In 1933, in order to establish a literary award that would be an alternative to the Goncourt Prize (deemed too academic), the Deux Magots Prize was created and was awarded for the first time to Raymond Queneau. It aims at rewarding a literary author of fiction or non-fiction, whose writing is first beginning to blossom or who has not yet received well-deserved recognition. However, the jury’s choices are mostly dictated by their own enthusiasm and favourites, and the jury members do not hesitate to select a work that deviates from established criteria. Such independent thinking can be summarised by the French expression: “car tel est son bon plaisir” – that is, the jury follows its own pleasure and does what it likes – and also, that is the very spirit of the Deux Magots Café: artistic and non-conformist par excellence.
The jury, chaired by Étienne de Montety, a writer and editor-in-chief of the Figaro Littéraire magazine, brings together journalists, writers and members of the artistic community, such as Laurence Caracalla, Isabelle Carré, Jean Chalon, Jean-Luc Coatalem, Eric Deschodt, Pauline Dreyfus, Clara Dupont-Monod, Benoît Duteurtre, Pierre Kyria, Marianne Payot and Abel Quentin.
The Prize is now awarded on the last Monday in September.
On 25 January 2022, Louis-Henri de La Rochefoucauld was awarded the 89th Prix des Deux Magots for his novel Châteaux de Sable published by Robert Laffont.
At times melancholic and hilarious, this novel features the heir of an old noble family, distinguished for its military valour. Our hero is searching for his bearings: a young father ill-at-ease in his role, with a precarious job in the publishing industry, he is living in a world threatened by extinction. But this is not serious: since many of his ancestors were killed during the French Revolution, he has learned to be detached from the world. He is too idiosyncratic to have any political belief – he is not a royalist, nor does he believe in the mythical theory that a new France emerged in 1789… until one day, King Louis XVI appears to him! The narrator is then tempted to rehabilitate this clumsy and widely disliked monarch, who turns out to be actually rather likeable.
Louis-Henri de La Rochefoucauld is a literary critic and novelist. He also wrote La Révolution française and Le Club des Vieux Garçons.
Les Deux Magots organises several literary encounters, with a monthly Writers’ Monday and, once a month, writing workshops. In the spring, the House hosts a gala event to celebrate the selection of summertime literary works centred around famous French artists.
The Pelléas Prize, created in 1997 by Jean-Yves Clément and Jacques Mathivat, is awarded each year during the spring to “a work on music of the highest literary calibre”.
The Apollinaire Prize was founded in 1941. Each year, its jury selects “without any preference or bias regarding any specific style or technique, a poetry collection marked by its originality and modernity”. Almost like a “Goncourt Poetry Prize”, it is now awarded in the autumn at Les Deux Magots Café under the sponsorship of a celebrity who reads the winner’s poems.
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