual sales of the day”, explains Pere Rodeja, from the Geli bookshop in Girona. The establishment is selling “all kinds of books, but especially novels” and distributes them throughout Catalonia, and with a higher proportion of non-regular customers than buyers who regularly visit the bookstore.
“At the beginning of the confinement we decided not to make shipments, because the first thing is health, but the courier company guaranteed us all the sanitary measures and that’s why we decided to go ahead,” explains Rodeja.
The Girona bookseller points out that they are basically serving the books they have in stock, although now publishers are starting to distribute some books. “We ask for patience from the customer and people are being very understanding. In addition, we are also finding a lot of people who are in charge now, but to pick up the book when we reopen, ”he explains.
The same has been found in the L’Altell bookshop in Banyoles, which details that in recent days online sales have gained momentum, but that “it has nothing to do with Sant Jordi”, explains the bookseller Irene Tortós-Sala. “We are selling many books for children, because children are great consumers are running out of books and reading, but also a lot of fiction in Catalan and Spanish. It’s a very strange year, the people celebrating Sant Jordi are getting together with those who have already finished everything they had left to read ».
“90% of buyers are regular customers, you can see the solidarity of those who want to continue helping us, because we receive many messages of encouragement,” says the bookseller from Banyoles, who in addition to shipments, is also managing the collection point with the reserves you save for when you can raise the shutter again.
He also serves books – and in his case, also roses – at home Les Voltes de Girona. Speaking to the ACN, its owner, Joan Matamala, explains that they have been celebrating the day for 56 years: “Not even the dictatorship was able to ban us on a St. George’s Day, we will not allow a virus to do so now.” They limit shipments to the municipality of Girona, and a company linked to Caritas is in charge of it, which sprays the envelopes with disinfectant and avoids contacts with the recipients, for prevention.
The reunion with readers
As for the alternative Saint George’s Day, which the Book Chamber and the flower sector have set for July 23, Rodeja has “little hope” and it is not clear if it can be celebrated, “because maybe it’s too soon.” “And if so, under what conditions?” It will have nothing to do with April, it remains to be seen how the distances and queues are articulated, but Sant Jordi is a day to bathe and stir, it’s grace ». “Still, we will be there and give it our all,” he said.
Tortós-Sala sees the new date as “a day to try to get the bookseller out with the news that have remained on the bench and that are many, because now we are selling only what we had in stock.” “It’s worth the effort. It must be a welcome celebration to normalcy, I don’t know how it will be done, but it’s a day to say bookstores are back here, he says.
“Better two Sant Jordis than none,” says Girona-based writer and journalist Rafel Nadal, a regular on the bestseller lists every day. “We have to make the most of the summer Sant Jordi, which serves to reconnect with the bookshops and books entrusted to us. We have to make it a beautiful party back to normal, we don’t know what it will be, but it will surely be better than now “, points out the author of The son of the Italian.
“Sant Jordi is the most popular festival on the calendar, the reunion with the open air, a festival of civilization and conversation. Now, on the other hand, it is that of confinement, but I also hope that it is that of the pending books, to savor them calmly “, he assures.
In his case, the epidemic has taken him with a new book, Summer sea, which he was to present just when the state of alarm was decreed. “It’s a pity for the publishing house Univers, which had made a major commitment to start a collection and now there are 35,000 copies in the warehouse,” he laments.