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The Greatest French Literature

This list of France's greatest literary works is based on and updated from the extensive research carried out over the past two decades to create our initial Greatest Literature of All Time list—with special attention paid to the sentiment of French readers, writers, critics and scholars.

Please note, "French literature" in this case refers to works from authors associated with France, not to all works written in the French language. Works from Francophone authors in other countries, such as Algeria or Canada, may be included in lists of works from those countries.

As with the Greatest Literature list, preference is given to major works of creative literature—mainly novels, plays, epic poetry and collections—although some shorter works of great significance have also been included.

Latest update: September 23, 2022

The 222 greatest works of literature from France

Click linked titles and authors for details, critiques and other comments.

c. 1100
The Song of Roland
Anonymous
France
Poem
c.1177–1181
Lancelot, the Knight of the Cart
Chrétien de Troyes
France
Poem
1181–1190
Perceval, the Story of the Grail
Chrétien de Troyes
France
Poem
1230–1275
The Romance of the Rose
Guillaume de Lorris, Jean de Meun
France
Poem
1461
The Great Testament
François Villon
France
Poetry collection
1532–1564
The Life of Gargantua and Pantagruel
François Rabelais
France
Novel series
1558
The Heptaméron
Marguerite de Navarre
France
Story collection
1572
Franciad
Pierre de Ronsard
France
Poem
1636
Le Cid
Pierre Corneille
France
Play
 
The Illusion
Pierre Corneille
France
Play
1662
The School for Wives
France
Play
1664
France
Play
1665
Don Juan
France
Play
1666
France
Play
1667
Andromaque
Jean Racine
France
Play
1668
The Miser
France
Play
1668–1694
La Fontaine's Fables
Jean de La Fontaine
France
Poetry collection
including The Fox and the Crow, The Tortoise and the Hare, The Ant and the Grasshopper, and others
 
Bérénice
Jean Racine
France
Play
1672
The Learned Ladies
France
Play
1673
The Imaginary Invalid
France
Play
1677
Phèdre
Jean Racine
France
Play
1678
La Princesse de Clèves
Madame de La Fayette
France
Novella
1691
Athalie
Jean Racine
France
Play
1697
Tales of Mother Goose
Charles Perrault
France
Story collection
1699
The Adventures of Telemachus
François Fénelon
France
Novel
1723
La Henriade
Voltaire
France
Poem
1730
The Game of Love and Chance
Pierre de Marivaux
France
Play
1731
Manon Lescaut
l'Abbé Prévost
France
Novel
1744
La Dispute
Pierre de Marivaux
France
Play
1747
Zadiq
Voltaire
France
Novel
1752
Micromégas
Voltaire
France
Novella
1759
Candide
Voltaire
France
Novella
1761
Julie, or the New Heloise
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
France
Novel
1762
Emile, Or, On Education
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
France
Novel
1775
The Barber of Seville
Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
France
Play
1782
Dangerous Liaisons
Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
France
Novel
 
Confessions
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
France
Memoir
1784
The Marriage of Figaro
Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais
France
Play
1785
The 120 Days of Sodom
Marquis de Sade
France
Novel
1788
Paul and Virginia
Jacques-Henri Bernardin de Saint-Pierre
France
Novel
1791
Justine
Marquis de Sade
France
Novel
1792
Memoirs of a Nun
Denis Diderot
France
Novel
1796
Jacques the Fatalist and His Master
Denis Diderot
France
Novel
1797–1801
Juliette
Marquis de Sade
France
Novel
1802
Rene
Francois René de Chateaubriand
France
Novel
 
Delphine
Germaine de Staël
France
Novel
1807
Corinne
Germaine de Staël
France
Novel
1821
Rameau's Nephew
Denis Diderot
France
Dialogue
1829
The Chouans
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
1830
A Passion in the Desert
Honoré de Balzac
France
Story
1831
The Elixir of Life
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
 
Queen Margot
Alexandre Dumas
France
Play
 
Victor Hugo
France
Novel
 
The Red and the Black
Stendhal
France
Novel
1832
Les Tragiques
Agrippa D'Aubigné
France
Poem
 
Indiana
George Sand
France
Novel
1833
Gamiani, or Two Nights of Excess
Anonymous
France
Novel
 
Eugénie Grandet
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
 
Lélia
George Sand
France
Novel
1834
Old Goriot
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
1837–1843
Lost Illusions
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
1839
Charterhouse of Parma
Stendhal
France
Novel
1843–1847
The Splendors and Miseries of Courtesans
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
1844
The Three Musketeers
Alexandre Dumas
France
Novel
1844–1846
The Count of Monte-Cristo
Alexandre Dumas
France
Novel
1845
Twenty Years After
Alexandre Dumas
France
Novel
 
Carmen
Prosper Mérimée
France
Novella
1846
Cousin Bette
Honoré de Balzac
France
Novel
 
The Devil's Pool
George Sand
France
Novel
1847
The Vicomte of Bragelonne
Alexandre Dumas
France
Novel
1852
The Lady of the Camellias
Alexandre Dumas, fils
France
Novel
 
Enamels and Cameos
Théophile Gautier
France
Poetry collection
1854
Girls of the Fire
Gérard de Nerval
France
Story collection
1856
The Contemplations
Victor Hugo
France
Poetry collection
1857
The Flowers of Evil
Charles Baudelaire
France
Poetry collection
 
Gustave Flaubert
France
Novel
1859–1883
The Legend of the Ages
Victor Hugo
France
Poetry collection
1862
Salammbô
Gustave Flaubert
France
Novel
 
Victor Hugo
France
Novel
1864
A Journey to the Centre of the Earth
Jules Verne
France
Novel
 
Les Destinés
Alfred de Vigny
France
Poetry collection
1865
From the Earth to the Moon
Jules Verne
France
Novel
1868
Monsieur Lecog
Emile Gaboriau
France
Novel
 
Therese Raquin
Émile Zola
France
Novel
1868–1869
The Songs of Maldoror
Comte de Lautréamont
France
Prose poem
1869
A Sentimental Education
Gustave Flaubert
France
Novel
1870
The Sleeper in the Valley
Arthur Rimbaud
France
Poem
 
Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea
Jules Verne
France
Novel
1873
Les Amours Jaunes
Tristan Corbiére
France
Poetry collection
 
A Season in Hell
Arthur Rimbaud
France
Poem
 
Around the World in Eighty Days
Jules Verne
France
Novel
1874
The She-Devils
Jules Barbey d'Aurevilly
France
Story collection
 
The Mysterious Island
Jules Verne
France
Novel
1877
The Legend of St. Julian the Hospitaler
Gustave Flaubert
France
Story
 
A Simple Heart
Gustave Flaubert
France
Novella
 
The Drunkard
Émile Zola
France
Novel
1879
Jacques Vingtras
Jules Vallès
France
Novel
1880
Nana
Émile Zola
France
Novel
1881
Bouvard and Pécuchet
Gustave Flaubert
France
Novel
 
Sagesse
Paul Verlaine
France
Poetry collection
1882
Mademoiselle Fifi
Guy de Maupassant
France
Story collection
including Mademoiselle Fifi, Boule de Suif, and others
1883
A Woman's Life
Guy de Maupassant
France
Novel
1884
Against Nature
Joris-Karl Huysmans
France
Novel
1885
Bel Ami
Guy de Maupassant
France
Novel
 
Germinal
Émile Zola
France
Novel
1886
Illuminations
Arthur Rimbaud
France
Prose poem collection
 
The Masterpiece
Émile Zola
France
Novel
1887
Poésies
Stéphane Mallarmé
France
Poetry collection
1888
Pierre et Jean
Guy de Maupassant
France
Novel
1890
Thaïs
Anatole France
France
Novel
 
The Beast Within
Émile Zola
France
Novel
1891
Down There
Joris-Karl Huysmans
France
Novel
1896
The Dupe
Georges Feydeau
France
Play
 
Ubu Roi
Alfred Jarry
France
Play
1897
The Fruits of Earth
André Gide
France
Long prose poem
1898
Cyrano de Bergerac
Edmond Rostand
France
Play
1900–1903
Claudine
Colette
France
Novel series
1902
The Immoralist
André Gide
France
Novella
1907
Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief
Maurice Leblanc
France
Novella collection
1908
The Inferno
Henri Barbusse
France
Novel
 
Tendrils of the Vine
Colette
France
Novella collection
1909
Penguin Island
Anatole France
France
Novel
 
Strait Is the Gate
André Gide
France
Novel
1910
Phantom of the Opera
Gaston Leroux
France
Novel
 
Impressions of Africa
Raymond Roussel
France
Novel
1911
Fantômas
Marcel Allain, Pierre Souvestre
France
Novel
1913
Le Grand Meaulnes
Alain-Fournier
France
Novel
 
Alcohols
Guillaume Apollinaire
France
Poetry collection
1913–1927
In Search of Lost Time
Marcel Proust
France
Novel
seven volumes including Swann's Way, In the Shadow of Young Girls in Flower, The Guermantes Way, Time Regained
1914
Locus Solus
Raymond Roussel
France
Novel
1916
Under Fire
Henri Barbusse
France
Novel
 
Edmund Dulac's Fairy-Book
Edmund Dulac
France
Story collection
1918
Calligrammes
Guillaume Apollinaire
France
Poetry collection
1920
Chéri
Colette
France
Novel
1922
Claudine's House
Colette
France
Novel
1923
The Devil in Flesh
Raymond Radiguet
France
Novel
1926
Under Satan's Sun
Georges Bernanos
France
Novel
 
Moravagine
Blaise Cendrars
France
Novel
 
The Capital of Pain
Paul Éluard
France
Poiettry collection
 
The Counterfeiters
André Gide
France
Novel
1927
Thérése Desqueyroux
Francois Mauriac
France
Novel
1928
Story of the Eye
Georges Bataille
France
Novella
 
Nadja
André Breton
France
Novel
1929
The Holy Terrors
Jean Cocteau
France
Novel
 
Retreat Without Song
Shahan Shahnoor
France
Novel
1931
The Story of Babar
Jean de Brunhoff
France
Story
1932
Journey to the End of the Night
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
France
Novel
 
The Pure and the Impure
Colette
France
Novel
 
Viper's Tangle
Francois Mauriac
France
Novel
1933
Man's Fate
André Malraux
France
Novel
1934
The Bells of Basel
Louis Aragon
France
Novel
1936
The Diary of a Country Priest
Georges Bernanos
France
Novel
 
Death on Credit
Louis-Ferdinand Céline
France
Novel
1938
Nausea
Jean-Paul Sartre
France
Novel
1941
The Silence of the Sea
Vercors
France
Novel
1943
The Satin Slipper
Paul Claudel
France
Play
1944
Antigone
Jean Anouilh
France
Play
 
Aurélien
Louis Aragon
France
Novel
 
Arcanum 17
Andre Breton
France
Poem
 
Our Lady of the Flowers
Jean Genet
France
Novel
 
No Exit
Jean-Paul Sartre
France
Play
1945
The Madwoman of Chaillot
Jean Giraudoux
France
Play
1945–1949
The Roads to Freedom
Jean Paul Sartre
France
Novel series
1946
Paroles
Jacques Prévert
France
Poetry collection
1947
The Maids
Jean Genet
France
Play
 
Querelle of Brest
Jean Genet
France
Novella
 
Exercises in Style
Raymond Queneau
France
Story cycle
 
Froth on the Daydream
Boris Vian
France
Novel
1948
Death Sentence
Maurice Blanchot
France
Novel
 
Furor and Mystery
René Char
France
Poetry collection
1949
The Second Sex
Simone de Beauvoir
France
Novel
1950
The Abbot C
Georges Bataille
France
Novella
 
The Bald Soprano
Eugène Ionesco
France
Play
1951
The Opposing Shore
Julien Gracq
France
Novel
1952
The Chairs
Eugène Ionesco
France
Play
1954
The Mandarins
Simone de Beauvoir
France
Novel
 
A Spy in the House of Love
Anaïs Nin
France
Novel
 
The Story of O
Pauline Reage
France
Novel
 
Hello Sadness
Francoise Sagan
France
Novella
1955
Triste Tropiques
Claude Lévi-Strauss
France
Memoir
 
The Voyeur
Alain Robbe-Grillet
France
Novel
1956
Passing Time
Michel Butor
France
Novel
 
The Roots of Heaven
Romain Gary
France
Novel
1957
The Blue of Noon
Georges Bataille
France
Novella
 
Second Thoughts
Michel Butor
France
Novel
 
Amers
Saint-John Perse
France
Poetry collection
 
Jealousy
Alain Robbe-Grillet
France
Novel
1959
Rhinoceros
Eugène Ionesco
France
Play
1959
Zazie in the Metro
Raymond Queneau
France
Novel
1960
Promise at Dawn
Romain Gary
France
Novel
1962
The Afternoon of Mr. Andesmas
Marguerite Duras
France
Novel
 
Exit the King
Eugène Ionesco
France
Play
1963
Monkey Planet
Pierre Boulle
France
Novel
 
The Water of the Hills
Marcel Pagnol
France
Novel series
including Jean de Florette, Manon des Sources
1964
The Ravishing of Lol Stein
Marguerite Duras
France
Novel
 
The Interrogation
J. M. G. Le Clézio
France
Novel
1965
The Vice-Consul
Marguerite Duras
France
Novel
 
Things: A Story of the Sixties
Georges Perec
France
Novel
1967
Friday, or, The Other Island
Michel Tournier
France
Novel
1968
The Abyss
Marguerite Yourcenar
France
Novel
1969
A Void
Georges Perec
France
Novel
1975
W, or the Memory of Childhood
Georges Perec
France
Novel
1976
Hérémakhonon
Maryse Conde
France
Novel
1977
Delta of Venus
Anaïs Nin
France
Story collection
1978
Life, a User's Manual
Georges Perec
France
Novel
1984
The Lover
Marguerite Duras
France
Novella
1985
Betty Blue
Philippe Djian
France
Novel
1986
I, Tituba: Black Witch of Salem
Maryse Condé
France
Novel
1994
Whatever
Michel Houellbecq
France
Novel
 
Small Lives
Pierre Michon
France
Novel
1998
The Elementary Particles
Michel Houellbecq
France
Novel
1999
I Wish Someone Were Waiting for Me Somewhere
Anna Gavalda
France
Story collection
2000
Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress
Dai Sijie
France
Novel
2001
Platform
Michel Houellbecq
France
Novel
2004
Hunting and Gathering
Anna Gavalda
France
Novel
 
French Suite
Irène Némirovsky
France
Novel series
2005
Broken Glass
Alain Mabanckou
France
Novel
2006
The Elegance of the Hedgehog
Muriel Barbery
France
Novel
2009
Other Lives But Mine
Emmanuel Carrière
France
Nonfiction

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