You’re at the train station. You forgot to pack a book. You could lose yourself down a Facebook rabbit-hole or play your thousandth game of Candy Crush. Or, you could go to little orange machine and, at the touch of a button, see unfurl before your eyes a freshly pressed original short story, absolutely free.
They’re in French, bien sûr – a perfect quick burst of practice for the avid language learner. Stories come in 1, 3 or 5 minute versions, tailored to your wait time – choose your time limit and get a correspondingly lengthy story, printed on something similar to a cash register receipt, on thicker paper and in easily legible font.
Short Éditions short story dispensers started appearing in Grenoble in 2015, invented by a couple of locals who started with a publishing platform for amateur writers (see the version anglaise). There are now more than 100 across France, and they’re scattered throughout the world, including in the US (Francis Ford Coppola famously installed one in his San Francisco restaurant) and Australia, where a country primary school has installed one in the local library, where it dispenses stories written by the students.
In Paris you’ll find them in some of the long-distance train stations including Gare de l’Est and du Nord, Austerlitz and Montparnasse, Voltaire métro station and Charles de Gaulle Airport. You’ll find a map of all the locations here.
‘Une frange trop courte, c’est moche’ (‘A too-short fringe is ugly’), my 1-minute story, was labelled ‘humour’ (which genre you receive is a lucky-dip). However, it took a decidedly macabre turn at the end of its ultra-short trajectory. Amusement, pity and a touch of horror – that’s quite a lot of emotion to pack into 1 short minute!