10 Modern Influential French Writers You Should Know About

It’s easier now than ever to find and read works by writers around the world. Let’s take a look at France.

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Beyond people like Charles Baudelaire and Victor Hugo, I didn’t know much about French writers, especially modern writers. Which is a shame, especially when I think about all the amazing writing I’ve been missing out on. But now I know more, and I’ve chosen 10 great writers to highlight.

1. Anne-Sophie Brasme

Born in 1984, Brasme is a novelist and a teacher. She is most known for her first novel, Respire (Breathe), published in 2001 when she was 16, and it was huge in France. It was about a girl who struggled to make friends until a new girl from America befriended her, and how their friendship slowly turned obsessive and toxic. The novel was translated into 18 languages, and it won the 2002 Prix Contrepoint award.

Anne-Sophie Brasme looking at the camera with dark blue background

She has written three other books. All of which deal with humans and their flaws, from obsessive friendships to people’s ugliness to “accidents.” It’s like Brasme takes a lens and holds it up to the human psyche for all of us to see.

Click here for a list of her books.

2. Christelle Dabos

Born in 1980, Dabos is a fantasy novelist. She is best known for her La Passe-miroir (Mirror Visitor) series. The first book, A Winter’s Promise, was published in 2013 and is her first published book. This book won Dabos the Gallimard-RTL-Télérama prize in 2013. There are four books in the series, and they were very successful in France. The books were translated in at least ten languages and sold millions around the world. The series follows Ophelia, who can read objects and travel through mirrors. She is later dragged into political games, the results of which will affect not only her, but everyone in their world.

Christelle Dabos standing in front of a window with her reflection behind her

Dabos has a new novel coming out in October called Qui, solo Qui (Here, and Only Here). It’s about a magic school where strange things happen, such as disappearing students and students coming together to investigate.

Click here for a list of her books.

3. Édouard Louis

Born in 1992, Louis is a nonfiction writer. His first novel was an autobiography titled En finir avec Eddy Bellegueule (The End of Eddy), published in 2014. It’s about him growing up in a poor village in northern France and the violence and the homophobia he experienced. It was translated into over 20 languages, and it was a huge media success in France.

Édouard Louis with his hand on the back of his neck

Louis is critical of how the French government, and the country in general, neglects the poor working class, and he attacks them outright in his 2018 novel, Qui a tué mon père (Who Killed My Father). His father, only 50 at the time, was dying, could barely walk or talk, and the government did nothing to help. Louis ruthlessly attacks the French government in his book, but he shows great compassion and love for his father. He has also written other books and opinion pieces about simar topics.

Click here for a list of his books.

4. Guillaume Musso

Born in 1974, Musso is a novelist. His first novel, Skidamarink (French edition), was published in 2001. It’s a thriller that starts with stealing the Mona Lisa. It wasn’t successful outside of France, but his second book, Et Après… (Afterwards, French edition), about a man who returns to life after dying, sold a million copies in France after its publication in 2004. It was also translated into over 20 languages and inspired the film Afterwards that was released in 2009.

Guillaume Musso smiling with a gray background

Musso has written many other novels, and many of them involve death. He was in a car accident between his first and second book, which may be an influence. Regardless, his books have sold millions of copies around the world and have been translated into over 30 languages. He is one of France’s most popular contemporary authors.

Click here for a list of his books.

5. Katherine Pancol

Born in 1954, Pancol is a journalist and a novelist. She published her first book Moi D’abord (French edition) in 1979, where it did well in France. Her first world famous novel was her 2006 novel, Les Yeux jaunes des crocodiles (The Yellow Eyes of Crocodiles). It sold over a million copies and won the Prix de Maison de la Presse in 2006. It’s about a woman named Joséphine who struggled financially after her husband left, and she became a ghostwriter for her sister. She was fine with this until her work got popular, and she wanted the credit.

Katherine Pancol smiling with her arms crossed and a gray background

Pancol is known for writing about human psychology, and she writes a lot about women’s issues, such as gender inequality in the workplace. She wants to inspire women to be who they are and pursue their dreams regardless of what society says.

Click here for a list of her books.

6. Lauren Bastide

Born in 1981, Bastide is a journalist, feminist podcaster, and an activist for intersectional feminism. She was previously the editor-in-chief of Elle France for 2 years. In 2016, she founded a podcasting production company called Nouvelles Écoutes with Julien Neuville, and she had her own podcast called La Poudre. On her podcast, she interviews various women from different backgrounds. She has also worked with television as a columnist and as the host of Les Savantes.

Lauren Bastide with her hand behind her neck

In 2017, Bastide and model and fashion designer Jeanne Damas published a book called à Paris (In Paris: 20 Women on Life in the City of Light). Bastide and Damas show that there is more than one type of Parisian woman, showing the diversity of those who live in the beautiful city.

7. Marc Levy

Born in 1961, Levy is a novelist. His first novel was Et si c’etait vrai… (If Only It Were True). It was published in 1999, and it sold nearly half a million copies. It was later adapted into the 2005 movie, Just Like Heaven. It is a love story between a spirit of a woman in a coma and a man, the only one who could see her. The story was inspired by his young son, and after that, Levy started writing full-time. He published a sequel in 2005 called Vous Revoir (French edition) where the woman must save the man this time after they got separated. Many of his stories are about romantic love, often between people who are unhappy with life.

Marc Levy smiling with a brick background

He has written nearly 20 books, sold millions of copies, and had them translated into about 40 languages. He is the most popular and widely-read French author today.

Click here for a list of his books.

8. Olivier Norek

Born in 1975, Norek is a crime fiction writer. Before becoming a writer, he worked as a policeman for 18 years in the Seine-Saint-Denis district, where his novels take place. He wrote the Banlieue series, and the first book is Code 93, published in 2014. (In English, the book was published as The Lost and the Damned in 2020.) The main character, Captain Victor Coste, investigates three incidents: a person coming back to life during an autopsy, a victim who seemingly combusted, and another whose blood was drained.

Olivier Norek with blurred background

His books are best-sellers in France, and a few are also translated into English. Part of the reason his books are so compelling is that he tries to subvert stereotypes. Coste is not the stereotypical alcoholic, depressed detective but more realistic and human. Also, Norek apparently gets most of his books’ content from real cases and facts. (That’s more than a little scary if you ask me.)

Click here for a list of his books.

9. Vanessa Springora

Born in 1972, Springora is a publisher, writer, and film director. She was an editorial assistant at Éditions Julliard starting in 2006, then became the head of it in 2019 before stepping down in 2021. She wrote the screenplay for and directed the 2006 movie Dérive.

Vanessa Springora with her hand on her face with a gray background

I believe she has only written one book, but it was a powerful one. Published in 2020, Le Consentement (Consent) was a memoir about how writer Gabriel Matzneff, who was more than three times her age, who sexually abused and groomed her from ages 14–16. She was not the only one, and Matzneff made no secret of this, yet he was never punished until Springora’s memoir was released. (Others had tried, but they were mocked and ridiculed.) Matzneff, and those associated with him, quickly fell from grace, and this sparked a change in France’s age of consent.

10. Victoria Mas

Born in 1987, Mas is a novelist, columnist, and screenwriter. Her 2019 debut novel, Le Bal des Folles (The Mad Women’s Ball), is about a 19th-century women’s asylum called l’Hospice de la Salpetrière for women who did not fit society’s standards. (And women whose husbands and fathers didn’t want to deal with them, calling them “hysterical” when they were actually traumatized.) The book works toward the ball, where upper-class Parisians come to look at the women as if they were freaks. The story is fiction, but these events did happen. The book won several prizes in France and is a popular novel.

Victoria Mas staring at the camera with a gray background

Mas has another novel called Un Miracle (A Miracle, set to come out in English in 2024). This is about a small community’s secrets and old wounds that are discovered as the novel goes on.

These writers have diverse styles and genres, and I’m sure there are plenty of other wonderful French writers I haven’t heard of yet. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go add more books to my TBR.

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