Famous 20th Century French Writers

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Vote for Your Favourite 20th Century French Writers

 1 
Albert Camus
(Philosopher & Novelist)

Albert Camus
12
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
10
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
5
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 
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.

 7 
Eugene Ionesco
(Playwright and dramatist)

Eugene Ionesco
3
Birthdate: November 26, 1909
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Slatina, Romania Slatina, Romania
Died: March 28, 1994
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 8 
Colette
(Best Known for Her Novel 'Gigi')

Colette
10
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.

 9 
Anais Nin
(Diarist)

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.

 10 

Christopher Tolkien
6
Birthdate: November 21, 1924
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Leeds, England
Died: January 16, 2020

Christopher Tolkien was a French and English academic editor. The son of legendary author J. R. R. Tolkien, Christopher edited much of his father's work, which was published after his father's demise. Christopher Tolkien is also credited with drawing the original maps in, The Lord of the Rings, one of his father's highly acclaimed novels.

 11 
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.

 12 
Lilian Thuram
(Football player)

Lilian Thuram
7
Birthdate: January 1, 1972
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Pointe-a-Pitre, Guadeloupe, France

French former footballer Lilian Thuram, who is now a renowned author, with books on racism such as White Thinking to his credit. His 142 appearances for the French national team made him the most capped player of his country, while he was part of the 1998 FIFA World Cup-winning squad.

 13 

Jacques Pepin
5
Birthdate: December 18, 1935
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bourg-en-Bresse, French Third Republic France

 14 
Roland Barthes
(French Literary Theorist Best Known for His Essay Collection 'Mythologies' and His Essay 'The Death of the Author')

Roland Barthes
4
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.

 15 
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.

 16 
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.

 17 
Frantz Fanon
(Psychiatrist)

Frantz Fanon
4
Birthdate: July 20, 1925
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Fort-de-France, Martinique, France
Died: December 6, 1961

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.

 18 
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.

 19 

Eric Ripert
5
Birthdate: March 2, 1965
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Antibes, France

 20 
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.

 21 
Anna Karina
(Actress)

Anna Karina
6
Birthdate: September 22, 1940
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Solbjerg, Denmark
Died: December 14, 2019

Anna Karina was a Danish-French film actress, singer, and director. She often collaborated with French New Wave director Jean-Luc Godard and appeared in many of his films, including My Life to Live and Bande à part. She set up her own production company in 1972 and made her directorial debut with Vivre ensemble. She was also a published author. 

 22 
Jean Giraud
(Artist)

Jean Giraud
5
Birthdate: May 8, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-sur-Marne, France
Died: March 10, 2012

 23 
Andre Breton
(Writer, Co-Founder of Surrealism)

Andre Breton
3
Birthdate: February 18, 1896
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Tinchebray, Tinchebray-Bocage, 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.

 24 

Auguste Escoffier
5
Birthdate: October 28, 1846
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Villeneuve-Loubet, France
Died: February 12, 1935

 25 
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.  

 26 
Romain Gary
(Novelist)

Romain Gary
3
Birthdate: May 21, 1914
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Vilnius, 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.

 27 
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.

 28 
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.

 29 
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.

 30 
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.

 31 
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. 

 32 
Claude Cahun
(Former surrealist photographer, sculptor best known as a writer and self-portraitist, who assumed a variety of performative personae)

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.

 33 
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

 34 

Gabriel Matzneff
3
Birthdate: August 12, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France

 35 

Robert Clary
4
Birthdate: March 1, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France

 36 
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.

 37 
Andre Malraux
(Novelist)

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.

 38 
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.

 39 

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.

 40 
Maurice Leblanc
(Novelist)

Maurice Leblanc
3
Birthdate: December 11, 1864
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen, French
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.

 41 

Joël Robuchon
4
Birthdate: April 7, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Poitiers, Vienne, France
Died: August 6, 2018

 42 
Tristan Tzara
(Romanian and French Avant-Garde Poet, essayist and performance artist)

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.   

 43 

Aime Cesaire
3
Birthdate: June 26, 1913
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Basse-Pointe, Martinique, France
Died: April 17, 2008

 44 

Judith Godrèche
5
Birthdate: March 23, 1972
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France

 45 
Bertrand Cantat
(Singer, Guitarist, Lyricist, Singer-songwriter, Poet)

Bertrand Cantat
3
Birthdate: March 5, 1964
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Pau

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.

 46 
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

 47 
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.

 48 
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.

 49 
Yasmina Reza
(Playwright)

Yasmina Reza
3
Birthdate: May 1, 1959
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France

 50 
Françoise Sagan
(Playwright)

Françoise Sagan
3
Birthdate: June 21, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cajarc, France
Died: September 24, 2004