Beginning from 1901, 15 French writers have won the Nobel Prize of literature for their works, which is comparatively a better sign than other native languages.
French is one of the most popular languages in the world. It has roots in the Gaulish dialect back in the Roman Empire and has a long history as an international language of literature. It is the official language in 29 countries across various continents. There are around 275 million French speakers around the globe.
Greatest French Writers and their Works
We have listed 8 Most Popular French writers and their works (19th, 20th centuries), 2 of them are Nobel laureates.
Flaubert was a French novelist of the realist school. He abandoned his law studies at age 22 for a life of writing. As a writer, Flaubert was a perfectionist, and he believed that a novelist should not judge, teach, or explain, but remain neutral.
Flaubert is known best for his sensational ‘ Madame Bovary’. Written in 1857, it is a classic tale of romance and retribution. The novel created a storm, and its subject matter and realistic treatment outraged French society.
Flaubert was brought before the court and acquitted on charges of obscenity ‘Madame Bovary’ remains one of the most frequently taught works of French literature both in France and in universities across the world.
The novel took five years to complete. During this time, Flaubert worked in sullen solitude, sometimes taking a week to complete one page. He was never satisfied with what he had composed and violently tormented his brain for the best turn of a phrase, the most absolutely final adjective.
His other novels include the exotic ‘Salammbo’, ‘A Sentimental Education’, The Temptation of Saint Anthony’ and Trois Contes’. But there is no doubt at all that ‘Madame Bovary’ was his masterpiece.
Albert Camus was at the height of his popularity when he died. His life began in poverty in Algeria. The experience of poverty and the fear of death was reflected in his Algerian essays collected in the ‘Wrong Side and the Right Side’, ‘Nuptials and Summer’.
Camus realized that the human mind had no capacity to understand death. Therefore, all things in life become meaningless. This was the basis of his doctrine of the absurd or unreasonable.
His novel, ‘The Stranger,’ deals with alienation – the feeling of being cut off from people and the world. ‘The Myth of Sisyphus’, ‘Cross Purpose’, ‘Caligula’, ‘The Plague’ are among his most famous works. Albert Camus was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature and came to be known as the leading voice for morality in literature.
Alexander Dumas enjoys a special place among French writers. He was a great writer who never wrote a complete novel by himself! He would come up with the plot, characters, and often some of the important passages, but the main writing was done by a changing group of assistants!
Dumas is famous for creating the characters of D’Artagnan, Athos, Aramis, and Porthos in ‘The Three Musketeers’. A musket is a gun with a long barrel. Further adventures of the musketeers followed in ‘Twenty Years After’, and ‘The Vicomte de Bragelone’. His other famous creation was ‘The Count of Monte Cristo’. He also wrote many plays and stories.
Victor Hugo’s funeral was a national event attended by two million people. His characters live on one hundred and thirty-five years after his death.
Jean Val Jean, the hero of ‘Les Miserables’ is labeled a criminal for life because he stole a loaf of bread. The novel throws light on the social conditions in Hugo’s France. Hugo wrote this novel while in exile.
The hunchbacked bell ringer Quasimodo, and his tragic love for Esmeralda, the beautiful gypsy girl are portrayed in his novel ‘Notre-Dame de Paris’. It was published in 1831. With this novel, Hugo gained everlasting fame.
In 1841, Victor Hugo was elected to the prestigious Academie Francaise. Victor Hugo also published several volumes of lyric poetry.
Have you heard of the French revolution? It began in France in 1789. King Louis XVI was overthrown, and a short-lived republic was established. ‘Danton’s Death,’ is a complex historical drama based on the French Revolution.
It displays many levels of meaning in the study of the French Revolution and the purpose of history. It was written by Georg Buchner in 1835 and is considered to be a masterpiece of German literature.
Georg Buchner was born in the German village of Goddelau to Ernst Karl Buchner, a physician, and Caroline. When he was three, the family moved to Darmstadt. Buchner was sympathetic to the social misery of the peasant class.
His writings had a note of sadness in them. They focus on the conflict between the ideals of human freedom and the circumstances of history.
Buchner is considered to be a genius, who was gifted with a complex poetic vision. Apart from ‘Danton’s Death’, all of Buchner’s works were published after his death. The Georg Buchner prize for literature created by the city of Darmstadt in 1923 is one of the most coveted German literary awards.
Emile Zola – great French writer
Emile Zola, the great French novelist, and critic had a dream. He wanted to be a published author. To that end, he started working in a publishing house and published works of fiction. But his early works went unnoticed. Then in 1865, he published ‘Claude’s Confession’ – a scandalous autobiographical work.
It caught the notice of his employers and they gave him notice to quit. Though he lost his job, Zola gained attention as an emerging author. ‘Therese Raquin’, his second novel was a modest success. He followed it with a series of twenty works known together as the ‘Rougon-Macquart cycle.’
It revolves around the life of a family living under Napoleon. Zola’s style of writing was based on the accurate depiction of detail. This is called ‘naturalism.’ Zola is the founder of the ‘naturalist movement.’ The Drunkard,’ which was published in 1877 made him famous.
Honore de Balzac – creators of realism in French literature
Honore de Balzac was neglected by his mother and, spent his early years in boarding school. In 1819, Balzac rented a shabby room in Paris and began to write. Balzac spent up to 16 hours a day writing. He wrote on blue paper aided by large cups of Turkish coffee.
By 1822, Balzac had written several novels and plays under various pennames. All his writings were ignored but Balzac continued to put pen to paper.
In 1833, Balzac collected all of his novels, linked them together as a series, and published them under the title, The Human Comedy’. It included his well-known works, ‘Father Goriot’, ‘The Peasants’, and ‘Lost Illusions’.
This collection of 90 novels portrayed more than 2000 life-like characters. His characters were lifelike. Hence Balzac is regarded as the creator of realism in French literature.
Have you ever said no to a prize? Well, Jean-Paul Sartre said no to the biggest prize of them all – the Nobel Prize! He believed that the Nobel Prize represented traditional middle-class values, which went against his beliefs.
Sartre was an existentialist. Existentialists believed in the supreme importance of human freedom. Sartre was born in Paris in 1905. Sartre’s life and his works were influenced by his friend Simone de Beauvoir, the French philosopher, and writer and other existentialists.
‘La Nausee’ was his first novel. ‘Being and Nothingness’, his nonfiction work, lays down the foundations of his philosophy. His play, ‘No Exit’ presents three characters trapped in a room with no way out. They come to believe that ‘hell is other people’.
Sartre was plagued by blindness in the final years of his life, but he succeeded in opening the eyes of the world to his philosophy.
So this is it, you’ve completed reading an article on most famous french writers and their works. You might be interested in reading an article on the greatest 5 non-English writers that are praised universally. Keep visiting, and stay tuned for more interesting articles.
5 Random Literary Gems: Schiller, Paz, Saramago, Hans and Hesse
Friedrich Schiller – a great German poet
Friedrich Von Schiller’s passion for writing was labeled as foolish by his father. Schiller was forced to join his father’s regiment in the army. He continued to write, and was almost arrested for neglecting his duties!
The conflict with his father found its way into Schiller’s writing. In Schiller’s first play, The Robbers, Karl Moor, a noble outlaw violently rejects his father in his search for justice.
It was warmly greeted in Germany and England. The play ‘Don Carlos,’ also depicts a conflict between a father and a son. Schiller gained lasting fame as a poet. His ‘Ode to Joy,’ was later set to music by Ludwig Van Beethoven.
It is currently the anthem of the European Union. Schiller also wrote historical plays such as ‘Mary Stuart,’ and the dramatic trilogy, Wallenstein’. His magnificent control and beautiful use of the German language inspired generations of poets, writers, and readers.
Saramago is the most famous nickname in the writing world. Saramago was a wild radish eaten in Azinhaga, Portugal by the very poor. Jose Saramago was born to poor, landless farmers in Azinhaga. Young Saramago was very much attached to his grandparents.
Years later, he began to write to preserve the memories of his grandparents. At 54, a jobless Saramago took up novel writing as a full-time career. Saramago’s novels share some similarities with the magic realism of some Latin American novels – a technique in which realistic description is combined with elements of dream or fantasy.
In his novel ‘The Stone Raft’, Portugal breaks off from Europe and floats south on the ocean. ‘Blindness’ is his most widely read book in the English speaking world. It tells the tale of mysterious blindness that strikes people in an unnamed country. In 1998, Saramago was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Hans Christian Andersen
Have you read the fairy tale of ‘The Ugly Duckling’, the one in which the ugly duckling turns into a beautiful swan? It was written by Hans Christian Andersen, and his life was similar to that fairy tale.
His father was a poor Danish shoemaker. His paternal grandmother was a gardener at Greyfriars Hospital. Andersen listened to the traditional stories of Denmark told by the old women in the spinning rooms of the hospital.
Andersen set out to be an actor but failed. He wrote three novels between 1835 and 1837 – ‘The Improvisator’, ‘O.T’, and ‘Only a Fiddler’.
His novels were popular. However, his fame rests on his fairy tales. The first volume of his fairy tales was published in 1835. He was treated as an equal by Victor Hugo and Alexandre Dumas, famous writers in their own right.
In Germany, he was so popular that German publishing companies engaged in bidding wars over the rights to his books. During the late 1840’s Andersen wrote some of his best fairy tales – these include ‘The Nightingale’, ‘The Ugly Duckling’, ‘The Snow Queen,’ and ‘The Story of a Mother’.
In these tales, common people took on the role of heroes. They were portrayed as intelligent, hard-working, and brave. The popularity of his fairy tales lives on, and they have been translated into every major language. By the time of his death in 1875, Andersen was considered to be a national monument!
Octavio Paz was born in 1914 in Mexico City and was a poet and essayist. The revolution of the word was the revolution of the world for Paz. ‘The Labyrinth of Solitude’ is his fundamental study of Mexican identity.
In 1962, Paz was appointed Mexican Ambassador to India. His stay in India gave birth to ‘The Grammarian Monkey and East Slope’. Paz believed poetry to be the secret religion of the modern age. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1990.
Herman Hesse was a German writer but was deeply influenced by Eastern thought. ‘Siddhartha,’ is his most popular novel. In his novel ‘Demian’, a young man is torn between a life of pleasure and an orderly middle-class life. Herman Hesse won the Nobel Prize in 1946. He is one of the popular writers of the German-speaking world.
6 Great Irish Writers and their Works You Must Know!
Famous Irish Writers: Irish literature is one of the oldest literature in Europe followed by Greek and Latin. The English language came to Ireland with the Norman invasion in the thirteenth century. From Poets to talented novelists, plenty of Irish writers have gained fame around the globe with their powerful writings.
Anglo-Irish writer and satirist (1667 – 1745)
Imagine being trapped in a land of tiny people! ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ is the masterpiece of Jonathan Swift, the English-Irish author. In ‘Gulliver’s Travels’, Gulliver is washed on to the shore of Lilliput, following a shipwreck. For the tiny people of Lilliput, Gulliver is a giant.
Then he lands up in Brobdingnag, a land of giants. There he is seen as tiny, and is even put into a birdcage! Gulliver escapes and arrives at a country of gentle talking horses. The genuine affection they have for each other moves Gulliver so much so that he longs to stay with them. Try to get a copy of Gulliver’s Travels. You are sure to enjoy it!
Irish Author (1847 – 1912)
He wrote Dracula. Do you like horror stories? Well, one of the greatest horror stories was written by Bram Stoker, the Irish Writer of the classic 1897 vampire novel Dracula. Abraham ‘Bram’ Stoker was a sickly child, and his mother told him a lot of horror stories that may have influenced his later writings.
Stoker later became an outstanding athlete. He was in the civil service for 10 years and the manager of actor Henry Irving for 27 years, writing letters for his employer and accompanying him on tours.
During this period, he wrote many fantastic stories and novels, cementing his fame with Dracula. Stoker’s tale made vampires famous, and his Count ‘Dracula’ became the model for the popular movie Draculas of the 20th century.
Oscar Wilde: A Great Irish Writer
Irish poet (1854 – 1900)
I have nothing to declare except my genius”, said Oscar Wilde. A genius he was, yet authority hunted him. His behavior was judged to be indecent, and he was thrown into prison. Interestingly, Wilde began life in the lap of luxury.
His mother was a poet, and she opened his eyes to the wonders of poetry. While studying in Oxford, Wilde became a leading light of The Aestheticism movement. ‘Art for art’s sake’ was their motto. They were known for shocking dialogue and strange way of dressing.
Wilde’s sensational lifestyle was parodied on the stage. His first collection of the verse is titled, ‘Poems’. Wilde’s only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray’, published in 1891, made him famous.
Wilde is also regarded as a master playwright. The Importance of Being Earnest is considered to be his best play. ‘An Ideal Husband’, ‘A Woman of no Importance’ are among his other important plays. Oscar Wilde died in 1900.
George Bernard Shaw: Greatest Irish Writer
Irish Playwright (1856 – 1950)
George Bernard Shaw was a superstar playwright and sharp-tongued literary personality of the early 20th century. He is regarded as the most famous Irish Writer of all time. After moving to London in 1876, he worked for years as a music and art critic, wrote book and theatre reviews, and was an active member of the Fabian Society, which was a socialist political organization.
In his first play, ‘Widowers’ Houses’ he emphasized social and economic issues instead of romance. In fact, many of his plays forced the spectator to face unpleasant facts. He also wrote comedies like ‘Major Barbara’ and ‘Doctor’s Dilemma.’
His comic masterpiece was ‘Pygmalion’, which was sharp criticism of the rigid British class system of the day and comment on women’s independence, packaged as a romantic comedy Shaw’s subjects offended many playgoers and critics, especially in the early years.
He considered war a tragic waste of young lives and he wrote a series of antiwar articles after the outbreak of World War I that turned public opinion against him. He was treated as an outcast, and there was even talk of trying him for treason.
However, after the war was over, he regained his reputation and became an international celebrity. He is the only person to win the Nobel Prize and an Academy Award, for writing the screenplay for “Pygmalion” in 1938. He died at the ripe old age of 94 after falling off a ladder.
Irish Writer (1882 – 1941)
James Joyce was an Irish writer and poet who was known for his experimental use of language. He used many technical innovations in his works including invented words, puns, and illusions, and also complex and symbolic parallels drawn from mythology, history, and literature.
He was a rebel, and his writing was often strange and fantastic. His most famous works were ‘Ulysses’ and ‘Finnegan’s Wake’, ‘Dubliners’ and ‘Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man’. During his career, Joyce suffered from rejections from publishers, suppression by censors, attacks by critics, and misunderstanding by readers.
Irish Novelist (1906 – 1989)
Samuel Beckett studied in the school which taught the great writer Oscar Wilde – the Portora Royal School in Ireland. Beckett came from an Anglo-Irish family, but he wrote mostly in French. He worked as a lecturer in Paris from 1928 to 1930, where the great writer James Joyce became his lifelong friend.
He acted as one of Joyce’s assistants while he was writing ‘Finnegan’s Wake’. ‘Whoroscope’, published in 1930, is his first poem. While working as a lecturer at Trinity College, Beckett wrote a series of stories about the life of a Dublin intellectual.
These were later formed into the collection ‘More Pricks than Kicks’. Beckett quit his job and embarked on a career as a freelance writer.
In 1932, he published his first novel, ‘Dream of Fair to Middling Women’. It was drawn largely from his own experiences. ‘Waiting for Godot’, ‘Endgame’, ‘Krapp’s Last Tape’, and ‘Happy Days’ are among his major plays.
7 Great Russian Authors of All Time: From Pushkin to Gorky
Great Russian Authors
Every nation has its riches of literature in their native language. In every field, there is a person who stands above the rest. In the case of Russian literature, we’ll begin the discussion with Aleksandre Pushkin and terminate with Maxim Gorky.
Aleksandr Pushkin: Early Russian Poet
Primarily known for poetry, Pushkin also wrote a good number of short stories. Perhaps the best-known translation in the English language is “The queen of spades”. He received a great deal of attention from literary scholars and regards to how he transformed the Russian language through his poetic use of words and phrases. He was the only one who was so creative in the early part of the 19th century.
Pushkin is credited a lot for elevating the Russian language and comes in the first row when we discuss the history of Russian authors.
Nikolai Gogol: The Satirist
Best known for his novel Dead Souls, he also wrote a number of short stories most notably the Nose and the overcoat. These stories reflect on the inefficiencies of government bureaucracy as well as the fragile psyche of a man. The nose examines how a nose becomes more successful than its owner, while the overcoat determines the inefficiency of the government. He alongside Pushkin set the standard for future generations.
Dostoevsky – Father of Russian Realism
First things first. Realism refers to the representation of things in a way that is true to life. Fyodor Dostoevsky was a master of realism. His life reads like a story. Dostoevsky was born in Moscow, Russia, to Mikhail Dostoevsky, an army surgeon, and Maria Nechaeva. His father was an alcoholic, and his family lived in fear.
His best friend was murdered when Dostoevsky was nine years old. In 1846, he published ‘Poor Folk’. This book launched his writing career. However, Dostoevsky started attending meetings of a group that was interested in reforming Russian society.
He was thrown into prison and sentenced to death. Minutes before his execution, he was pardoned, and his sentence reduced to five years of hard labor in Siberia.
‘The House of the Dead’ published in 1862 was a fictional account of prison life based on his experience in Siberia. Dostoevsky’s fiction is notable for its deep and intense understanding of human psychology.
In his novel ‘Crime and Punishment’, the young Raskolnikov murders a pawnbroker and undergoes mental suffering. In his novel, ‘The Idiot’, Dostoevsky criticized materialism, the tendency to consider belongings, and physical comfort as more important than spiritual values.
‘The Brothers Karamazov’ was Dostoevsky’s last novel. Love, hate, and the search for God were the subjects of this novel. It is the first major work in psychological realism. In spite of poor physical health and epileptic attacks, Dostoevsky went on to become the father of Russian realism, and master of psychological realism. He is considered as greatest Russian author of all time.
If life could write its own story, it would write like Tolstoy. Even the minute details of his characters’ lives were recorded by Tolstoy – like a painter adding small brushstrokes to create a lifelike painting.
Leo Tolstoy was born in 1828. His mother died when he was two, and his father when he was nine. Raised by relatives, Leo Tolstoy went on to become a great Russian novelist – a writer of the ‘real-life’.
‘War and Peace,’ is his masterpiece. The ‘War’ in the title refers to Napoleon’s wars from 1805 to 1820. In the novel, Tolstoy rejects the theory that great men make history.
Tolstoy’s ‘Anna Karenina’ tells the tale of the aristocratic Anna and her love affair with a dashing army officer. The Death of Ivan Ilyich,’ and The Kreutzer Sonata,’ are his later novellas.
Tolstoy shared with Mahatma Gandhi, a belief in passive resistance towards evil – the principle which the Indian Independence movement successfully employed.
Anton Pavlovich Chekhov is one of the most respected Russian authors. He was a playwright and short-story writer. Chekhov is regarded as the greatest writer of short fiction in history. He began to write while studying medicine at Moscow University. His family was neck-deep in debt, and desperately needed the money Chekhov got from writing.
His first story appeared in 1880 in the comic magazine, ‘Fragments’. Chekhov fine-tuned his descriptive technique during his five years at ‘Fragments’. Chekhov graduated in 1884 and began to practice medicine. ‘New Time’, one of Russia’s most prestigious newspapers, began to publish his work.
In 1887, Chekhov bagged the coveted Push kin prize for ‘At Dusk’, a collection of short stories, and completed his first play, ‘Ivanov’. The Seagull’, a tragic tale of love was his first great success in theatre. Chekhov presented life as it was.
His new descriptive technique led to the development of modernism and influenced later generations of writers. His last play, The Cherry Orchard,’ was a huge success. ‘Uncle Vanya’, The Three Sisters’ are among his most famous works. Chekhov died in 1904.
Ivan Turgenev- a Great Russian writer
The pen is mightier than the sword, and Ivan Sergeyevich Turgenev proved it with his writing. In ‘A Hunter’s Sketches’, he criticized the established social custom of serfdom. The peasants or ‘serfs’ were equivalent to slaves.
It is believed that Tsar Aleksander II read Hunter’s Sketches. The book melted his heart, and he set the serfs free! Turgenev published his first story, ‘Khor and Kalinich,’ in 1847. He traveled in Europe and developed friendships with famous writers, Flaubert and Zola. His novel, ‘Fathers and Sons,’ angered society. It deals with Nihilism.
Nihilism believes that existing social systems must be totally destroyed but it offered no other alternative. The hostile reception to his novel forced Turgenev to leave Russia and settle in Paris. His novels ‘Rudin’ ( 1856), ‘A Nest of Gentlemen’ (1859), and ‘On the Eve’ (1860) were based on social and political issues.
By the 1870s, Not only among Russian Authors, Turgenev was recognized as one of the world’s leading writers. Turgenev also wrote a number of plays. ‘A Month in the Country’ is noted for innovations in dramatic style.
In the play, ‘A Provincial Lady’, he pokes fun at the beliefs of the country aristocrats. Turgenev was a great Russian writer whose fame spread throughout the world. He died in 1883.
Maxim Gorky – ‘Writer of the People’
Maxim Gorky was a Russian hero and one of the greatest Russian authors of all time. He was deeply moved by the wretched conditions of his countrymen. He did a variety of difficult jobs to make ends meet. When Gorky toured Russia, the sufferings of its people melted his heart, and a revolutionary was born. He joined the Communist Party.
In 1905, he was arrested by the Czarist government and exiled. 1917 was the year of the October Revolution. Following the revolution, Gorky was made head of the propaganda department in Russia.
Gorky means ‘the bitter one’ in Russian. Maxim Gorky is the pen name of Aleksei Peshkov. Gorky was a literary genius. ‘Mother’, his most famous novel has been translated into all the leading languages of the world.
His novels, plays, and autobiographies describe the woes of the Russians in the pre-revolutionary days. His other well known literary works are ‘Lower Depths,’ and ‘My Childhood and Reminiscences’.
Gorky occupied a place of honor in the hearts of his countrymen as a hero of the October Revolution. Gorky breathed his last in 1931.
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