The book stall on the quai with old prints that nobody wants, naughty novels corseted in cellophane; the animal shop on the Quai de Gesvres; ferrets, squirming and clucking in the straw, with red eyes and little yawns which reveal their fine white teeth; marmosets chattering over their stump of rotten banana, moulting parrots; the mysterious ailing nocturnal creature that I was always tempted to buy – ‘c’est un binturong, monsieur’ – and then the walk back over the bridge; poplar leaves eddying in the yellow river; misty black-and-grey streets of the Left Bank; discreet shops full of bibelot, bad modern paintings, Empire clocks.

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