If you’re tired of reading and rereading Albert Camus’ L’Etranger and Voltaire’s Candide, Frenchly has the perfect solution for you. These are seven of the best modern French authors to keep you busy and your French in its best shape.
One of the most popular authors in France, Guillaume Musso has sold over 11 million copies of his novels worldwide, and his works have been translated into 34 languages. His first novel Et Après (2004) thrust him onto the world stage. Since then, he’s published 15 novels. His writing combines intensity, love, and suspense to great effect, captivating the reader with every page.
In one of his more recent novels, Un Appartement à Paris, friends Madeline and Gaspard embark on a journey to rediscover the paintings of the enigmatic Sean Lorenz. Along the way, the two must come face to face with their own troubling pasts.
At only 27 years old, Édouard Louis is the youngest author on this list but one of the most sophisticated. He’s published just three novels, all garnering considerable amounts of international acclaim. Taking inspiration from French sociologists, Louis combines personal narrative and objective analysis to address themes of poverty, racism, and social exclusion.
His first novel, En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule, is a compassionate, autobiographical narrative that details the hardships of growing up in a remote French factory town. His second novel, History of Violence, details the perpetual and cyclical nature of violence in society.
A journalist turned novelist, Katherine Pancol has enjoyed critical and commercial success since the publication of her first novel, Moi D’Abord, in 1979. Her writing is fast-paced and eventful. She contends that one of her literary goals is to inspire and challenge women while offering insights into the female psyche. In the United States, she’s best known for two of her bestsellers’ translations, Les Yeux jaunes des crocodiles (The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles) and the sequel La Valse lente des tortues (The Slow Waltz of Turtles).
Trois Baisers, one of the latest novels from Pancol, is a story of new beginnings and starting over. Riddled with suspense, different stories overlap until they become indistinguishable from one another, leaving both the reader and the characters guessing until the end.
Gilles Legardinier’s talent lies in his versatility; he transitions flawlessly from one genre to another, writing thrillers, historical dramas, and even comedies all to great success. As a best-selling author in France, his work has been translated into over 20 languages. No matter your preferred literary genre, one of Legardinier’s books is sure to please.
His 2017 novel Une fois dans ma vie tells the story of three women who are brought together coincidentally and must learn from one another to survive. Imbued with humor and offering a poignant look at human nature, Legardinier urges us to appreciate one another.
— Buy Une fois dans ma vie in French on Amazon here
Though Levy began writing later in his life, he started with a bang. His first novel, Et Si c’était vrai… (If Only It Were True), was published in 2001 and adapted into a film (Just Like Heaven) in 2005. Each of the 20 novels he’s published since has become a number-one bestseller in France. Levy’s writing is often described as lighthearted and quick, working well with both romantic comedies and thrillers.
In Levy’s 2017 novel, La Dernière des Stanfield (The Last of the Stanfields), two strangers are brought together when they receive anonymous letters accusing their mothers of various crimes. In a mystery that spans three continents and three decades, Levy keeps readers on the edge of their seats the entire time.
— Buy Et Si c’était vrai… in French on Amazon here
— Buy If Only It Were True in English on Amazon here
— Buy La Dernière des Stanfield in French on Amazon here
— Buy The Last of the Stanfields in English on Amazon here
Like Édouard Louis, Zeniter is another young yet highly sophisticated author. Though Louis’ novels are autobiographical, Zeniter prefers to tackle sensitive topics through historical fiction. Her novel L’Art de perdre deals largely with the Franco-Algerian war that divided the France in the 1950s. Elegant and often touching, Zeniter’s writing is both gripping and thought provoking, staying with you long after you read the final page.
Her newest novel, Sombre dimanche, transports readers back to the fall of the USSR. With the collapse of the Soviet regime, young Imre is introduced to consumerism and to Kerstin, a West German. As their lives begin to intertwine, the contradictions between East and West become too much to handle.
Unlike the other authors on this list, Guez writes nonfiction instead of fiction. A journalist by trade and an essayist and novelist by hobby, Guez has worked for The New York Times, Le Monde, and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. To produce his biographies, he undertakes an extensive process of research that often lasts years. His hard work pays off, though; you’ll feel as if you truly know the subject of his books when you’re finished.
La disparition de Josef Mengele is his latest novel, and it details the life of a German SS officer and doctor at Auschwitz during the Second World War. Guez’s book was awarded the Prix Renaudot, a prize for literary excellence, in 2017.
— Buy La disparition de Josef Mengele in French on Amazon here
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