Famous French Novelists

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Novels are not just considered to be great food for the mind, many people resort to reading in a bid to unwind. Over the past few centuries, many novels have proved the saying ‘pen is mightier than sword’ through their impact. While a few of these played a great role in influencing human society, many others have even sparked off revolutions. Though other forms of media such as radio and television became popular later, many are of the opinion that they haven’t overshadowed the popularity of novels completely. France has a long list of scholars and writers who have penned novels belonging to different genres. Some of the famous novelists from this European nation include Honoré d'Urfé, François Rabelais, Charles Sorel and sieur de Souvigny. ‘The Princess of Cleves’, ‘The Human Comedy’, and ‘Candide’ are few of the path-breaking works of French literature. Other famous novels such as ‘The Hunch Back of Notre Dame’ have also been adapted into movies and went on to become blockbusters. Here is an extensive compilation of biographies of some of the most famous French novelists. Read on and find out everything about their life stories, career, profile, timelines and also a few interesting facts & trivia related to their lives.

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 1 
Victor Hugo
(French Writer of the Romantic Movement Best Known for His Novel 'Les Misérables' and Play 'Ruy Blas')
Victor Hugo
4
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, Doubs, France
Died: May 22, 1885

Victor Hugo was a French poet, dramatist, and novelist of the Romantic movement. Regarded as one of the best-known and greatest French writers of all time, Victor Hugo wrote abundantly during his career that spanned over six decades. Thanks to his works, such as Hernani and Cromwell, Victor Hugo was one of the leading figures of the Romantic literary movement.

 2 
Albert Camus
(Philosopher & Novelist)
Albert Camus
4
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.

 3 
Alexandre Dumas
(One of the Most Popular and Widely Read French Authors of the 19th Century)
Alexandre Dumas
4
Birthdate: July 24, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Villers-Cotterêts, France
Died: December 5, 1870

One of the most widely read French authors of all time, Alexandre Dumas was prolific in several genres. He joined the army as a young man and later became a full-time writer. Starting his writing career as a playwright, he moved on to writing novels. His novels have been adapted into nearly 200 films in the past century.

 4 
Jules Verne
(French Author Who Was One of the Pioneers of the Modern Science Fiction Genre)
Jules Verne
4
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes, France
Died: March 24, 1905
French author Jules Verne, also known as the “Father of Science Fiction,” is best remembered for his legendary adventure novels Journey to the Center of the Earth, Around the World in Eighty Days, and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. He also became the world’s second most-translated writer since 1979.
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 5 
Jean-Paul Sartre
(Novelist, Playwright, & Philosopher)
Jean-Paul Sartre
4
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.

 6 
Marcel Proust
(Novelist)
Marcel Proust
4
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.

 7 
Marquis de Sade
(French Writer Whose Perverse Sexual Preferences and Erotic Writings gave Rise to the Term 'Sadism')
Marquis de Sade
7
Birthdate: June 2, 1740
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: December 2, 1814
Marquis de Sade is remembered for his erotic books such as The 120 Days of Sodom. He was known for his peculiar way of deriving sexual pleasure by torturing his victims, now known as “sadism.” He was jailed for several years for sexual abuse against men, women, and children. 
 8 
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
(French Poet, Author, and Aviator Best Known for His Novella ‘The Little Prince’)
Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4
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.

 9 
Guy de Maupassant
(French Short Story Writer and Naturalist )
Guy de Maupassant
4
Birthdate: August 5, 1850
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Tourville-sur-Arques, France
Died: July 6, 1893

Guy de Maupassant was a French author who wrote 300 short stories during his illustrious career. Widely regarded as the father of the modern short story, Maupassant's stories are characterized by economy of style and depicted human lives in pessimistic terms,

 10 
Colette
(Best Known for Her Novel 'Gigi')
Colette
4
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.

 11 
Anais Nin
(French-Born American Novelist, Diarist and Short Story Writer)
Anais Nin
5
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.

 12 
Emile Zola
(French Novelist & Playwright Known for His Works 'Les Rougon-Macquart' and 'Thérèse Raquin')
Emile Zola
5
Birthdate: April 2, 1840
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: September 29, 1902

Emile Zola was a French novelist, journalist, and playwright. He played a key role in the development of theatrical naturalism and was a well-known practitioner of the literary school of naturalism. He was also a political journalist and was influential in the political liberalization of France. He was nominated for the Nobel Prize in Literature twice.

 13 
Honoré de Balzac
(French Novelist and Playwright Known for His Magnum Opus 'La Comédie humaine')
Honoré de Balzac
4
Birthdate: May 20, 1799
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tours, France
Died: August 18, 1850

Honoré de Balzac was a French playwright and novelist. Since his works gave a detailed, unfiltered representation of society, Honoré de Balzac is generally considered one of the founders of realism and an important figure in European literature. Renowned for creating multi-faceted characters, Balzac influenced several popular writers like Charles John Huffam Dickens, Émile Zola, Henry James, and Gustave Flaubert.

 14 
Gustave Flaubert
(French Author Best Known for His Novels: ‘Madame Bovary’, ‘Sentimental Education’, ‘Salammbô’ and ‘Three Tales’)
Gustave Flaubert
4
Birthdate: December 12, 1821
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen, France
Died: May 8, 1880

Gustave Flaubert was a French novelist best remembered for his first novel Madame Bovary, which was later adapted into an opera. One of the most influential French novelists of all time, Flaubert is widely regarded as the main exponent of literary realism in France. His work inspired his protégé and short story writer Guy de Maupassant, who later achieved much acclaim.

 15 
George Sand
(One of the Most Popular Writers in Europe in Her Lifetime)
George Sand
4
Birthdate: July 1, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: June 8, 1876
Nineteenth-century French author Amantine Lucile Aurore Dupin, better known as George Sand, became a leading figure of the Romantic era of Europe. She is best remembered for works such as La Petite Fadette and had numerous affairs, the most notable of them being the one with composer Frédéric Chopin.
 16 
Milan Kundera
(Czech Writer Best Known for His Novel 'The Unbearable Lightness of Being')
Milan Kundera
5
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.

 17 
Jean Cocteau
(French Author and Artist Who Was One of the Foremost Creatives of the 'Surrealist', 'Avant-Garde', and 'Dadaist' Movements.)
Jean Cocteau
4
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.
 18 
Cyrano de Bergerac
(Novelist and Playwright Known for His Play ‘Cyrano de Bergerac’)
Cyrano de Bergerac
4
Birthdate: March 6, 1619
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: July 28, 1655
Seventeenth-century author and duelist Cyrano de Bergerac was immortalized by Edmond Rostand’s drama Cyrano de Bergerac, based on Bergerac’s life, with its mix of myth and reality. Even Bergerac's death is shrouded in mystery, with some claiming he died of an injury and others believing he died of a disease.
 19 
Stendhal
(French Writer Best Known for His Novels 'The Red and the Black' and 'The Charterhouse of Parma')
Stendhal
3
Birthdate: January 23, 1783
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grenoble, France
Died: March 23, 1842
French author Marie-Henri Beyle, better known by his pseudonym, Stendhal, had used a number of other pseudonyms, too. He had lost his mother early in life and had also served in the French army briefly. He is remembered for novels such as The Red and the Black.
 20 
Marjane Satrapi
(Graphic Novelist Known for Her Works 'Persepolis' and 'Chicken with Plums')
Marjane Satrapi
4
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.

 21 
Michel Houellebecq
(Author Best Known for His Works 'Atomised' and 'The Map and the Territory')
Michel Houellebecq
4
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. 

 22 
François Rabelais
(French Renaissance Writer and Physician Known for His Work ‘Gargantua and Pantagruel’)
François Rabelais
3
Birthdate: 1494 AD
Birthplace: Chinon, France
Died: 1553 AD

François Rabelais was a French writer, Renaissance humanist, physician, monk, and Greek scholar. Regarded as one of the great writers by Western literary critics, Rabelais is also considered one of the creators of modern European writing. He is remembered for Gargantua and Pantagruel, a pentalogy of novels that are regarded as one of the earliest forms of the modern novel.

 23 
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.

 24 
Jean Genet
(Writer Known for His Novels 'The Thief's Journal' & 'Our Lady of The Flowers')
Jean Genet
3
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.

 25 
Elif Shafak
(Writer)
Elif Shafak
3
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.

 26 
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.

 27 
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.

 28 
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.

 29 
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.

 30 
Robert W. Service
(Poet & Writer)
Robert W. Service
4
Birthdate: January 16, 1874
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Preston, Lancashire, England
Died: September 11, 1958

Robert W. Service was a British-Canadian poet and writer. Popularly called "the Bard of the Yukon," he wrote some of the most commercially successful poetry of his era. A bank clerk by profession, he often wrote while traveling for work. Besides poetry, he also wrote fiction and non-fiction. He was often compared to English writer and novelist Rudyard Kipling. 

 31 
Alexandre Dumas, fils
3
Birthdate: July 27, 1824
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 27, 1895
 32 
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
3
Birthdate: May 27, 1894
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Courbevoie, France
Died: July 1, 1961
 33 
Renaud Camus
(Writer)
Renaud Camus
4
Birthdate: August 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chamalières, France
 34 
Alphonse Daudet
(French Novelist Known for His Books ‘Le Petit Chose’ and ‘Fromont jeune et Risler aîné’)
Alphonse Daudet
3
Birthdate: May 13, 1840
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nîmes, France
Died: December 17, 1897

Alphonse Daudet was a French novelist whose books are still widely read in France. He often collaborated with his wife Julia Daudet, a famous writer, poet, and journalist. Today, several schools and colleges in France are named in his honor.

 35 
Marguerite Duras
(Former novelist, playwright, screenwriter, essayist, and experimental filmmaker)
Marguerite Duras
3
Birthdate: April 4, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Vietnam
Died: March 3, 1996
 36 
Patrick Modiano
(French Novelist and Winner of 2014 Nobel Prize in Literature )
Patrick Modiano
3
Birthdate: July 30, 1945
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Boulogne-Billancourt, France

Nobel Prize-winning French author Patrick Modiano was born in Paris, in the post-World War II era, and was introduced to literature by his geometry teacher Raymond Queneau, who was also a writer. Modiano's novels, mostly containing a fusion of autobiographical and fictional elements, depicted the impact of war on people.

 37 
Gaston Leroux
(Journalist)
Gaston Leroux
3
Birthdate: May 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1927
 38 
Pierre Boulle
(French Novelist Best Known for His Works: 'The Bridge Over the River Kwai' And 'Planet of the Apes')
Pierre Boulle
3
Birthdate: February 20, 1912
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Avignon, France
Died: January 30, 1994

Pierre Boulle was a French novelist best remembered for writing such novels as Planet of the Apes and The Bridge over the River Kwai, which were adapted into highly successful and award-winning films. Planet of the Apes inspired the creation of popular themed toys and animated series. His works have also inspired several French films like Le Point de mire.

 39 
Julia Kristeva
(Bulgarian-French Author and Academic Whose Themes Surrounded on Feminism, Semiotics, and Psychoanalysis)
Julia Kristeva
3
Birthdate: June 24, 1941
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Sliven, Bulgaria

Bulgarian-born French author and literary critic Julia Kristeva is also a professor at the University Paris Diderot. Her writings, such as the Female Genius trilogy, are centered around feminism, semiotics, and psychoanalysis. She has also pioneered semanalysis and has been recognized with honors such as Commander of the Legion of Honor.

 40 
Florian Zeller
(Novelist)
Florian Zeller
3
Birthdate: June 28, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France
 41 
George Steiner
(Literary critic, Essayist, Philosopher, Novelist)
George Steiner
4
Birthdate: April 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France
Died: February 3, 2020
 42 
Françoise Sagan
(Playwright)
Françoise Sagan
5
Birthdate: June 21, 1935
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Cajarc, France
Died: September 24, 2004
 43 
Théophile Gautier
4
Birthdate: August 30, 1811
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tarbes, France
Died: October 23, 1872
 44 
Joris-Karl Huysmans
(Art critic, Novelist)
Joris-Karl Huysmans
4
Birthdate: February 5, 1848
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 12, 1907
 45 
Amin Maalouf
(Lebanese-Born French Author and Journalist)
Amin Maalouf
3
Birthdate: February 25, 1949
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Beirut, Lebanon

One of the greatest authors and journalists born in Lebanon, Amin Maalouf initially reported major political events around the world. He is known for his internationally bestselling French books, such as Samarkand and Balthasar's Odyssey. His novels usually have a historical setting, with war and migration as prominent themes.

 46 
Catherine Breillat
4
Birthdate: July 13, 1948
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bressuire,France
 47 
Irene Nemirovsky
4
Birthdate: February 24, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kiev, Ukraine, Russian Empire
Died: August 17, 1942
 48 
Chrétien de Troyes
(Former poet and trouvère known for his writing on Arthurian subjects, and for first writing of Lancelot, Percival and the Holy Grail)
Chrétien de Troyes
3
Birthplace: Troyes, France
 49 
Marguerite Yourcenar
(French Novelist, Essayist and First Woman Elected to the 'Académie Française')
Marguerite Yourcenar
3
Birthdate: June 8, 1903
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Brussels, Belgium
Died: December 17, 1987

Belgian-born French novelist Marguerite Yourcenar, who later settled in the US, is best remembered for her award-winning works such as Mémoires d'Hadrien. She was also the first female member to be elected to the Académie Française. She used an anagram of her original last name, Crayencour, as her surname.

 50 
Arthur de Gobineau
(French Aristocrat & Writer Best Known for Helping to Legitimise 'Racism' by the Use of Scientific Racist Theory)
Arthur de Gobineau
3
Birthdate: July 14, 1816
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Ville-d'Avray, France
Died: October 13, 1882

Arthur de Gobineau was a French aristocrat best remembered for his efforts to legitimize racism. He cited scientific racist theory as legitimate evidence in an attempt to coerce people into believing that the Aryan race is superior. He was also known as a novelist, travel writer, and diplomat among his contemporaries.