June 26, 2015

1696 FRANCE (Île-de-France) - Les Deux Magots in Paris

If ever there were a cafe that summed up Saint-Germain-des-Prés’ early-20th-century literary scene, this is Les Deux Magots, this former hangout of anyone who was anyone. It once had a reputation as the rendezvous of the literary and intellectual élite of the city, its historical reputation being derived from the patronage of Surrealist artists. The name originally belonged to a fabric and novelty shop at nearby 23 Rue de Buci, which sold silk lingerie and took its name from a popular play of the moment (1800s), Les Deux Magots de la Chine. Two statues representing mandarins gazed serenely over the room. "Magot" literally means "stocky figurine from the Far East." In 1873 the business transferred to its current location. In 1884 the business changed to a café and liquoriste, keeping the name. Auguste Boulay bought it in 1914, and the present manager, Catherine Mathivat, is his great-great-granddaughter.

Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé were in the habit of meeting and sipping absinthe on the terrace. It wasn't until the '20s that the Deux Magots obtained a certain social status and became the general meeting place of artists and left-wing intellectuals. In 1925, André Breton and his surrealist friends, Louis Aragon, Paul Eluard, Robert Desnos, Antonin Artaud met regularly there. When the war started, the Deux Magots became a place for political debate. During the liberation, the existentialists, led by Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir, set up headquarters there. They were soon joined by Boris Vian and Albert Camus. Foreign writers and artists like James Joyce, Bertold Brecht and even Stefan Zweig, Picasso and Hemingway gathered here. The Deux Magots literary prize has been awarded to a French novel every year since 1933. 

Its terrace, which looks over the church Saint-Germain des Pres, continues to attract foreign clientèle in good weather. The Deux Magots happens to have a clientèle composed of 70% tourists and 30% regulars. The décor hasn't changed one bit. The benches still have their original red moleskin and the mahogany tables have passed the test of time. The waiters, dressed in black and white, are equally part of the décor of this historic place. Its two statues representing mandarins look serenely over the room. Today, one comes to the Deux Magots to taste an old-style hot chocolate or to sip a coffee served in the pot. But most come to see and to be seen. However, the café remains above all a literary café.

Les Deux Magots - Wikipedia
Les Deux Magots - paris-bistro.com

Sender: Marius Vasilescu
Sent from Paris (Île-de-France / France), on 31.01.2014 

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