Famous French Writers

Having won the most number of ‘Nobel’ prizes in literature, France has produced some of the greatest literary minds. Starting from the ‘Golden Age’ of French literature, in the 19th century, French writers have always been dominant in the pool of intellectuals in Europe and their literature is characterized by patriotic fervor and great love for the language. They have produced some of the finest works, often giving birth to new trends in European literature, which have been translated worldwide and made available to us. These eminent writers give importance to perfection of the language, as their works exude an unmistakable love for their native tongue. French literature has been influenced by the revolutionary changes that took place in politics, science, art, religion and philosophy. Famous writers like Alexandre Dumas, Gustave Flaubert and Jean-Paul Sartre have imbibed these influences in their creations. They have made their mark and held their ground amidst all the transformation that literature has undergone. We have here, a collection of biographies of some of the most famous French writers. Read on to find all about their life stories, timelines and also some 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 Voltaire

Voltaire.
18
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 Victor Hugo

Victor Hugo.
8
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.

 3 Alexandre Dumas

Alexandre Dumas.
8
Birthdate: July 24, 1802
Sun Sign: Leo
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 Jean-Paul Sartre

Jean-Paul Sartre.
0
Famous As: Philosopher, Novelist
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.

 5 Jules Verne

Jules Verne.
6
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: February 8, 1828
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Nantes
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 Jean-Jacques Rousseau

Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
2
Famous As: Philosopher, Writer, & Composer
Birthdate: June 28, 1712
Sun Sign: Cancer
Birthplace: Geneva
Died: July 2, 1778

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.

 7 Marcel Proust

Marcel Proust.
0
Famous As: Novelist & Critic
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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 8 Marquis de Sade

Marquis de Sade.
4
Famous As: Erotic Novelist
Birthdate: June 2, 1740
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Paris
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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 9 Antoine de Saint-Exupery

Antoine de Saint-Exupery.
2
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.

 10 Charles Baudelaire

Charles Baudelaire.
4
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: April 9, 1821
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Paris
Died: August 31, 1867
French prose poet, essayist, and critic Charles Baudelaire was one of the first translators of the works of Edgar Allan Poe. Best known for his book of poems Les Fleurs du mal, he is believed to have coined the word modernity and was associated with the symbolist and decadent movements.
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 11 Simone de Beauvoir

Simone de Beauvoir.
6
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.

 12 Guy de Maupassant

Guy de Maupassant.
0
Famous As: Novelist & Short Story Writer
Birthdate: August 5, 1850
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: château de Miromesnil, 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,

 13 Colette

Colette.
2
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.

 14 Charles Perrault

Charles Perrault.
0
Famous As: Author
Birthdate: January 12, 1628
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: May 16, 1703

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.

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 15 Emile Zola

Emile Zola.
2
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.

 16 Gustave Flaubert

Gustave Flaubert.
2
Famous As: Novelist, Writer
Birthdate: December 12, 1821
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rouen
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.

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 17 Frantz Fanon

Frantz Fanon
0
Famous As: Psychiatrist
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 Arthur Rimbaud

Arthur Rimbaud.
2
Famous As: Poet
Birthdate: October 20, 1854
Sun Sign: Libra
Birthplace: Charleville-Mézières
Died: November 10, 1891

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.

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 19 Honoré de Balzac

Honoré de Balzac.
2
Famous As: French Novelist and Playwright
Birthdate: May 20, 1799
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Tours
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.

 20 George Sand

George Sand.
2
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.

 21 Moliere

Moliere.
0
Famous As: Playwright, Actor and Stage Manager
Birthdate: January 15, 1622
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: February 17, 1673

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.

 22 Jean-Paul Marat

Jean-Paul Marat.
0
Famous As: Physician
Birthdate: May 24, 1743
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Boudry, Switzerland
Died: July 13, 1793

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.

 23 Thomas Merton

Thomas Merton.
0
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 31, 1915
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Prades
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.

 24 Robert Clary

Robert Clary
0
Famous As: Actor
Birthdate: March 1, 1926
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris, France

 25 Pierre Bourdieu

Pierre Bourdieu
0
Famous As: Sociologist
Birthdate: August 1, 1930
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Denguin, France
Died: January 23, 2002

 26 Jacques Pepin

Jacques Pepin
0
Famous As: Chef
Birthdate: December 18, 1935
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Bourg-en-Bresse, French Third Republic France

 27 Gilles Deleuze

Gilles Deleuze
0
Famous As: Philosopher, Historian, Writer, University teacher, Philosophy historian, Journalist
Birthdate: January 18, 1925
Sun Sign: Capricorn
Birthplace: Paris
Died: November 4, 1995

 28 Stendhal

Stendhal.
0
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: January 23, 1783
Sun Sign: Aquarius
Birthplace: Grenoble
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.

 29 Jean Cocteau

Jean Cocteau.
2
Famous As: Novelist, Poet, Artist & Filmmaker
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.

 30 Denis Diderot

Denis Diderot.
2
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.

 31 Eric Ripert

Eric Ripert
0
Famous As: Chef
Birthdate: March 2, 1965
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Antibes, France

 32 Joël Robuchon

Joël Robuchon
0
Famous As: Chef
Birthdate: April 7, 1945
Sun Sign: Aries
Birthplace: Poitiers, Vienne, France
Died: August 6, 2018

 33 Michel Houellebecq

Michel Houellebecq
5
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. 

 34 Samuel Benchetrit

Samuel Benchetrit.
0
Famous As: Writer
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.

 35 Jean Giraud

Jean Giraud
0
Famous As: Artist
Birthdate: May 8, 1938
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Nogent-sur-Marne, France
Died: March 10, 2012

 36 Marjane Satrapi

Marjane Satrapi .
4
Famous As: Graphic Novelist
Birthdate: November 22, 1969
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Rasht

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.

 37 Cyrano de Bergerac

Cyrano de Bergerac.
0
Famous As: Dramatist and Playwright
Birthdate: March 6, 1619
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Paris
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.

 38 Auguste Escoffier

Auguste Escoffier
0
Famous As: Chef
Birthdate: October 28, 1846
Sun Sign: Scorpio
Birthplace: Villeneuve-Loubet, France
Died: February 12, 1935

 39 Dora Maar

Dora Maar
2
Famous As: Photographer, Artist, Painter, Poet, Choreographer, Sculptor, Model
Birthdate: November 22, 1907
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris
Died: July 16, 1997

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.

 40 Olympe de Gouges

Olympe de Gouges.
0
Famous As: Playwright
Birthdate: May 7, 1748
Sun Sign: Taurus
Birthplace: Montauban, France
Died: November 3, 1793

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.

 41 Henri Bergson

Henri Bergson.
2
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.

 42 René Girard

René Girard.
2
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.

 43 Antonin Artaud

Antonin Artaud.
2
Famous As: Dramatist, Poet, Essayist, Actor, & Theatre Director
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.  

 44 Andre Breton

Andre Breton.
0
Famous As: Founder of Surrealism
Birthdate: February 19, 1896
Sun Sign: Pisces
Birthplace: Tinchebray, Orne, 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.

 45 Jean Genet

Jean Genet.
5
Famous As: Novelist
Birthdate: December 19, 1910
Sun Sign: Sagittarius
Birthplace: Paris, France
Died: April 15, 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.

 46 Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark

Henrik, Prince Consort of Denmark
0
Famous As: Poet, Writer, Visual artist, Pianist
Birthdate: June 11, 1934
Sun Sign: Gemini
Birthplace: Talence

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.

 47 Peter Abelard

Peter Abelard
0
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: 1079 AD
Birthplace: Le Pallet, France
Died: April 21, 1142

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.

 48 Mylène Farmer

Mylène Farmer
2
Famous As: Singer-songwriter, Writer, Singer, Actor, Musician, Children's writer, Poet
Birthdate: September 12, 1961
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Pierrefonds, Quebec

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.

 49 Georges Bataille

Georges Bataille.
0
Famous As: Philosopher
Birthdate: September 10, 1897
Sun Sign: Virgo
Birthplace: Billom, France
Died: July 9, 1962

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.

 50 Gabriel Matzneff

Gabriel Matzneff
0
Famous As: Writer
Birthdate: August 12, 1936
Sun Sign: Leo
Birthplace: Neuilly-sur-Seine, France