Albert Camus was a French philosopher and the second-youngest recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature. His philosophical views contributed to the rise of absurdism, a philosophical concept. Also a prolific writer, Albert Camus had an illustrious literary career; most of his philosophical essays and novels are still influential.
Jean-Paul Sartre was a French philosopher, writer, literary critic, and political activist. One of the most important personalities in the philosophy of phenomenology and existentialism, Sartre played a crucial role in 20th-century French philosophy. His work continues to influence literary studies, post-colonial theory, sociology, and critical theory. He was honored with the 1964 Nobel Prize in Literature.
French writer, poet, aristocrat, and journalist, Antoine de Saint-Exupery, is best remembered for his novella, The Little Prince. He was a pioneering aviator as a young man. A successful commercial pilot before World War II, he joined the French Air Force at the start of the war. Equally successful as a writer, he won several of France's highest literary awards.
Milan Kundera is a Czech writer who became a naturalized French citizen in 1981 after going into exile in France in 1975. Although his Czechoslovak citizenship was revoked four years after going into exile, he received Czech citizenship in 2019, thanks to his achievements as a writer. He is the recipient of several prestigious awards, such as the Jerusalem Prize.
Colette was a French author who received a nomination for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948. She is remembered for her novella Gigi, which inspired the 1958 movie and the 1973 musical of the same name. Her life and work have inspired several films, including the 2018 biographical drama film Colette, where Keira Knightley played the title role.
Jacques Derrida was a French philosopher remembered for developing deconstruction, a form of semiotic analysis. Derrida is one of the most influential figures associated with postmodern philosophy and post-structuralism. He also had a major influence on academic disciplines like philosophy, law, political theory, anthropology, applied linguistics, and historiography. He also influenced music, art criticism, art, and architecture.
Frantz Fanon was a French-West Indian born in Martinique, a former French colony. A skilled psychiatrist and physician, he realized the impact of colonialism on the human mind while treating French soldiers and Algerians. The author of books such as The Wretched of the Earth, Fanon supported the Algerian independence movement.
American Trappist monk and theologian Thomas Merton was ordained a priest and named Father Louis. He was a member of the monastery Abbey of Our Lady of Gethsemani. He is remembered for his bestselling autobiography, The Seven Storey Mountain, and for his study of Eastern religions such as Buddhism.
13 Robert Clary
Samuel Benchetrit is a French writer, scenarist, actor, and director. Over the years, Benchetrit's achievements as a writer and actor have been overshadowed by his personal life and relationships with popular actresses like Marie Trintignant, Anna Mouglalis, and Vanessa Paradis.
15 Eric Ripert
Noted mathematician and polymath, Benoit B. Mandelbrot is perhaps best known for his work on fractal. He not only coined the term, but also used computer-constructed images to illustrate the mathematical definition. Also credited with the discovery of Mandelbrot set and Mandelbrot law, he established that even those things which were apparently chaotic or rough had a "degree of order".
17 Jean Giraud
18 Anna Karina
20 Dora Maar
Born to a French mother and a Croatian father, Dora Maar spent her childhood in Argentina and later studied art in Paris. The renowned surrealist artist and photographer later gained fame as Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse, and was featured in his paintings such as Weeping Woman.
French-Canadian singer Mylène Farmer is best known for her hits such as Libertine and Les Mots, and for her collaborative acts with Laurent Boutonnat. Born Mylene Jeanne Gautier, she later changed her name to Mylene Farmer in honor of Hollywood star Frances Farmer, who was her idol.
Marjane Satrapi is a graphic novelist, illustrator, cartoonist, children's book author, and film director. Satrapi achieved international recognition in the early-2000s after releasing her critically acclaimed graphic novels. She is best known for writing and directing an animated biographical drama film titled Persepolis, which received nominations at prestigious award ceremonies, such as the Academy Awards, BAFTA Awards, and Golden Globes.
23 Romain Gary
Romain Gary was a French novelist, diplomat, and film director of Jewish origin. He also served as an aviator during World War II. One of France’s most popular and prolific writers, he is the only author to have won the Prix Goncourt twice. He had a troubled personal life and died of suicide in 1980.
Georges Bataille was a French intellectual and philosopher best remembered for his work in various fields, such as philosophy, sociology, history of art, anthropology, literature, and consumerism. His work would later have a huge impact on subsequent schools of social theory and philosophy. Also a prolific writer, Georges Bataille wrote on subjects like mysticism, erotism, transgression, and surrealism.
25 René Girard
René Girard was a French philosopher of social science, literary critic, and historian. Over the years, Girard's work has had an influence on disciplines like philosophy, anthropology, psychology, mythology, theology, economics, sociology, and cultural studies among other important disciplines. In 2006, René Girard was honored by the University of Tübingen with the prestigious Dr. Leopold Lucas Prize.
French poet Guillaume Apollinaire was a significant figure of the avant-garde movement. It is believed he had coined the terms Cubism, Surrealism, and Orphism. Known for his iconic poem Chanson du mal-aimé, written after being rejected by a lover, he also developed the typography-based concrete poetry in the collection Calligrammes.
Prince Henrik, husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, was a skilled winemaker and a talented poet, known for his flamboyant lifestyle. He had often publicly expressed his unhappiness over not being named a king and also declared he wouldn’t want to be buried next to his wife.
28 R. D. Laing
Psychiatrist R. D. Laing was known for his different perspective on mental illnesses, particularly psychosis. Known as anti-psychiatry, his theory of resolving mental ailments opposed the age-old shock therapy. His written works include The Divided Self. He was also a talented poet and had fathered 10 children by four women.
Michel Houellebecq is a French author known for his novels, essays, and poems. He also occasionally makes films. As controversial as he is popular, he has been accused of obscenity, misogyny, racism, and Islamophobia. His works generally receive positive responses and some critics consider him one of the greatest living authors today. He is a recipient of the Prix Goncourt.
30 Betsy Drake
32 Bruno Latour
Holberg Prize-winning French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour had initially studied theology and even received his PhD in the subject. His later research Ivory Coast drew him to anthropology, and he soon gained fame as a renowned academic in the field, having co-written iconic books such as Laboratory Life.
35 Savitri Devi
Born in Lyon, Frenchwoman Maximiani Julia Portas later changed her name to Savitri Devi and adopted Nazism. The ardent cat lover earned a PhD in philosophy and later acquired Greek nationality and served as an Axis spy. She claimed Adolf Hitler was an avatar of the Hindu god Vishnu.
40 Jean Genet
Jean Genet was a French playwright, novelist, essayist, poet, and political activist. Genet is best remembered for his transformation into a writer and playwright after spending his early life as a petty criminal and vagabond. His best-known works include novels, such as Our Lady of the Flowers and The Thief's Journal.
A prominent supporter of President Charles de Gaulle, author Andre Malraux had served as the French minister of cultural affairs for a decade. He initiated anti-colonial and socialist movements in South-east Asia and also went on expeditions to discover mythical wonders such as the capital of the Queen of Sheba.
43 Alain Badiou
Former frontman of the French rock band Noir Désir, Bertrand Cantat made headlines when he beat his girlfriend actor Marie Trintignant to death in a Lithuanian hotel. His sentence of 8 years was later commuted to 4. His ex-wife Krisztina Rády later committed suicide in his presence at her home.