The second volume of our literary work to discover the best French authors that has ever been, carries on from the first edition where we looked at great literary French figures such as Jean-Paul Sartre, Albert Camus, and Simone de Beauvoir. And we start this blog with the famous Victor Hugo.
One of the best-known stories featuring Paris of all time has to be The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. It has provided the story line for so many Hollywood films, TV films, musicals, Disney animation, plays and the list goes on and on.
The tragic love of the lamentable Quasimodo that can never be requited brings waves of sympathy for the deformed figure that in past literature would have been castigated. But The Hunchback of Notre Dame is only the tip of this author’s literary iceberg.
Hugo was also responsible for a host of other classic tales, and who can possibly forget the epic Les Miserables which is still touring the world as a sellout musical. An all-time favorite quote of Victor Hugo is; To love or have loved, that is enough. Ask nothing further. There is no other pearl to be found in the dark folds of life.
Charles Baudelaire is probably best known for his epic poetry, and he was also a pioneering translator of the great Edgar Allan Poe. His greatest work is probably Les Fleurs du Mai, which focused on the changes that were happening to his beloved Paris during the industrial 19th Century.
Baudelaire had his own distinct style of prose-poetry that influenced many great French poets that came along later, such as Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlain and Stephane Mallarme. These so called proteges have great affection for their mentor calling Baudelaire a king of poets and a true god.
Emile Zola is a fascinating literary personality who was born in 1840. A member and leading practitioner of the school of naturalism, he wrote many novels, plays and journals. Zola was also highly politically motivated, and his works aided the liberalization of a conservative France of the late 1800s. Anybody who has a best friend that happens to be Paul Cezanne has to be cool, and the artist and writer both spent considerable time together discussing their own philosophies on life and politics. Zola was also highly involved with the infamous Dreyfus Case.
Dreyfus was a captain in the French army who was accused of passing on official secrets to the Germans. Zola took a personal interest in the case and even wrote to the French Premier of his disgust at how the case was being handled. This famous letter was published in a periodical of the time, and its title J’accuse set the tone of the wholeletter. The correspondence caused a massive rift in France at the time between the pro-government conservatives and the popular opposition liberals. It took eight years for Dreyfus to be exonerated and it probably would never have happened if Zola had not brought the case to the attention of the French nation. Our list of great French authors highlights just how much France has influenced the world, not just in literature but in political and cultural thinking.