Welcome to the wonderful world of French literature! Here is a list of must-read French books that every reader should experience in their lifetime. From timeless classics to modern masterpieces, these books offer a unique and captivating look into French culture, language, and history. From the 19th-century masterpieces of Victor Hugo and Emile Zola to the 21st-century works of Édouard Louis and Amelie Nothomb, these books will provide an unforgettable journey through French literature. So pour yourself a glass of pastis, curl up in your favorite armchair, and prepare to explore these unforgettable French books. Bonne lecture!
Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
This classic French novel, released in 1862, is one of the most acclaimed and widely read books in the world. Written by the great Victor Hugo, Les Misérables is an epic tale of redemption and revolution, depicting the struggles and triumphs of the French people in the 19th century. It is a must-read for any fan of French literature and culture.
Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert
Madame Bovary is a timeless masterpiece of French literature, written by Gustave Flaubert in 1856. It follows the story of the young and beautiful Emma Bovary, a woman who attempts to escape her mundane life through a series of extramarital affairs. This iconic work is a great example of the realism movement in French literature and is an essential read for any fan of French culture.
The Stranger by Albert Camus
First published in 1942, The Stranger is a philosophical novel by Albert Camus. It tells the story of Meursault, a French Algerian who is put on trial for the murder of an Arab man. The novel explores Meursault’s inner thoughts and feelings and examines the idea of existentialism and the absurd.
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
The Little Prince is a classic novella by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, first published in 1943. It tells the story of a young prince who has fallen to Earth and his journey to return home. Along the way, he meets a variety of characters and learns many life lessons. This beloved book is a must-read for both children and adults alike.
Germinal by Emile Zola
Emile Zola’s Germinal is a novel about a group of miners in the French town of Montsou and their struggle against poverty, injustice, and exploitation in their desperate struggle for survival. Set in the mid-1800s, it follows the life of the main character, Étienne Lantier, as he fights to better the conditions of the miners and bring them justice. The novel is a powerful indictment of the brutal and oppressive world of industrialization in 19th century France, and is still relevant today. It is widely considered to be one of the greatest works of realism in literature.
The Red and the Black by Stendhal
The Red and the Black is a realist novel by Stendhal, first published in 1830. It follows the story of Julien Sorel, a young man from a rural village who is determined to make something of himself in the world. This classic work is a great example of French realism and is still a popular read to this day. 7. The Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo is a swashbuckling adventure novel by Alexandre Dumas, first published in 1844. It follows the story of Edmond Dantès, a young man who is falsely accused of treason and sent to prison. After escaping and gaining a fortune, he sets out on a mission of vengeance against those who wronged him.
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The End of Eddy by Edouard Louis
Edouard Louis’ The End of Eddy is an autobiographical novel that tells the story of a young man growing up in a small, working-class town in rural France. The novel is full of raw emotion and vivid details that bring the reader into Eddy’s world, from his struggles with his sexuality and his identity to his fight against the rigid class structures of his hometown. The novel is a powerful story of self-discovery and resilience in the face of oppression, and is sure to stay with the reader long after they have finished reading.
Journey to the End of the Night by Louis-Ferdinand Céline
Journey to the End of the Night is a semi-autobiographical novel by Louis-Ferdinand Céline, first published in 1932. It follows the story of Ferdinand Bardamu, a young man who travels around the world and experiences the harsh realities of life. This dark and brutal novel is a great example of French existentialism and is a must-read for any fan of French literature.
Fear and Trembling by Amélie Nothomb
Fear and Trembling is Amélie Nothomb’s second novel and is the story of a young Belgian woman’s experience working in Japan. The novel explores themes of culture shock, alienation, and identity, as the protagonist’s cultural differences lead to a series of miscommunications and misunderstandings. The story is told from the perspective of the protagonist, who struggles to find her place in a society that is unfamiliar and, at times, hostile to her. With its vivid descriptions of the culture of Japan and the protagonist’s attempts to bridge the cultural divide, Fear and Trembling is a compelling read.
There you go. You have what you need for a first dive in French literature. We hope you’ll have a wonderful time reading all those beautiful works of art!