The lockdown is a time of seething potential. What if you stepped up your knowledge of modern European literature? But where to start? Unesco estimates there are 2.2m new books published worldwide every year. What’s needed is, say, Walter Iuzzolino, the charmingly eccentric Italian producer behind the Walter Presents streaming service, to help you. Which, as of this month, with the publication of David Foenkinos’s French bestseller The Mystery of Henri Pick, is exactly what he’s doing.
The Mystery of Henri Pick is so ridiculously French that if it started smoking Gitanes while you read it, you wouldn’t be entirely surprised. It’s a lightly comedic teaser about an astonishingly successful novel that’s accidentally discovered in a library of rejected manuscripts. That leads to a frantic hunt for the author. Iuzzolino stumbled across it after a rainstorm interrupted a walk in Paris. “Everybody disappeared off the streets in a second, and 10 minutes later I was so drenched I thought, ‘I’m actually going to die.’ So I walked into one of those little shops that sell books and cigarettes and found David Foenkinos,” he recalls.