French Classics Reading Plans

As much as I love the online book community, 7 years of mainly anglo interactions had some bad consequences on my reading. I just stopped picking up French books. Sure, some of the books I read as a kid were translated from English, but many were written in French or translated from other languages. Even when I tell myself I sould pick up more classics I go for the American and British.

No More!

As I mentioned in my goals post I want to pick up more French classics this year. I’ve decided to go about it chronologically with one literary period per month. For most of them I have a couple of options on my TBR so I might not pick a specific title ahead of time.

The periods:

L’humanisme (1530-1570) — Rabelais

  • I own two of his books, Pentagruel and Gargantua. All I know is that they’re about giants and that this literary period placed culture at the center of human existance

Baroque (1570-1650) — Corneille

  • I’m probably going to read Le Cid and I’m scared. It’s a play in verse and I haven’t had a great experience with those in the past (looking at you, Racine).

Classicisme (1650-1700) — Molière

  • I’m so excited for this period; I LOVE Molière. I read a couple of his plays already and they’re always funny and still applicable to our time.

Les Lumières (1720-1770) — Voltaire

  • Candide… from what I know it’s a big f-you to Leibniz (yes, the ∫ guy).

Romatisme (1820-1850) —  Hugo

  • I’ve read some of his poems, but never one of his novels. They are pretty big so I might chicken out and pick up some more poetry. Fun fact, my mom wanted to call my brother Victor Hugo.

Realisme (1830-1890) —  Stendhal

  • I’ll be reading Le Rouge et le noir  but I’m not too excited about it. I’ll try to keep an open mind but Realism and I never got along

Naturalisme (1830-1890) —  Zola

  • Same as for Realisme, I don’t really like Zola. Maybe if I pick up Germinal the worker’s rights will be enough to keep me going.

Symbolisme (1857-1900) —  Verlaine

  • I can’t wait for August. Verlaine wrote four collections of erotic poetry and two of them are queer! French erotic poetry in general is a lot of fun. The union of formal language and sexual slang is great.

Parnasse (1866-1876) — Beaudelaire

  • That’s the guy who translated The Raven into French. «L’art pour l’art» I don’t know much more.

Dada (1916-1923) 

  • We’re getting to periods I didn’t study in French class so I’ll go with the basics: Sept manifeste Dada.

Surréalisme (1920-1940)

  • Am I.. am I reading something by a woman? Yes and before researching this period I had never heard of her. Yeah for diversity in classics. I chose La contesse sanglante.

Absurde (1938-1960) 

  • Sartre and Camus. I’ll probably read some of their stuff before the end of the year because some recent TV shows play with some Absurde themes.


This is mostly dead white men so after I’m done with this I want to shift my focus to the whole francophone world. If you have recommendations for great contemporary francophone writers send them my way.



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