Saturday, 2 January 2010

Postcard of the Day No. 33, A Capoulade

This is the café A Capoulade in the Thirties when it was located on the corner of boulevard Saint-Michel and rue Soufflot. The postcard artist has assembled another gallery of types Parisiens to animate the scene including a news vendor, messenger boy, pipe-smoking, bookish intellectual and an African seller of beads and trinkets. At the end of the street, the ashes of the great and good lie enclosed by the dome of the Panthéon. The café no longer exists having been replaced by a fast-food outlet.

History records that this café was a meeting place for mathematicians which certainly makes a change from the ubiquitous population of indolent artists. In 1934 the Bourbaki Group of mathematicians was formed on these premises with the aim of introducing greater rigour into contemporary mathematics. Bourbaki was a fictional personage invented to provide a non-existent figurehead for the group. In this, if nothing else, the mathematicians displayed some affinity with their contemporaries in the Surrealist movement for whom the invention of fictional entities was a regular event.

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