Prix des Deux Magots 2021

In these special times for the world of literature and culture in general, it was important for the jury and for our institution to reaffirm our deep attachment to the Prix des Deux Magots, which is celebrating its 88th edition this year.


The award was presented to Manuel Carcassonne, general manager of Stock Editions, in the presence of the jury, the president of Les Deux Magots Catherine Mathivat and the mayor of the 6th arrondissement Jean-Pierre Lecoq.

Prix des Deux Magots 2021

“The Saber” is both a historical and fictional quest in which Samuel Vidouble, the narrator of “Saber,” explores the legends of his ancestors. Stuck in his grandparents’ dusty house, in a dead end of France and Europe, Samuel Vidouble, a history teacher, decides to investigate his childhood memory, a sword of unknown design in his grandparents’ dining room.

Emmanuel Ruben, Sabre

Editions Stock, 400 pages, €20.90
Format: 135 x 210 mm
Publisher’s presentation

“Once upon a time. As in all great novels, that is to say, those that appeal to our part of childhood, it begins with: “There was once in the dining room of the grandparents, a sword of unknown model, that I never handled, never weighed, not even caressed.” Here he is again, Samuel Vidouble, the narrator, stuck in a house, dusty but still haunted by the ghosts of a provincial, Calvinist family, “without stories, without qualities, without titles of glory”, in “a dead-end of France and Europe”, At the end of an improbable and nocturnal train line, here he is again, this Samuel Vidouble, disillusioned history teacher and geography map lover, who decides to investigate this childhood memory, guided by Aunt Esther, retired bookseller: “Where had this sword gone? What if I had dreamed it?”

It is not so much the sword with its curved, cracked blade, the color of Sienna, as the times it has passed through, the lineages of men, wars, deaths, that once impressed the young Samuel, who belongs to the last generation to have known those who fought in the war. And then to which ancestor did this sword belong? Who was the heroic, or on the contrary, the lawless impostor: VVRL, Victor Vidouble Rex Livorum? Victor Vidouble king of the Lives, who would have once ruled over an archipelago in the Baltic? A Huguenot descendant confined to his country of marshes, ponds and bogs? An eighteenth-century nobleman, also in love with geographical maps, and who relies on her to tear him away from his remote province? Baron Victor Vidouble de Saint-Pesant, a family myth or a legend of the great outdoors that veteran uncles take turns reinventing at the wake? Is it better to devote oneself to reality, which is often disappointing, than to follow the wing of the imagination, with its stories of lost or invented islands? Unless a family treasure map allows us to locate the place and time where the famous sword comes from?
In the tradition of Emmanuel Ruben’s other books, which have the imaginary and the elsewhere at the heart of their strength, but of a remarkable novelistic power, of a droll geographical invention, Sabre is the book of maturity. A true picaresque novel that is as much akin to the Adventures of Baron Münchhausen as it is to Italo Calvino’s Perched Baron. It’s a dizzying game of chases that takes us back in time to the Napoleonic Wars, and invites us on a baroque journey in pursuit of chimeras that speak our truth.”

Born in 1980 and a geography graduate, Emmanuel Ruben is the author of a dozen books – novels, stories, essays – including The Line of Ice (2014, Goncourt Prize selection), and On the Road to the Danube (2019, Nicolas Bouvier Prize, Amerigo Vespucci Prize, Grand Prix for Sport and Literature). He directs the Maison Julien Gracq and lives on the banks of the Loire.

The jury of the Prix des Deux Magots, chaired by Étienne de Montety, includes personalities such as :

  • Laurence Caracalla, journalist and writer
  • Jean Chalon, journalist and writer
  • Jean-Luc Coatalem, writer and journalist for Géo
  • Marie-Laure Delorme, journalist at the Journal du Dimanche
  • Eric Deschodt, journalist and writer
  • Louis Doucet, laureate of the Académie Française
  • Pauline Dreyfus, writer
  • Pierre Kyria, literary critic
  • Marianne Payot, journalist at L’Express
  • Anne Pons, writer