The best facts about French literature
French literature has often been one step ahead of the literary curve, to risk mixing our progressive metaphors. Before T. S. Eliot and other Anglophone poets had found a way to write about the modern city, Charles Baudelaire had already shown a way forward. In the realm of medieval romance, French writers and troubadours led the way. Gustave Flaubert influenced James Joyce, Henry James, and countless others. So, in this post, we thought we’d pay homage to French literature and Francophone writers by sharing a dozen of our favourite interesting facts about French writers and French literature.
The most popular novel among soldiers in the American Civil War was Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables.
Georges Perec wrote a novel, La disparition, without once using the letter ‘e’ (apart from four times on the title-page, presumably, when the author’s name is cited).
French philosopher and critic Roland Barthes was killed by a laundry van.
French writer Colette started her working day by picking the fleas off her cat and would write only on blue paper, by artificial light, in her bare feet.
The Prix Goncourt, France’s premier literary prize, is a cash payment of 10 euros.
French writer Gerard de Nerval took his pet lobster for walks in the Palais-Royal.
In 2004, French author Michel Thaler published a novel, Le Train de Nulle Part, containing no verbs.
Marcel Proust often slept in till 6pm and took opium at breakfast with his coffee and croissants.
Gustave Flaubert kept an Egyptian mummy’s foot on his desk.
Arthur Koestler and Albert Camus once raced across the Place Saint-Michel in Paris on all fours.
A crowd of 50,000 people filled the streets of Paris for Jean-Paul Sartre’s funeral in 1980.
If you enjoyed these fascinating French literary facts, you might also enjoy our facts about American literature.
Image: Marcel Proust in 1900 by Otto Wegener (1849-1924), via Wikimedia Commons.