Discover France Through Literature

  • Book store

    Book store

    © Atout France/Pascal Gréboval

  • Le Bourgois Gentilhomme of Molière

    Le Bourgois Gentilhomme of Molière

    © Wikimédia Commons / Moliere and Henri Wetstein

Discover France Through Literature

Which books will you pack for your next trip to France? French literary classics, police novels, and even comic books can accompany you not only in your travel preparations but also on your journey from cities to villages, and chateaux to vineyards... Follow your guide!

17th-century French libertines

Planning on visiting the Château de Versailles, or just strolling around in the Tuileries gardens?  Go back in time and immerse yourself in the sensualist mind set of the Grand Siècle, thanks to Molière who helped multiply the conquests of Don Juan, and to Edmond Rostand, who brought us along on the adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac, that turbulent musketeer from the Captains of Gascony. If you prefer Dangerous Liaisons, Pierre Choderlos de Laclos shares the letters of the Vicomte de Valmont and the Marquise de Merteuil, two twisted libertines who seduce and degrade their victims without remorse. Thwarted love and plotting are also main themes in playwright Jean Racine's Bérénice, Phèdre and Britannicus.

18th-century joy and optimism

Following in the footsteps of the 17th-century libertines, writers from the Enlightenment period praise freedom and the quest for happiness.  Be optimistic like Voltaire's Candide, and read the works of philosopher Denis Diderot. As for Marivaux, playwright of The Game of Love and Chance (Jeu de l’amour et du hasard), and Double Inconstancy (La Double inconstance), he takes us into a world where flirting and pleasantries eventually lead to the creation of the French term "marivaudage," or light-hearted gallantries.

Romance and realism

Are you an incurable romantic?  Then relive Bernardin de Saint-Pierre's beautiful love story between Paul and Virginie, succumb to Charles Baudelaire's verses in The Flowers of Evil (Les Fleurs du mal), or to Arthur Rimbaud's in Les Illuminations.  Devour The Red and the Black (Le Rouge et le Noir) and The Charterhouse of Parma (La Chartreuse de Parme), novels in which Stendhal describes the social reality of his time through unusual love stories. This realistic approach is also present in many of the 19th century's literary masterpieces:  in Les Misérables, Victor Hugo's great tale of humanism; Gustave Flaubert's Madame Bovary; Guy de Maupassant's The History of a Scoundrel (Bel ami); or even Balzac's Father Goriot (Père Goriot).  But it was Emile Zola who pushed reality to the limit in Les Rougon-Macquart, a critique of society during the Second Empire. Imagine yourself in The Ladies' Paradise (Au Bonheur des Dames), a novel in which Zola takes the girls out shopping, meticulously describing the first Parisian department store.

For adventurous souls

Feel like a little suspense and adventure? Get tangled up in the intrigue of Louis XIII's royal court with d'Artagnan, Athos, Porthos and Aramis in Alexandre Dumas' The Three Musketeers. Or follow the characters of Hergé's stories to the Château de Cheverny in the Loire Valley, which inspired the setting for Captain Haddock's estate, the Moulinsart, in the Adventures of Tintin. For his part, journalist and writer Antoine de Saint-Exupéry makes us dream with The Little Prince novels, dragging us into lofty exploits with Southern Mail (Courrier Sud) and Night Flight (Vol de Nuit). Read Jules Vernes for more extraordinary adventures: from Five Weeks in a Balloon (Cinq semaines en ballon) to Around the World in Eighty Days (Tour du monde en quatre-vingts jours), stopping by The Mysterious Island (l’Île mystérieuse) en route, this prolific writer helps us relive the 19th century's industrial and technological revolution. 

Mysteries and enigmas

Put on your private detective cap to help solve the mystery of Gaston Leroux's Phantom of the Opera (Fantôme de l'Opéra), or follow Professor Robert Langdon's every move in Dan Brown's Da Vinci Code: from the Louvre to the Ritz Hotel, the Champs-Elysées to Saint-Sulpice Church, the American novelist takes us on an real expedition through the streets of Paris. Then head to Normandy, as far as Etretat, to follow the extraordinary trials and adventures of Arsène Lupin, author Maurice Leblanc's favourite gentleman-burglar.

In Provence with Marcel Pagnol and Jean Giono

Marcel Pagnol found inspiration in the hills of Garlaban in Provence.  Discover his universe in My Father's Glory (La Gloire de mon père) and My Mother's Castle (Château de ma mère), which takes us through small trails and memorable landscapes.  Like Pagnol, Provence helped define Jean Giono's work, more specifically the area between the Valensole and Contadour plateaux.  In The Horseman on the Roof (Le Hussard sur le Toit), Giono tells the story of a young Italian aristocrat confronted by cholera in the writer's hometown, Manosque.

Paris!

Wander the streets of Paris with some of the 20th century's greatest writers.  In A Moveable Feast (Paris est une fête), Ernest Hemingway recalls the years spent in the French capital with his first wife and child. In Swann's Way (Du Côté de chez Swann), Marcel Proust shares his stream of consciousness and helps us savour his childhood's madeleine, dipped in tea, while guiding us on a tour of Parisian teahouses. Douglas Kennedy, on the other hand, paints a darker picture of underground Paris in The Woman in the Fifth (La Femme du Ve), an occult novel in which his hero finds refuge in a dark street in the 10th district, somewhere tourists never go...