The café Deux Magots, a true Parisian institution created in 1885, has been in the hands of the Mathivat family, from the Auvergne region. 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 represent Chinese mandarins and look serenely over the room. These statues are what give this emblematic establishment of Saint-Germain des Pres its name. "Magot" means "stocky figurine from the Far East". These two "magots" are the only remains left from the old silk shop, that in 1885 became a liquor bar. Verlaine, Rimbaud and Mallarmé, among others, 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 Arrtaud 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 each had their own table saved for them and came to write each day without fail. They were soon joined by Boris Vian and Albert Camus. It was at that time that the Myth of Saint Germain was born.
Foreign writers and artists like James Joyce, Bertold Brecht and even Stefan Sweig, Picasso and Hemingway gathered here.
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. This is because while sitting at the Deux Magots, you are sure to come across a personality from the art world, literature, fashion, entertainment or politics. However, the café remains above all a literary café.
Philosophical cafés are held most often on Sunday mornings. From the time of the world demonstration known as "Read at parties", the texts of Simone de Beauvoir are read inside the Deux Magots, there where she came to sit to write with Jean-Paul Sartre.
And there is a literary prize from the Deux Magots that has been awarded to a worthy writer every year since 1933.
The Deux Magots also awards the Pelléas prize for a literary work dedicated to music, and they also host the Saint-Germain prize, in association with the brasserie Lipp and Sonia Rykiel, that crowns an artist from a different discipline (architecture, cinema, theatre, drawing, fashion) each year.
The Deux Magots in Japan, in the Bunkamura departent store–
Since 1989, the café Deux Magots has been a fixture in Tokyo, in Shibuya, the heart of the cultural centre of Tokyo. Decorated by the French architect J.P. Willmotte, Bunkamura consists of a museum, cinemas, an art gallery, a theatre and the biggest opera in Japan, Orchard Hall. There is also a shop that offers gastronomic products under the name of Deux Magots, and a bakery of the same name.
Finally, the Bunkamura literary prize is awarded each year in September in the café Deux Magots to a Japanese writer. The first laureate to receive this prize was Koichi Yamada in 1991 for his work "François Truffaut, a Special Cinematographic Life".
edited by the Press society PARIS BISTRO EDITIONS - All rights
reserved - 2008