Bernard Pivot  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Bernard Pivot (born 5 May 1935) is a journalist, interviewer and host of French cultural television programmes. He is a member of the Académie Goncourt. The protagonist of Caché is reminiscent of Pivot.



Pivot was born in Lyon, the son of grocers. During World War II his father, Charles Pivot, was taken prisoner and his mother moved to the family home to the village of Quincié-en-Beaujolais, where Bernard Pivot started school.

In 1945 his father was released, and the reunited family returned to Lyon. At age 10, Pivot went to a Catholic boarding school and discovered a consuming passion for sport, a passion which helped teachers to overlook his general mediocrity in all traditional school subjects except French language and history.

After starting studies in law in Lyon, Pivot entered the Centre de formation des journalistes (CFJ) in Paris, where he met his future wife, Monique. He graduated second in his class.

After an internship at "Le progrès" in Lyon, he studied economic journalism for a full year, then joined the Figaro littéraire in 1958.

In 1970 he hosted a daily humorous radio programme that often raised political issues, which was not appreciated by Georges Pompidou.

In 1971 the Figaro littéraire closed and Pivot joined Le Figaro. He left, however, in 1974 after a disagreement with Jean d'Ormesson. Jean-Jacques Servan-Schreiber invited him to start a new project, which led to the creation of a new magazine, Lire, a year later.

Meanwhile, in April 1973 he had started hosting a programme called Ouvrez les Guillemets on France's first TV network. In 1974, the ORTF was dissolved and Pivot started his Apostrophes programme. Apostrophes was first broadcast on Antenne 2 on January 10, 1975, and ran until 1990. Pivot then created Bouillon de culture, whose scope he tried to broaden beyond books. He eventually came back to books, however.

Spelling championships

In 1985, with linguist Micheline Sommant, Pivot created the Championnats d'orthographe (spelling championships) which in 1992 became Championnats mondiaux d'orthographe (world spelling championships) then in 1993 the Dicos d'or (golden dictionaries).

These yearly contests are held in three phases:

  • During the spring, selection tests are organised with the press, in particular with Lire, and in a few local communities (e.g. schools). These are multiple-choice questionnaires.
  • During the fall, the selected candidates meet region by region at the semi-finals. They get again multiple-choice questionnaires, and a dictation.
  • Then, during winter, the finals are held at a single place.

There are four categories: school juniors, juniors, professional seniors and amateur seniors.

Participation is free of charge, except for the cost of the magazines that publish the selection tests.

Partial filmography

  • Apostrophes (1975–1986)
  • Bouillon de culture (1991–2001)
  • Double je (2002–2005)

Bernard Pivot and James Lipton

James Lipton was inspired by a chance viewing of a Pivot programme on cable TV to create Inside the Actors Studio. Lipton adapted Pivot's use of a Proustian questionnaire to one that he himself used at the end of each episode of Inside the Actors Studio.

Pivot became aware that Lipton was inspired by his questionnaire, and invited Lipton to appear on the final episode of Bouillon de Culture.

Lipton is currently attempting to have the Apostrophes and Bouillon de Culture programmes dubbed into English for broadcast in the United States.

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Bernard Pivot" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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