Do you want to start reading the classics of French literature? Not sure how to start? Are you looking for an easy reading? We offer an eclectic selection of the easiest classics for non-natives or beginners in French literature to read.
- Le petit Prince (The Little Prince) by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Le petit Prince (The Little Prince) of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry is the most famous classic in French literature worldwide. It has been translated into 361 languages and is the second most translated book in the world after the Bible. Written in 1943 by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Le petit Prince (The Little Prince) is a short novel, simple and easy to read for non-natives and for children. However, this work is still appreciated by adults for its symbolic, philosophical and poetic dimension.
This is the story of an aviator, who is none other than the author himself. His plane breaks down in the Sahara. After crashing into the desert, he falls asleep exhausted. Suddenly, he is awakened by a small voice, the one of the Little Prince. He asks him to draw a sheep.
- L’étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus
Released in 1942, L’étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus is the author's first novel. Albert Camus, a committed writer, born in Algeria, won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1957 and never ceased to question his whole life about the meaning of life, through his books. L’étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus is one of the great classics of French literature, not for his simple and easy-to-read writing style but thanks to his original theme of the absurd. The narrator and main character of the novel destabilizes the reader, from the opening line which is famous for it : “Aujourd’hui, maman est morte. Ou peut-être hier, je ne sais plus” ("Today, mom died. Or maybe it was yesterday, I do not remember”.)
This is the story of an office worker, Meursault, who is sentenced to death for the murder of an Arab on the beach, without knowing why he killed him. He is a stranger to others because of his indifference to the death of his mother and his inability to have feelings for others. He is therefore on trial for his crime. The author calls the readers as witnesses in the judgment of this man who does not fit into the mold of society.
Read L’étranger (The Stranger) by Albert Camus on Culturethèque for free. Free account for three weeks and all year free for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.
- La gloire de mon père (My Father's Glory) by Marcel Pagnol
La gloire de mon père (My Father's Glory) is the first volume in an autobiographical series by Marcel Pagnol, writer, scriptwriter and filmmaker. Released in 1957, the author relates his childhood memories in the south of France, in Aubagne and in Marseille. The memories of Marcel Pagnol have been transposed simply with a note of naivety. This magnificent novel was adapted into a film in 1990 by Yves Robert, as well as the second volume Le Château de ma mère.
In this first volume, Marcel Pagnol relates his daily life and his holidays in his native Provence with Augustine, his shy, sensitive and fragile mother with whom he is so close, his little brother Paul, his uncle Jules, his aunt Rosé and of course with his father Joseph, an anticlerical teacher.
Read La gloire de mon père by Marcel Pagnol on Culturethèque for free. Free account for three weeks and all year free for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.
- Bonjour tristesse (Hello Sadness) by Françoise Sagan
Published in 1954, Bonjour tristesse is Françoise Sagan's first book, she was only 18 years old at the time. This fiction novel is a bestseller in France with nearly two million copies sold to this date. Before receiving many laudatory reviews, the novel caused a scandal in France, due to the author's early age and the cruel unconsciousness of Cécile, the main character who is only a teenager. This book was awarded the same year of its publication from le prix des Critiques.
This is the story of Cécile, a carefree teenager. In the summer of her 17th birthday, she went on vacation to the French Riviera, with her 40-year-old widowed father and his mistress, Elsa. Cécile is getting used to her father's conquests. But he ends up inviting another woman, Anne, different from the ones that Cécile met. Anne is a brilliant, generous and attractive woman who wishes to take control of the disorder in the life of Cécile and her father. Cécile is afraid of losing her freedom and the close bond she has with her father.
Read for free Bonjour Tristesse by Françoise Sagan or the adapted comic book novel on Culturethèque. Free account for three weeks and all year free for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.
- Les Misérables by Victor Hugo
Les Misérables is Victor Hugo’s masterpiece and novel of a lifetime. After spending 17 years writing it, the first volume was published in 1862. It was so successful that some workers paid contributions together to be able to buy it before drawing the one who would read it first. This novel was written on and for the French people. Today, the novel Les Misérables by Victor Hugo has been adapted so many times and in different forms that they no longer count.
After nineteen years in prison - five years for stealing bread for his dying sister and fourteen others for trying to escape, Jean Valjean is finally free. Considered as a "dangerous man", no one wants to give him alms because of his passport stating his years in prison. Only a benevolent bishop, Monsignor Myriel welcomes him and offers him a meal.
Read the first volume Les Misérables by Victor Hugo for free on Culturethèque. Free account for three weeks and all year for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.
- Le Tour du Monde en 80 jours (Around the World in Eighty Days) by Jules Verne
Released in 1872, Le Tour du Monde en 80 jours (Around the World in Eighty Days) by Jules Verne is an adventure and youth novel. This book invites the readers on a journey to the dawn of globalization thanks to the scientific advances of the time. Indeed, this extraordinary trip around the Earth is made possible thanks to the industrial revolution. His novels are so popular that in 2011 Jules Verne was the most translated French-language author in the world.
This is the story of Phileas Fogg, a London gentleman who wagers with members of the Reform Club, that it is possible to go around the world in 80 days. Accompanied by his servant Passe-Partout, Phileas Fogg tries to prove what he says by starting a wonderful journey. In 1872, was it possible to go around the world in 80 days?
Read Le Tour du Monde en 80 jours (Around the World in Eighty Days) by Jules Verne on Culturethèque for free. Free account for three weeks and all year round for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.
- Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand
Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand is a gem of French theater, performed for the first time in 1897. Extremely difficult to play, Edmond Rostand was afraid of failure, when it was quite the opposite, the play won a triumph. Cyrano has become a mythical character in French literature. The tirade of the nose is known to all and has entered into popular culture. It is the most played piece in France. Several adaptations to the cinema have emerged, including the one with Gérard Depardieu playing Cyrano.
Cyrano de Bergerac is a man with a disadvantageous physique, due among other things to the protuberance of his nose. In his spare time, he writes magnificent poems. Lover of Roxane and knowing that his love will never be reciprocal, he helps Christian, a baron, to win his heart thanks to his way with words.
Read Cyrano de Bergerac by Edmond Rostand for free on Culturethèque. Free account for three weeks and all year round for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.
- Candide ou l’Optimisme by Voltaire
Published in 1759, Candide by Voltaire is a philosophical tale by tackling the themes of the Enlightenment. It is also a satire of utopia going in opposition to the philosopher Leibniz, who asserts that misfortunes never happen by chance and are always justified by a cause. Republished several times, this novel is one of the greatest French successes.
Candide is a young boy who leads a happy life, in the “best of all possible worlds”. He lives in the castle of the baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, with his uncle and his professor and philosopher Pangloss. One day, he kisses Cunégonde, the baron's daughter. Following this forbidden kiss, Candide is driven from this Eden and embarks on an initiatory journey.
Read Candide by Voltaire for free on Culturethèque. Free account for three weeks and all year round for Alliance française de Toronto members and students.