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For nearly 30 years, millions of French viewers tuned in religiously on Friday nights to watch one man talk about literature. The man responsible for this uniquely French weekly rendezvous was Bernard Pivot, a 74-year-old journalist who is affectionately thought of as France’s literary Everyman.

Over the course of three successive TV programmes from 1973 to 2001 – Ouvrez les Guillemets (Open Quotes), Apostrophes and Bouillon de Culture (Culture Soup) – the wavy-haired and bushy-eyebrowed Pivot peered over the trademark bifocals perched on the end…

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