Famous 20th Century French Writers

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 1 
Albert Camus
(Philosopher & Novelist)
Albert Camus
13
Birthdate: November 7, 1913
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Drean, Algeria
Died: January 4, 1960

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.

 2 
Jean-Paul Sartre
(Novelist, Playwright, & Philosopher)
Jean-Paul Sartre
12
Birthdate: June 21, 1905
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1980

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.

 3 
Marcel Proust
(Novelist)
Marcel Proust
7
Birthdate: July 10, 1871
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Neuilly-Auteuil-Passy, France
Died: November 18, 1922

Marcel Proust was a French novelist, essayist, and critic best known for writing the world-renowned novel In Search of Lost Time, which was published between 1913 and 1927 in seven parts. Many writers and critics regard him as one of the 20th century's most influential and important authors.

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 4 
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(French Poet, Author, and Aviator Best Known for His Novella ‘The Little Prince’)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
6
Birthdate: June 29, 1900
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Lyon, France
Died: July 31, 1944

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.

 5 
Jean Cocteau
(French Author and Artist Who Was One of the Foremost Creatives of the 'Surrealist', 'Avant-Garde', and 'Dadaist' Movements.)
Jean Cocteau
7
Birthdate: July 5, 1889
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Maisons-Laffitte, France
Died: October 11, 1963
While Jean Cocteau preferred calling himself a poet, his multidimensional works consisted of novels such as Les Enfants Terribles and films directed by him such as La Belle et la Bête. Cocteau relied on motifs such as eyes, blood, and mirrors, and mingled mythology and modernism.
 6 
Milan Kundera
(Czech Writer Best Known for His Novel 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being')
Milan Kundera
4
Birthdate: April 1, 1929
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Brno, Czechia

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.

 7 
Eugène Ionesco
(Romanian-French Playwright and Leading Figure of the 'French Avant-Garde Theatre')
Eugène Ionesco
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina, Romania Slatina, Romania
Died: March 28, 1994

Eugene Ionesco was a Romanian-French playwright and one of the 20th century's leading figures of the French avant-garde theatre. He is best remembered for his play, The Bald Soprano, which played an important role in the development of the Theatre of the Absurd. Eugène Ionesco was the recipient of several prestigious awards, including the Austrian State Prize for European Literature.

 8 
Anais Nin
(French-Born American Novelist, Diarist and Short Story Writer)
Anais Nin
6
Birthdate: February 21, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, Paris, France
Died: January 14, 1977

French-Cuban-American diarist, essayist, and novelist Anais Nin wrote several volumes of journals, erotica, novels, critical studies, essays, and short stories. Her journals and diaries are among her most studied works. She had a deep interest in psychoanalysis and studied it extensively with René Allendy and Otto Rank. Critics consider her one of the finest writers of female erotica.

 9 
Colette
(Best Known for Her Novel 'Gigi')
Colette
11
Birthdate: January 28, 1873
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Saint-Sauveur-en-Puisaye, France
Died: August 3, 1954

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.

 10 
Simone de Beauvoir
(French Existentialist Philosopher, Writer, Social Theorist, and Feminist Activist)
Simone de Beauvoir
14
Birthdate: January 9, 1908
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 14, 1986
French author and existentialist philosopher Simone de Beauvoir is best remembered for her feminist treatise The Second Sex and her novels The Mandarins and She Came to Stay. Her literary contributions also include essays, biographies, and her autobiographical works. She won the Prix Goncourt and the Jerusalem Prize.
 11 
Thomas Merton
(Writer & theologian was ordained to the Catholic priesthood and given the name "Father Louis".)
Thomas Merton
5
Birthdate: January 31, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Prades, France
Died: December 10, 1968

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.

 12 
Samuel Benchetrit
(French Writer, Actor, and Director)
Samuel Benchetrit
4
Birthdate: June 26, 1973
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Champigny-sur-Marne, France

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.

 13 
Ève Curie
(Journalist and Pianist Best Known for Writing a Biography of Her Mother “Madame Curie”)
Ève Curie
5
Birthdate: December 6, 1904
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 22, 2007

French and American writer, journalist, and pianist Ève Curie was one of the daughters of scientists Marie Curie and Pierre Curie. She was the only one in the Curie family who did not choose a career in science. She authored her mother’s biography and was actively involved with UNICEF, helping women and children in developing countries.

 14 
Jacques Pepin
6
Birthdate: December 18, 1935
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bourg-en-Bresse, French Third Republic France
 15 
Roland Barthes
(French Literary Theorist Best Known for His Essay Collection 'Mythologies' and His Essay 'The Death of the Author')
Roland Barthes
5
Birthdate: November 12, 1915
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Cherbourg-en-Cotentin, France
Died: March 25, 1980
Born to middle-class parents in France, literary theorist and critic Roland Barthes explored Ferdinand de Saussure’s semiology and influenced fields such as structuralism. His iconic works, such as Mythologies and The Death of the Author, influenced later thinkers. He died of injuries sustained in a road accident at 64.
 16 
Eric Ripert
5
Birthdate: March 2, 1965
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Antibes, France
 17 
Auguste Escoffier
5
Birthdate: October 28, 1846
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Villeneuve-Loubet, France
Died: February 12, 1935
 18 
Jean Giraud
(Artist)
Jean Giraud
5
Birthdate: May 8, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-sur-Marne, France
Died: March 10, 2012
 19 
Antonin Artaud
(French Writer, Theatre Director and One of the Major Figures of the European Avant-Garde)
Antonin Artaud
5
Birthdate: September 4, 1896
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Marseille, France
Died: March 4, 1948

Antonin Artaud was a French writer, poet, dramatist, and theater director. Known for his raw, surreal, and transgressive themes, he was a major figure in 20th-century theater. He outlined his theories in the Theatre of Cruelty movement, expressed in the form of essays and plays. He died of cancer at the age of 51.  

 20 
Andre Breton
(French Writer, Poet and Co-Founder of ‘Surrealism’)
Andre Breton
3
Birthdate: February 19, 1896
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tinchebray, France
Died: September 28, 1966

Born into a family of shopkeepers, French poet André Breton initially studied medicine and psychiatry. He then joined Dadaism and eventually branched out and became one of the pioneers of the surrealist movement. Known for his Surrealist Manifestos, Breton was also a collector of manuscripts, sculptures, and paintings.

 21 
Michel Foucault
(Philosopher & Historian)
Michel Foucault
4
Birthdate: October 15, 1926
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Poitiers, France
Died: June 25, 1984

If others thought the body was the prison of the soul, Paul-Michel Foucault felt the other way round. The French philosopher, literary critic and Leftist who interpreted the link between power and knowledge, was a post-structuralist whose theories have left a mark on anthropology, psychology and criminology. The feminist was one of the noted personalities to have died of HIV/AIDS.

 22 
Romain Gary
(French Diplomat & Novelist)
Romain Gary
3
Birthdate: May 21, 1914
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vilnius, Republic Of Lithuania
Died: December 2, 1980

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.

 23 
Marjane Satrapi
(Graphic Novelist Known for Her Works 'Persepolis' and 'Chicken with Plums')
Marjane Satrapi
8
Birthdate: November 22, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rasht, Iran

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.

 24 
Guillaume Apollinaire
(Known for His Poems Without Punctuation)
Guillaume Apollinaire
3
Birthdate: August 26, 1880
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rome, Italy
Died: November 9, 1918

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.

 25 
Michel Houellebecq
(Author Best Known for His Works 'Atomised' and 'The Map and the Territory')
Michel Houellebecq
9
Birthdate: February 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint-Pierre, Réunion, France

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. 

 26 
Andre Gide
(French Author and Winner of the 1947 Nobel Prize in Literature)
Andre Gide
3
Birthdate: November 22, 1869
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 19, 1951

Nobel Prize-winning French author Andre Gide is remembered for exhibiting the conflict between sexuality and the puritanical standards of society through his works. Much of his work was autobiographical and used the confessional format. A homosexual himself, he defended homosexuality through works such as Corydon.

 27 
R. D. Laing
(Psychiatrist)
R. D. Laing
4
Birthdate: October 7, 1927
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Govanhill
Died: August 23, 1989

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.

 28 
Mireille Mathieu
5
Birthdate: July 22, 1946
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Avignon, France
French singer Mireille Mathieu began her career by participating in an annual singing contest in Avignon. She has recorded over 1200 songs in eleven languages in her career spanning over four decades. With more than 150 million albums sold worldwide, the chanteuse is classically known for her illustrious crooning. In 1974, she won the German "Bambi" Music Award.
 29 
Claude Cahun
(French Photographer Known for Her Self-Portraits and Tableaux That Incorporated a Surrealist Style and Gender Fluidity)
Claude Cahun
4
Birthdate: October 25, 1894
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Nantes, France
Died: December 8, 1954

Claude Cahun was a French sculptor, surrealist photographer, and writer. He is best remembered for his work as a self-portraitist and writer. Apart from his primary career, Claude Cahun also played a major role in the Second World War, serving as a propagandist and resistance worker.

 30 
Gilles Deleuze
(Most popular for his works with Felix Guattari, Capitalism and Schizophrenia: Anti-Oedipus from 1972 and A Thousand Plateaus from 1980)
Gilles Deleuze
4
Birthdate: January 18, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 4, 1995

Gilles Deleuze was a French philosopher who wrote extensively on philosophy, film, fine art, and literature. Widely regarded as one of the greatest philosophers of all time, Deleuze's works have influenced a wide range of disciplines, such as philosophy, literary theory, and art. His work has also influenced movements like postmodernism and post-structuralism.

 31 
Anatole France
(One of the Best-Selling French Poet and Novelist)
Anatole France
3
Birthdate: April 16, 1844
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: October 12, 1924

Anatole France was a French poet, novelist, and journalist. Renowned for writing many best-sellers, Anatole France was one of the most respected French writers of his generation. He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1921 for his brilliant literary achievements.

 32 
Andre Malraux
(French Author and Statesman Best Known for His Novel ‘La Condition Humaine’)
Andre Malraux
3
Birthdate: November 3, 1901
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 23, 1976

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.

 33 
Maurice Leblanc
(French Novelist Known as the Creator of the Fictional Gentleman Thief and Detective ‘Arsène Lupin')
Maurice Leblanc
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1864
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: November 6, 1941

French author Maurice Leblanc is best known for creating the character Arsène Lupin, who has been part of 60 of Leblanc’s crime stories and novels. He quit his law studies to become an author. Several of his films have been turned into films. He also earned the Légion d'Honneur.

 34 
Gabriel Matzneff
3
Birthdate: August 12, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
 35 
Emmanuel Levinas
(Philosopher most remembered for his work on subjects like Jewish philosophy and existentialism.)
Emmanuel Levinas
3
Birthdate: January 12, 1906
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Kaunas, Lithuania
Died: December 25, 1995
 36 
Elif Shafak
(Writer)
Elif Shafak
5
Birthdate: October 25, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France

Known widely as Turkey’s most popular female author, Elif Shafak is best known for her Booker-shortlisted bestseller 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in This Strange World. A fierce advocate for gender equality and LGBTQ rights, she is also a 3-time TEDGlobal speaker. She now lives in London, on a self-imposed exile.

 37 
Joël Robuchon
4
Birthdate: April 7, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Poitiers, Vienne, France
Died: August 6, 2018
 38 
Jean Genet
(Writer Known for His Novels 'The Thief's Journal' & 'Our Lady of The Flowers')
Jean Genet
8
Birthdate: December 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 14, 1986

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.

 39 
Tristan Tzara
(French Writer Known for Being One of the Founders and Central Figures of the Anti-Establishment 'Dada Movement')
Tristan Tzara
3
Birthdate: April 28, 1896
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Moinești, Romania
Died: December 25, 1963

Tristan Tzara was a Romanian-born French avant-garde performance artist, poet, and essayist. A multi-talented personality, Tzara was also active as a playwright, journalist, art and literary critic, film director, and composer. Tristan Tzara is best remembered for co-founding the anti-establishment Dada movement, which he helped popularize. He is also credited with co-founding the Romanian literary and art magazine Simbolul.   

 40 
Aime Cesaire
3
Birthdate: June 26, 1913
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Basse-Pointe, Martinique, France
Died: April 17, 2008
 41 
René Guénon
(Former Philosopher who remains an influential figure in the domain of metaphysics)
René Guénon
3
Birthdate: November 15, 1886
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Blois, France
Died: January 7, 1951
 42 
Judith Godrèche
5
Birthdate: March 23, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
 43 
Fernand Braudel
(French Historian and Leader of the Annales School)
Fernand Braudel
3
Birthdate: August 24, 1902
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Luméville-en-Ornois, France
Died: November 27, 1985

Fernand Braudel was a French historian who led a group of historians who were associated with the Annales School. Braudel is credited with popularizing the school in France. As the leader of the school during the 1950s and 1960s, Braudel had a major influence on historical writings around the world. He is also counted among the forefathers of world-systems theory.

 44 
Renaud Camus
(Writer)
Renaud Camus
3
Birthdate: August 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chamalières, France
 45 
Éric Zemmour
(French Far-Right Politician Known for His Controversial Views Regarding Immigration and Islam in France)
Éric Zemmour
3
Birthdate: August 31, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montreuil, France

French far-right politician Éric Zemmour gained fame on the show Face à l'Info. He has also been a prominent political journalist for publications such as Le Quotidien de Paris and Le Figaro. The founder-leader of Reconquête, he was grabbed by the neck by an unknown man at his first campaign rally.

 46 
Bernard-Henri Lévy
(French Intellectual and Leader of the 'New Philosophers' Movement)
Bernard-Henri Lévy
3
Birthdate: November 5, 1948
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Béni Saf, Algeria

Bernard-Henri Lévy is a French intellectual best known as one of the leaders of the New Philosophers movement in 1976. Over the years, Lévy's political activism, publications, and opinions have been the subject of controversies. Bernard-Henri Lévy's works have also been translated into numerous languages including English.

 47 
Yasmina Reza
(Playwright)
Yasmina Reza
3
Birthdate: May 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
 48 
Françoise Sagan
(Playwright)
Françoise Sagan
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cajarc, France
Died: September 24, 2004
 49 
Paul Valery
(French Poet, Essayist and Philosopher)
Paul Valery
3
Birthdate: October 30, 1871
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Sète, France
Died: July 20, 1945

Paul Valery was a French poet, philosopher, and essayist. Thanks to his immense contribution to literature, Valery received several nominations for the prestigious Nobel Prize in Literature. The title of the 2013 Japanese animated historical drama film The Wind Rises was inspired by one of Paul Valery's verses. Also, his poem Palme inspired James Merrill's celebrated poem, Lost in Translation.

 50 
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
3
Birthdate: May 27, 1894
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Courbevoie, France
Died: July 1, 1961