The Café Tournon would probably no longer exist without the many artists and intellectuals who passed through its doors.
For nearly a century, this place has been the site of literary meetings, philosophical debates or other artistic and musical reveries, but also, given its proximity to the Senate, more discreet political lunches. Eighty-two years ago, one of the greatest writers of the former Austro-Hungarian monarchy, Joseph Roth (1894-1939), died in exile in Paris. Born into a Jewish family from the Galician borders of the Empire (now part of Ukraine), Joseph Roth converted to Catholicism and moved from utopian socialism to nostalgic monarchism. He is the author, among others, of La Marche de Radetzky published in 1932, a novel which depicts the rise and then the fall of the Trotta family, parallel to that of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, from Solferino to the death of Emperor Franz Joseph. Joseph Roth is in the same way as his friend Stefan Zweig – of whom we know Le Monde d’hier, the witness of the sinking of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Each morning of his exile, he rebuilds the world at the Café Tournon, seated near the window, always seated in exactly the same place on the bench, in the shade of the Senate.
Paris attracts artists, writers, film and jazz stars from all over the world
Drowning his sorrows in alcohol (“a page, a pastis”, he used to say to the landlady of the Café Tournon) where a plaque reminds passers-by that this is where The Legend of the Holy Drinker was written, he collapsed at his Café Tournon table on May 27, 1939.
The post-war period in Europe was a very strange period. Not much was left of the old towns, most of which had been ravaged by bombardment. Paris is then the cultural center of Europe. Paris attracts artists, writers, film and jazz stars from all over the world. Paris has this inexplicable force, this dynamic propulsion that you cannot resist. It is around its cafés that expatriates gravitate, and in particular the Café Tournon. In the 1950s, it was the gathering place for expatriate African-American writers and artists like James Baldwin, Chester Himes, Richard Wright, William Gardner Smith, painter Beauford Delaney and sculptor Howard Cousins. Duke Ellington’s jazz band made its Parisian debut at the Tournon, thus initiating the jazzmania that swept through the Saint-Germain-des-Prés district.
Always coming from America, Georges Plimpton, writer, actor and one of the founders of the famous newspaper The Paris Review, chose the Tournon café as his favorite place to write and meet his compatriots.
In 1974, Michel Deville decided to shoot at the Tournon Le Mouton Enragé café, with Jean-Pierre Cassel, the lovely Romy Schneider, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Jane Birkin.
The Café Tournon became a star, and also appears in Patrick MODIANO‘s novel, Le Café de la Jeunesse Perdue, as well as in his vaguely autobiographical novel Un cirque passe, in which he describes the atmosphere of the Café Tournon in the early 1960s. .
The Café Tournon continues to attract artists, publishers, intellectuals and senators and remains a place that has kept its soul.
Since 2022, after having made his ranges at Chez Huguette, a beautiful house located at 81, rue de Seine in Paris, it is Adrien Flottes, son of Olivier Flottes (ex. Brasserie Flottes, Huguette), who has taken over the reins of Tournon. .
The beginning of a new adventure for the welcoming young man of 26 who thus perpetuates the family heritage.