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.
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.
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.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, composer, and writer. His political philosophy influenced aspects of the French Revolution. He also helped develop modern economic, political, and educational thought. His writing inspired a transformation in French drama and poetry. His works also influenced such writers around the world as Tolstoy. His works as a composer were acknowledged by composers like Mozart.
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.
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.
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,
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.
Most people have grown up reading fairy tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Puss in Boots. However, they aren’t probably aware that these folk tales were first collated and presented under the genre fairy tales, as Tales of Mother Goose, by 17th-century French author Charles Perrault.
15 Emile Zola
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.
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.
17 Frantz Fanon
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.
French poet Arthur Rimbaud is remembered for his influence on Dadaism, surrealism, and symbolism. Known for works such as Le Soleil Etait Encore Chaud and Voyelles, he later got involved in a relationship with poet Paul Verlaine. He also traveled as a merchant and explorer, before dying of cancer.
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.
20 George Sand
Moliere was a French poet, playwright, and actor. Considered one of the greatest French-language writers of all time, Moliere's plays are often performed at the Comédie-Française and have been translated into several languages. Moliere had a huge impact on the French language and is widely regarded as the creator of modern French comedy.
French political theorist, scientist, and physician Jean-Paul Marat was a key figure of the French Revolution. He published his radical views in pamphlets and newspapers, such as L'Ami du people. He was held responsible for the September massacres. His assassination by a Girondin supporter made him a Jacobin martyr.
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.
24 Robert Clary
29 Jean Cocteau
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.
31 Eric Ripert
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.
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.
35 Jean Giraud
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.
39 Dora Maar
Born to a French mother and a Croatian father, Dora Maar spent her childhood in Argentina and later studied art in Paris. The renowned surrealist artist and photographer later gained fame as Pablo Picasso’s lover and muse, and was featured in his paintings such as Weeping Woman.
Olympe de Gouges was an 18th-century French playwright and political activist. Her writings on women's rights and abolitionism were popular in various countries. She was an outspoken advocate against the slave trade in the French colonies. She demanded that French women be given the same rights as French men. She was executed during the Reign of Terror.
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.
42 René Girard
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.
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.
44 Andre Breton
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.
45 Jean Genet
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.
Prince Henrik, husband of Queen Margrethe II of Denmark, was a skilled winemaker and a talented poet, known for his flamboyant lifestyle. He had often publicly expressed his unhappiness over not being named a king and also declared he wouldn’t want to be buried next to his wife.
Medieval French philosopher, theologian, and poet Peter Abelard was born to a knight but gave up his inheritance to study philosophy and logic. He fell in love with his pupil, Héloïse, but her uncle got Abelard castrated, following which Abelard became a monk and made Héloïse a nun.
French-Canadian singer Mylène Farmer is best known for her hits such as Libertine and Les Mots, and for her collaborative acts with Laurent Boutonnat. Born Mylene Jeanne Gautier, she later changed her name to Mylene Farmer in honor of Hollywood star Frances Farmer, who was her idol.
Georges Bataille was a French intellectual and philosopher best remembered for his work in various fields, such as philosophy, sociology, history of art, anthropology, literature, and consumerism. His work would later have a huge impact on subsequent schools of social theory and philosophy. Also a prolific writer, Georges Bataille wrote on subjects like mysticism, erotism, transgression, and surrealism.