Ha, French Literature. We’ve been living a love/hate relationship for so long. Ignored in my youth, adored in my teens, suffocating in my Uni years (I graduated in French Lit – trust me, the exhaustion was real), I’ve been slowly starting to make peace with these beloved – and sometimes loathed – classics over the past year. Not merely enough for talking about them, though.
But then I thought : damn, Anna, you’re running a blog about translated novels, and you won’t even mention the French classics you loved? (and that have been translated into English) (spoiler alert : many of them aren’t)
So here are my top 7 French classics of all times!
*links are to the English versions that I haven’t read – I hope they’re good*
7. Les faux-monnayeurs (The Counterfeiters), André Gide : Oh, look! My first heartbreak! *wails*
6. Huit clos (No exit), Jean-Paul Sartre : so unsettling but relevant, as every one of his plays, really.
5. Exercices de style (Exercises in Style), Raymond Queneau : this one is just so damn fun! Basically you have the same story written 99 times in 99 different ways and it’s not even boring! Truly marvelous.
4. L’écume des jours (Froth on the Daydream), Boris Vian : I’ve kept all his novels in a special place of my heart, and yet I am terrified at the mere idea of rereading them. Are they too weird for 30s Anna? I hope not. I shall find out one day, when I’m brave enough to try.
3. W ou le souvenir d’enfance (W or the History of Childhood), George Perec: this book, guys. THIS BOOK. It’s a masterpiece (and now I’m dying to reread it soon. I shall)
2. Le comte de Monte-Cristo (The Count of Monte Cristo), Alexandre Dumas (or anything from him, really) : REVENGE IS EVERYTHING OKAY.
1. Antigone, Jean Anouilh : this is the most French retelling ever, y’all. Think secular and pessimist.Stripped of any religious justifications, Antigone’s choices are only this, her choices. They express her need to not compromise herself, perhaps, but above all, her freedom to stand for herself and to make her own choices, to refuse to live in a world where her ideals can’t help but break. Stupid, Antigone? Maybe. But still amazing in her flaws.
With a special mention to Lointain Intérieur by Henry Michaux, who was Belgian. Histoire d’A broke my heart into a million pieces. On a brighter note, here are two of my fave comedies : because I don’t like people (I kid, I kid! I think), I’ve always have a soft spot for Le Misanthrope (The Misanthrope) by Molière (it’s sexist, though, like most of the novels from this area, sadly, but we’re not meant to like Alceste, the MC) ; and because absurd is my jam, La cantatrice chauve (The Bald Soprano) by Eugène Ionesco will always make me laugh like a maniac.
Warning : Note that I read most of them a WHILE ago (think : years), hence why I can’t be trusted to put trigger warnings. I’d read some recent reviews before adding these to my TBR pile if I were you.
- Have you ever read one of these books? What did you think?
- What are your absolute fave in your mother tongue? Are they translated into English?