French literature (#2)
  • The top 50 (according to F.Beigbeder)
  • The top 100 (according to "Lire")
 The most important books for the French...    Another hit parade

To understand a country, it's important to see what people like to read! According to a survey, the 50 books the French consider the most important in the literature of the XXth Century are the following. French author and literary critic Frédéric BEIGBEDER gave a short comment on each of them in his book "Dernier inventaire avant liquidation " (Grasset, 2001) :

From #1 to #50 :

  • Albert CAMUS, L'Etranger (about absurdity and unhumanity of the modern world)
  • Marcel PROUST, A la recherche du temps perdu (happiness is not in social life or in art but in the remembering of past sensations)
  • Franz KAFKA, Le procès
  • Antoine de SAINT-EXUPERY, Le petit prince (a delightful character expressing the symbols of the traditional values of humanism)
  • André MALRAUX, La condition humaine (the complexity of the forming of an individual destiny within a collective action)
  • Louis-Ferdinand CELINE, Voyage au bout de la nuit (whose dislocated style was very influential on French literature)
  • John STEINBECK, Les raisins de la colère (Grapes of Wrath)
  • Ernest HEMINGWAY, Pour qui sonne le glas (For Whom the Bell Tolls)
  • ALAIN-FOURNIER, Le grand Meaulnes (the only novel, very poetic, of a writer who was killed in WW1)
  • Boris VIAN, L'écume des jours
  • Simone de BEAUVOIR, Le deuxième sexe
  • Samuel BECKETT, En attendant Godot
  • Jean Paul SARTRE, L'être et le néant
  • Umberto ECO, Le nom de la rose
  • Alexandre SOLJENITSINE, L'archipel du Goulag
  • Jacques PREVERT, Paroles
  • Guillaume APOLLINAIRE, Alcools
  • HERGE, Le lotus bleu (a comic book of Tintin, the adventurous reporter, in 1930s' China)
  • Anne FRANK, Le journal
  • Claude LEVI-STRAUSS, Tristes tropiques
  • Aldous HUXLEY, Le meilleur des mondes (Brave New World)
  • George ORWELL, 1984
 

Another survey by the respected magazine "Lire" gives the following results (#329, Oct.2004) for the 100 books the French like the most :

  • 1 The Bible
  • 2 Victor HUGO, Les misérables
  • 3 Antoine de SAINT EXUPERY, Le petit prince
  • 4 Emile ZOLA, Germinal
  • 5 J.R.R.TOLKIEN, Le seigneur des anneaux
  • 6 STENDHAL, Le rouge et le noir
  • 7 ALAIN-FOURNIER, Le grand Meaulnes
  • 8 Jules VERNE, Vingt mille lieux sous les mers
  • 9 Betty MAHMOODY, Jamais sans ma fille
  • 10 Alexandre DUMAS, Les trois mousquetaires
  • 11 Marcel PAGNOL, La gloire de mon père
  • 12 Anne FRANCK, Le journal

(an then, among the books which are already listed above)

  • 18 HERGE, Tintin
  • 19 Margaret MITCHELL, Autant en emporte le vent
  • 26 Aldous HUXLEY, Le meilleur des mondes
  • 30 Albert CAMUS, L'étranger
  • 31 Boris VIAN, L'écume des jours
  • 32 Jacques PREVERT, Paroles
  • 38 Albert COHEN, Belle du seigneur
  • 49 André MALRAUX, La condition humaine
  • 65 Ernest HEMINGWAY, Pour qui sonne le glas
  • 71 George ORWELL, 1984
  • 76 Louis-Ferdinand CELINE, Voyage au bout de la nuit
  • 85 Françoise SAGAN, Bonjour tristesse
  • 100 VERCORS, Le silence de la mer

(and among the books I was surprised not to find in the other list )

  • Alexandre DUMAS, Le comte de Monte-Christo (#24)
  • Albert CAMUS, La peste (#27)
  • Jean de LA FONTAINE, Fables (#34)
  • Charles BAUDELAIRE, Les fleurs du mal (#36)
  • Alphonse DAUDET, Les lettres de mon moulin (#43)
  • Gustave FLAUBERT, Madame Bovary (#54)
  • Daniel DEFOE, Robinson Crusoe (#68)
  • Jean-Paul SARTRE, La nausée (#81)
  • Guy de MAUPASSANT, Bel-Ami (#92)
  • GOSCINY & UDERZO, Astérix le Gaulois (a comic book of Asterix and his friend Obelix, struggling against the Roman invaders)
  • Eugène IONESCO, La cantatrice chauve (this play has been performed in the same theater in Paris -Théatre de la Huchette- without interruption since its creation in 1950)
  • Sigmund FREUD, Trois essais sur le théorie sexuelle
  • Marguerite YOURCENAR, L'oeuvre au noir
  • Vladimir NABOKOV, Lolita
  • James JOYCE, Ulysses
  • Dino BUZZATI, Le désert des Tartares
  • André GIDE, Les faux-monnayeurs (a moral and philosophical meditation)
  • Jean GIONO, Le hussard sur le toit
  • Albert COHEN, Belle du Seigneur
  • Gabriel GARCIA MARQUEZ, Cent ans de solitude
  • William FAULKNER, Le bruit et la fureur (The Sound and the Fury)
  • François MAURIAC, Thérèse Desqueyroux
  • Raymond QUENEAU, Zazie dans le métro
  • Stefan ZWEIG, La confusion des sentiments
  • Margaret MITCHELL, Autant en emporte le vent (Gone with the Wind)
  • D.H.LAWRENCE, L'amant de Lady Chatterley (Lady Chatterley's Lover)
  • Thomas MANN, La montagne magique
  • Françoise SAGAN, Bonjour tristesse
  • VERCORS, Le silence de la mer (a wonderful novel, very subtle, about an impossible love in WW2 occupied France)
  • Georges PEREC, La vie mode d'emploi
  • Arthur CONAN DOYLE, Le chien des Baskerville
  • Georges BERNANOS, Sous le soleil de Satan
  • Francis Scott FITZGERALD, Gatsby le magnifique (The Great Gatsby)
  • Milan KUNDERA, La plaisanterie
  • Alberto MORAVIA, Le mépris
  • Agatha CHRISTIE, Le meurtre de Roger Ackroyd
  • André BRETON, Nadja
 

DID YOU KNOW THAT....? Every year in September, the "Rentrée Littéraire" and the 700 to 800 newly published novels make the headlines of all newspapers. People talk about books, authors give interviews and literary prizes are abundantly commented in newspapers and news programs on TV. The most popular award is the Prix Goncourt (for promising writers), followed by Prix Femina (awarded by a jury of women), or Prix Medicis, Prix Renaudot, Prix de l'Académie Française and Livre Inter (awarded by France-Inter radio station) and several others. Being a member of one of these juries is very prestigious and the competition is fierce among publishers to have one of their writers awarded a prize.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DID YOU KNOW THAT.....? In literature, France is the world-champion for the Nobel prize with 13 (from 1901 to 2008). The USA come second with 11 and UK third with 10. Then come Germany, Spain, Sweden, Italy, Ireland, Russia, etc... French (or French-writing) Nobel prizes are, from Jean-Marie Le Clezio (2008) to Sully-Prudhomme (1901) : Claude Simon, Samuel Beckett (Irish), Saint-John Perse, Albert Camus, Gao Xingjian (Chinese), François Mauriac, André Gide, Roger Martin du Gard, Henri Bergson, Anatole France, Romain Rolland, Maurice Maeterlinck (Belgian) and Frederic Mistral.

 To related pages : more literature (#3), movies the French like the most, Education, French language, etc...

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 Harriet Welty Rochefort writes articles and books about France and the French. Order her books :

  • "Joie de Vivre", Secrets of Wining, Dining and Romancing like the French, St.Martin's Press, New York, 2012
  • "French Toast, An American in Paris Celebrates The Maddening Mysteries of the French", St.Martin's Press, New York, 1999
  • "French Fried, The Culinary Capers of An American in Paris", St.Martin's Press, New York, 2001

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