When French cafés where still cafés, it was possible to rub shoulders by chance with such people as Boris Vian (civil engineer), Alejo Carpentier (Embassy Secretary), Vladimir Yankelevitch (pianist), Yves Coppens (movie-maker), and Isaac Asimov (biochemist), not far from Vinicius de Moraes (connoisseur of old malt whiskies), or Umberto Eco (free-radio enthusiast). With images hidden up their sleeves or in their cardboard briefcases, their enthusiastic monologues and debates (lubricated with wine from the Côtes du Rhône, Saint-Jacques rum, or Vichy mineral water) could easily lead you until sunrise, and sometimes further still.
In the company of these authors, we sharpened the intellectual tools of our curiosity, polished the words of controversy, learnt the way to libraries, film libraries and laboratories.
Night refuges for old globe-trotters and the Christopher Columbus'of the third millennium, the cafés then disappeared.
The curious were imprisoned in front of their TV sets and divided up accordin to social groups, age-groups and IQ levels. Various broadcast media were invited to keep our neurons warm until the turn of the century, at least.
However, the armada of broadcast media was shipwrecked, abandoning happy Robinson Crusoes in the archipelago of web sites.
In this archipelago, there are no planning regulations. Fortified towns are juxtaposed with cabins, with amphitheaters bathed in academic light, or with dark halls for X-rated movies. Landscaped gardens lie next to allotments, huge libraries and worry merchants.
Internet has finally reconciled the Apollonian and the Dionysiac. Two Argos Prizes are therefore being awarded as a tribute to Denis Diderot and Lewis Carroll, the two trailblazers of the informations superhighways.
Our travels can now resume. Our sagacious adventurer companions have returned, sending shouts and whispers, directly from one continent to the next.
Only one question remains for these new avatars of Prometheus: should they now protect this stolen fire or their own livers?