If you visit Chamonix, it is highly likely that you'll stumble upon the Boutique Guérin book store, otherwise known as the 'red shop'. It is indeed the reddest and most intriguing shop in Chamonix, and was founded by the equally intriguing Michel Guérin.
The Guérin story begins in Paris, where Michel and his wife Marie-Christine owned an advertising agency, which they later sold to set up their publishing house – Editions Guérin – in Chamonix in 1994. It was in Chamonix, which was also Michel's birthplace, where he learned to take his first few steps and later climb his first mountain. Michel was captivated by the mountains, and they were his first true love. Later, he developed a second love: literature.
The Birth of the Red Books
Founding Editions Guérin was a labour of love for Michel. His passion for the mountains and his love of books culminated in the famous red books of Chamonix. The first book ever published by Editions Guérin was an illustrated re-edition of L'Conquérants d'l inutile (Conquistadors of the Useless), the autobiography of the great French alpinist Lionel Terray and a classic of mountain literature.
Over the next twenty years, 130 tomes of coffee table fiction and non-fiction written with a mountain theme were published. Marie-Christine insists that the books are about finding happiness and spirituality in nature, connecting with our surroundings and pushing personal boundaries, which are things we should do in our everyday lives.
The books have been successful because many readers can identify with the parallels the plots have to 'normal life'.
Since Michel's passing due to a heart attack in 2007, his wife Marie-Christine has carried on his legacy. Although Editions Guérin now belongs to The Paulsen Group, and she is no longer in charge of the famous red tomes, Marie-Christine looks after the Démarches collection of adventure stories. She has also written a book about the story of the Red Books to help her process her husband’s death.
Why Are the Books Red?
Marie-Christine says that the books are red because red signifies passion and a deep connection to the mountains that a lot of people feel. Red is also the colour that’s most often associated with the mountains: after all, jackets of mountaineers, climber’s ropes, backpacks and the curtains of mountain huts are frequently red.
Twenty Years of Publishing in a Chamonix Exhibition
Editions Guérin and the town hall of Chamonix have teamed up to host a unique exhibition, which will literally take you on a literary walk through the seasons and mountain literature. Thirty-two panels arranged in the open air depict some of the great authors-actors of mountaineering over the last twenty years in Chamonix. The panels are organised according to the four seasons, and you will be able to look at pictures, read excerpts from the red books and quotes from some of the best mountain lovers, including Michel Cruz, Lionel Terray, Walter Bonatti and Chantal Mauduit, to name but a few.
How to Get There
Why not take the hassle out of getting from Geneva to Chamonix? Here’s a tip: you’ll beat the queues and travel in style if you opt for one of Shuttle Direct’s private taxis. Our professional local drivers will be delighted to help you with your luggage, while you simply sit back and relax during the journey from Geneva to Chamonix.
Lukas Johannes is a driver for Shuttle Direct, the number one provider of shared and private airport transfers all over Europe and northern Africa. If you need an airport transfer from Geneva to Chamonix, Lukas and his colleagues can make sure that you and your luggage get to and from the airport swiftly and safely.