n. A social gathering where people discuss death while having a meal or a drink.
The idea for the café mortel was simple: the gathering was to take place in a restaurant, anyone could come, and Crettaz himself would gently marshall the conversation. The only rule was that there was to be no prescription: no topic, no religion, no judgement. He wanted people to talk as openly on the subject as they could. His first café mortel took place in 2004 in the Restaurant du Théâtre du Passage in the Swiss town of Neuchâtel. … In 2010, he held one in Paris which was reported in the Independent. Jon Underwood, a former council worker living in east London, happened to read the article and, inspired, held his own death café at his house in Hackney.
I told about five people that I was going to something called a death cafe — the reactions were mixed, but none was particularly positive. "Will it be full of goths?", "How morbid", "That's weird." The thing is that people don't just find talking about death uncomfortable — they find the idea of talking about death uncomfortable. In general, we just don't do it.
Death Cafes have spread quickly across Europe, North America and Australasia. As of today, we have offered 1548 Death Cafes since September 2011. If 10 people came to each one that would be 15480 participants. We've established both that there are people who are keen to talk about death and that many are passionate enough to organise their own Death Cafe.
Good coffee, a comfortable seat and someone interesting to talk to are the prerequisites for visiting any café, even if the conversation is about death. Last week, the Swiss tradition of cafés mortels — or death cafés — made it to Paris, with the city's first death café event held in a bistro near Montparnasse.