Famous French Essayists

Find out more about the greatest French Essayists, including Voltaire, Simone de Beauvoir, Pierre Bourdieu, Michel Houellebecq and Henri Bergson.

This ranking is based on an algorithm that combines various factors, including the votes of our users and search trends on the internet.

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 1 Voltaire

Voltaire.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: November 21, 1694
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 30, 1778
18th-century historian, author, philosopher, and advocate of freedom of speech Voltaire was a leading figure of the French Age of Enlightenment. He often ran into trouble for his criticism of the French nobility and the Roman Catholic Church. He once went to Britain on voluntary exile, fearing imprisonment in France.

 2 Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir.
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 9, 1908
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris
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.
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 3 Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot.
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: October 5, 1713
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Langres, France
Died: July 31, 1784

Denis Diderot revolutionized the Age of Enlightenment as the co-founder of Encyclopédie, which was banned for questioning religion. He had flirted with the idea of joining the theater and becoming a priest, and even studied law, but later devoted himself to languages, literature, and philosophy.

 4 Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq.
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 26, 1956
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Saint Pierre, Réunion

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. 

 5 Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson.
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Famous As: Philosopher and Writer
Birthdate: October 18, 1859
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: January 4, 1941

French philosopher, Henri Bergson, is remembered for his contribution to the tradition of continental philosophy. His works were considered extremely influential,  especially during the first half of the 20th century. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature (1927) and  Grand-Croix de la Legion d'honneur (1930). He was a simple man who led a humble life despite his great achievements.

 6 René Girard

René Girard.
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 25, 1923
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: November 4, 2015

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.

 7 Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: October 25, 1971
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Strasbourg, France
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 8 Georges Perec

Georges Perec
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: March 7, 1936
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 3, 1982

 9 Tristan Tzara

Tristan Tzara
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Famous As: Art collector, Poet, Writer, Diplomat, Film director, Translator, Playwright, Essayist, Composer, Musician, Performance artist, Literary critic
Birthdate: April 16, 1896
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Moineşti
Died: December 25, 1963

 10 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
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Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
Died: December 30, 1944

 11 Francois de La Rochefoucauld

Francois de La Rochefoucauld
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: September 15, 1613
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rue des Petits-Champs, Paris, France
Died: March 17, 1680

 12 Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 8, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: December 17, 1987

 13 Éric Zemmour

Éric Zemmour
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 31, 1958
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Montreuil, France

 14 Gérard de Nerval

Gérard de Nerval
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: May 25, 1808
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris
Died: January 26, 1855

 15 Edmond Rostand

Edmond Rostand
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Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Essayist, Screenwriter
Birthdate: April 1, 1868
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Marseille
Died: December 2, 1918

 16 J. M. G. Le Clézio

J. M. G. Le Clézio
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 13, 1940
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Nice, France

 17 J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur

J. Hector St. John de Crèvecœur
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 31, 1735
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Caen, France
Died: November 12, 1813

 18 George Psalmanazar

George Psalmanazar
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: 1679 AD
Birthplace: South France
Died: May 3, 1763

 19 Charles Péguy

Charles Péguy
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: January 7, 1873
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Orléans, France
Died: September 5, 1914

 20 Sully Prudhomme

Sully Prudhomme
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Famous As: Poet, Writer, Essayist, Diarist
Birthdate: March 16, 1839
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
Died: September 7, 1907

 21 Robert de Montesquiou

Robert de Montesquiou
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Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: March 7, 1855
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 11, 1921

 22 Pierre Klossowski

Pierre Klossowski
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 9, 1905
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 12, 2001

 23 Léon Bloy

Léon Bloy
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: July 11, 1846
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Notre-Dame-de-Sanilhac, Sanilhac, France
Died: November 3, 1917

 24 Albert Memmi

Albert Memmi
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 15, 1920
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Tunis, Tunisia
Died: May 22, 2020

 25 Guy Gilbert

Guy Gilbert
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Famous As: Priest
Birthdate: September 12, 1935
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Rochefort, France

 26 Jean Giraudoux

Jean Giraudoux
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Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: October 29, 1882
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Bellac, France
Died: January 31, 1944

 27 Pierre Drieu La Rochelle

Pierre Drieu La Rochelle
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 3, 1893
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: March 15, 1945

 28 Daniel Pennac

Daniel Pennac
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: December 1, 1944
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Casablanca, Morocco

 29 Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle

Bernard Le Bovier de Fontenelle
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: February 11, 1657
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: January 9, 1757

 30 Henry de Montherlant

Henry de Montherlant
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: April 20, 1895
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 21, 1972

 31 Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois

Jean-Marie Collot d'Herbois
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Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: June 19, 1749
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 8, 1796

 32 Julien Green

Julien Green
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: September 6, 1900
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: August 13, 1998

 33 Gisèle Halimi

Gisèle Halimi
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Famous As: Lawyer
Birthdate: July 27, 1927
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: La Goulette, Tunisia
Died: July 28, 2020

 34 Joseph Joubert

Joseph Joubert
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Famous As: Philosopher, Essayist, Writer
Birthdate: May 7, 1754
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montignac
Died: May 4, 1824

 35 Julien Benda

Julien Benda
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: December 26, 1867
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 7, 1956

 36 Bianca Lamblin

Bianca Lamblin
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 29, 1921
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Lublin, Poland
Died: November 5, 2011

 37 Emmanuel Mounier

Emmanuel Mounier
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Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: April 1, 1905
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Grenoble, France
Died: March 22, 1950

 38 Stéphane Hessel

Stéphane Hessel
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Famous As: Diplomat
Birthdate: October 20, 1917
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Died: February 26, 2013

 39 Marcel Schwob

Marcel Schwob
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 23, 1867
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Chaville, France
Died: February 26, 1905

 40 Louis-Sébastien Mercier

Louis-Sébastien Mercier
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: June 6, 1740
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 25, 1814

 41 Francis Ponge

Francis Ponge
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: March 27, 1899
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Montpellier, France
Died: August 6, 1988

 42 Paul Morand

Paul Morand
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: March 13, 1888
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 24, 1976

 43 Edgar Faure

Edgar Faure
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Famous As: Politician
Birthdate: August 18, 1908
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Béziers, France
Died: March 30, 1988

 44 Sylvain Maréchal

Sylvain Maréchal
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Famous As: Essayist
Birthdate: August 15, 1750
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: January 18, 1803

 45 Andreas Capellanus

Andreas Capellanus
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: 1150 AD
Birthplace: France
Died: 1220 AD

 46 Léon Daudet

Léon Daudet
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Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: November 16, 1867
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 30, 1942

 47 Maurice-Georges Paléologue

Maurice-Georges Paléologue
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Famous As: French diplomat and writer
Birthdate: January 13, 1859
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 21, 1944

 48 Edgar Quinet

Edgar Quinet
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Famous As: Historian
Birthdate: February 17, 1803
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Bourg-en-Bresse, France
Died: March 27, 1875

 49 Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues

Luc de Clapiers, marquis de Vauvenargues
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Famous As: Author
Birthdate: August 6, 1715
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Aix-en-Provence, France
Died: May 28, 1747

 50 Hervé Bazin

Hervé Bazin
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: April 17, 1911
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Angers, France
Died: February 17, 1996