Famous French Novelists

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.

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 Albert Camus

Albert Camus
4
Famous As: Philosopher & Novelist
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 Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas
4
Famous As: Writer
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.

 3 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo
4
Famous As: Novelist & Poet
Birthdate: February 26, 1802
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Besançon, 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.

 4 Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre
4
Famous As: Philosopher
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.

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 5 Jules Verne

Jules Verne
4
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 6 Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust
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Famous As: Novelist
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

Marquis de Sade
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Famous As: Novelist, Philosopher
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. 
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 8 Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Antoine de Saint-Exupery
4
Famous As: Novelist, Aviator & Journalist
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

Guy de Maupassant
4
Famous As: Novelist & Short Story Writer
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

Colette
4
Famous As: Novelist
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 Emile Zola

Emile Zola
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Famous As: Novelist, Playwright
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.

 12 Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert
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Famous As: Novelist
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.

 13 Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac
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Famous As: Novelist and Playwright
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 George Sand

George Sand
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Birthdate: July 1, 1804
Sun Sign: Cancer
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.

 15 Stendhal

Stendhal
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Famous As: Writer
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.

 16 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. 

 17 Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac
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Famous As: Novelist
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.

 18 Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi
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Famous As: Novelist
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.

 19 Jean Genet

Jean Genet
3
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 20 François Rabelais

François Rabelais
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 0000 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.

 21 Andre Gide

Andre Gide
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Famous As: Author
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.

 22 Guillaume Apollinaire

Guillaume Apollinaire
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Famous As: Poet
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.

 23 Louis-Ferdinand Céline

Louis-Ferdinand Céline
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Famous As: French novelist
Birthdate: May 27, 1894
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Courbevoie
Died: July 1, 1961

 24 Marguerite Duras

Marguerite Duras
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Famous As: Writer, Film director, Screenwriter, Publisher, Novelist, Playwright, Autobiographer, Journalist, Poet lawyer, Feminist
Birthdate: April 4, 1914
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Ho Chi Minh City
Died: March 3, 1996

 25 Elif Shafak

Elif Shafak
3
Famous As: Writer
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

Andre Malraux
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Famous As: Novelist
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

Anatole France
3
Famous As: Poet
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

Maurice Leblanc
3
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 29 Arthur de Gobineau

Arthur de Gobineau
3
Famous As: Novelist
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. 

 30 Patrick Modiano

Patrick Modiano
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Famous As: Novelist
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.

 31 Alexandre Dumas, fils

Alexandre Dumas, fils
3
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: July 27, 1824
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: November 27, 1895

 32 Alphonse Daudet

Alphonse Daudet
3
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 33 Gaston Leroux

Gaston Leroux
3
Famous As: Journalist
Birthdate: May 6, 1868
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 1927

 34 Françoise Sagan

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

 35 Joris-Karl Huysmans

Joris-Karl Huysmans
3
Famous As: Writer, Art critic, Novelist
Birthdate: February 5, 1848
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: May 12, 1907

 36 Théophile Gautier

Théophile Gautier
3
Famous As: writer, journalist, playwright, literary critic, art critic
Birthdate: August 31, 1811
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Tarbes
Died: October 22, 1872

 37 Irene Nemirovsky

Irene Nemirovsky
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 24, 1903
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Kiev, Ukraine, Russian Empire
Died: August 17, 1942

 38 Romain Rolland

Romain Rolland
3
Famous As: Writer, Playwright, Essayist, Historian, Novelist, Musicologist
Birthdate: January 29, 1866
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Clamecy, Nièvre
Died: December 30, 1944

Romain Rolland was a French novelist, essayist, dramatist, mystic, and art historian. In 1915, Rolland was honored with the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the most important supporters of Josef Stalin, Rolland is also remembered for his significant influence on Austrian neurologist Sigmund Freud.

 39 Catherine Breillat

Catherine Breillat
3
Famous As: Filmmaker
Birthdate: July 13, 1948
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Bressuire,France

 40 Chrétien de Troyes

Chrétien de Troyes
3
Birthdate: 0000 AD
Birthplace: Troyes

 41 Marguerite Yourcenar

Marguerite Yourcenar
3
Famous As: Novelist
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.

 42 George Steiner

George Steiner
3
Famous As: Philosopher, Novelist, Writer, University teacher, Literary critic, Journalist
Birthdate: April 23, 1929
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Paris

 43 Renaud Camus

Renaud Camus
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 10, 1946
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Chamalières, France

 44 Alfred de Musset

Alfred de Musset
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Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: December 11, 1810
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 2, 1857

French playwright and author Alfred de Musset is best remembered for his autobiographical The Confession of a Child of the Century. Though he was supposedly part of the Romantic movement, many of his works satirized the movement. He stopped allowing his plays to be staged after The Venetian Night flopped.

 45 Kathleen O'Meara

Kathleen O'Meara
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: 1839 AD
Birthplace: Dublin, Ireland
Died: November 10, 1888

 46 Louis Aragon

Louis Aragon
3
Famous As: Writer, Journalist, Politician, Poet, Novelist, Art critic
Birthdate: October 3, 1897
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Paris
Died: December 24, 1982

 47 Florian Zeller

Florian Zeller
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: June 28, 1979
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Paris, France

 48 Alain Robbe-Grillet

Alain Robbe-Grillet
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Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 18, 1922
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Brest, France
Died: February 18, 2008

 49 Marcel Pagnol

Marcel Pagnol
3
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: February 28, 1895
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Aubagne, France
Died: April 18, 1974

 50 Alfred Jarry

Alfred Jarry
3
Famous As: Playwright, Writer, Poet, Novelist
Birthdate: September 8, 1873
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Laval
Died: November 1, 1907