Monday, May 17

‘This is not an easy scavenger hunt’: puzzle book offers readers a chance to win a € 750,000 gold chest | Books

For all the armchair puzzles for whom sudoku puzzles and crosswords have paled during the long months of confinement, a diabolical new literary puzzle is about to slide onto the shelves, with a rather lucrative and unusual payoff.

Artist Michel Becker located and purchased the chest of gold delivered to France by England prior to the signing of the entente cordiale on April 8, 1904, which attempted to end centuries of antagonism between the two countries. Presented to French President Émile Loubet in July 1903, the coffin was made by the Goldsmiths and Silversmiths Company in London and contained a scroll celebrating the friendship between the two countries. Valued at 750,000 euros (£ 646,000), the intricately decorated box is now the prize for anyone who solves the clues in Becker’s upcoming scavenger hunt book. The gold treasure of the Entente Cordiale.

An engraving showing the Mayor of London introducing French President Emile Loubet in July 1903.
An engraving showing the Mayor of London handing over the coffin to French President Émile Loubet in July 1903. Photograph: Chris Hellier / Alamy

A French version and an English version of the book are released Thursday, each containing different clues leading to two separate locations. Each book contains nine riddles, made up of illustrations by Becker, and a secret text hidden in the accompanying story, written by Pauline Deysson. Readers must decipher the code hidden in the illustration to find the missing text, which will help them solve the riddle. Once all nine puzzles are solved, readers will be able to find where two geode crystal keys have been buried, one in the UK and one in France.

“It was Michel Becker’s idea. He found the gold case, bought it, and learned everything there is to know about the entente cordiale. He fell in love with this history between France and England, which existed thanks to the will of the two men [King Edward VII and Loubet]. I wanted to bring this story to the world with this treasure hunt, ”said Vincenzo Bianca, who created the puzzles. Michel is an artist. He does things that some will not understand but that amuse him. You don’t expect to make money from this trade, but at least you hope to break even. If people are passionate about adventure, they will have achieved what they wanted ”.

“A paper and a pencil will be enough to discover some solutions. For others, you will need to do additional research … the Internet will be a valuable ally in finding the information you need without having to get out of your chair, ”Bianca and Becker write in the book. “This is not an easy scavenger hunt. To conquer it, you will need tenacity: a treasure is accessible only to the brave. “

The front of the Entente Cordiale coffin.
The front of the coffin entente cordiale. Photography: PR

Upon finding both crystals, which have been buried in chests along with the documentation, treasure hunters will be able to put them together to open the cabinet where Becker keeps the chest. “You could say that it requires a new entente cordiale!” said the organizers, although they added that “the same bilingual person” could theoretically find both crystals, “or even a single search team that could include English and French players.”

The book also contains a history of the entente cordiale written by British author and historian Stephen Clarke, author of A Year in the Merde. Clarke said he saw the treasure hunt “as a timely reminder that discussions about who gets the vaccine doses are temporary setbacks in a key and lasting alliance.”

“The entente cordiale of 1904 postponed World War I for 10 years and meant that when it came, the two sides were tied. It also meant that the British supported the French in 1939-40, ”Clarke said. “My only regret is that the text of the entente cordiale itself is very poor quality. If you read it, it is a sordid agreement between two colonial powers: “We will let you have Morocco, if you keep your hands off Egypt.” I think we need a new text, a renewal of votes, simply reaffirming that the British and the French are neighbors and allies, so that the entente cordiale has a deeper and more modern meaning ”.

Clarke said she had no idea where the treasure was hidden, but that she had seen the coffin, “and she picked it up and smelled it.”

“It is a very solid piece of gold. I am very surprised that it is not in a museum nor is it claimed by the French state, “he said, adding that” there is no danger of that, in case the treasure hunters are concerned.

French artist Michel Becker.
‘He does things that some will not understand but that amuse him’ … Michel Becker. Photography: PR

Becker previously illustrated Max Valentine Sur’s legendary treasure hunt book La Trace de La Chouette d’Or (The Hunt for the Golden Owl). Published in 1993, it contained 11 riddles that, if solved, would locate Becker’s sculpted golden owl. It has never been resolved.

The quest to find the golden owl followed the sensation received by the 1979 publication of Kit Williams’ Masquerade, an illustrated book containing clues to the secret location of a golden hare. Masquerade sold two million copies worldwide, with the puzzle finally solved by two Manchester professors in 1982. However, they were beaten for the award by a lone hunter who he had found the location through a link to Williams’s ex-girlfriend.

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