100 Must-Read Books Translated From French

French is a rich language, and its literature is richer still. Where to start with getting to know this literature? In honour of Bastille Day and Belgium’s National Day in July, I humbly suggest the (non-exclusive) list of books below.

They’ve all been translated into English (sometimes multiple times) and are must-reads for different reasons. Maybe they are oft-studied classics, or written by popular contemporary authors, or the language is beautiful, or the themes are important, or they are representative of a genre that is done well by Francophone writers. There are poems, plays, novels, essays, and bandes dessinées. There are books from Québec and Belgium and various French-speaking African countries as well as France itself. (Thanks to wordswithoutborders.org, frenchculture.org, and various university syllabi for helping me fill in the gaps in my knowledge.)

      1. A Bag of Marbles, by Joseph Joffo
      2. A Dilemma, by Joris-Karl Huysmans, transl. Justin Vicari
      3. A Novel Bookstore, by Laurence Cossé, transl. Alison Anderson 
      4. A Very Long Engagement, by Sébastien Japrisot, transl. Linda Coverdale
      5. After the Crash, by Michel Bussi, transl. Sam Taylor
      6. Algerian White, by Assia Djebar, transl. David Kelley
      7. Ambiguous Adventure, by Cheikh Hamidou Kane, transl. Katherine Woods
      8. Antigone, by Anouilh, transl. Barbara Bray
      9. Apocalypse Baby, by Virginie Despentes, transl. Sian Reynolds
      10. Around the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne, transl George Makepeace Towle
      11. Arsène Lupin, Gentleman-Thief, by Maurice Leblanc
      12. Asterix in Britain, by René Gosciny and Albert Uderzo, transl. Anthea Bell and Derek Hockridge
      13. Bel-Ami, by Guy de Maupassant, transl. Douglas Parmee
      14. Benny & Shrimp, by Katarine Mazetti, transl. Sarah Death
      15. Bonjour Tristesse, by Françoise Sagan, transl. Irene Ash
      16. Candide: Or, Optimism, by Voltaire, transl. Theo Cuffe
      17. Cyrano de Bergerac, by Edmond Rostand, transl. Lowell Bair
      18. Dangerous Liaisons, by Pierre-Ambroise Choderlos de Laclos, transl. Helen Constantine
      19. Destination Moon, by Hergé, transl. Leslie Lonsdale-Cooper
      20. Dreams of my Russian Summers, by Andreï Makine, transl. Geoffrey Strachan
      21. Elise or The Real Life, by Claire Etcherelli, transl. JP Wilson
      22. Exercises In Style, by Raymond Queneau, transl. Barbara Wright
      23. Fantasia: An Algerian Cavalcade, by Assia Djebar, transl. Dorothy S. Blair
      24. Fear and Trembling, by Amélie Nothomb, transl. Adriana Hunter
      25. For Bread Alone, by Mohamed Choukri, transl. Paul Bowles
      26. French Women Poets of Nine Centuries: The Distaff and the Pen, by Norman R Shapiro
      27. Germinal, by Emile Zola, transl. Roger Pearson
      28. God’s Bits of Wood,  by Sembène Ousmane, transl. Ros Schwartz
      29. How to Talk about Books You Haven’t Read, by Pierre Bayard, transl. Jeffrey Mehlman
      30. Hunting and Gathering, by Anna Gavalda, transl. Alison Anderson
      31. I Am Fifteen — and I Don’t Want to Die, by Christine Arnothy
      32. If Only It Were True, by Marc Levy, transl. Jeremy Leggatt
      33. In the Name of God, by Yasmina Khadra, transl. Linda Black
      34. Kiffe Kiffe Tomorrow, by Faïza Guène, transl. Sarah Adams
      35. Last Love Poems of Paul Eluard, by Paul Eluard, transl. Marilyn Kallet
      36. Eugelionne, by Louky Bersianik
      37. Les Misérables, by Victor Hugo, transl. Charles Wilbour
      38. Madame Bovary, by Flaubert, transl. Lydia Davis
      39. Maigret’s First Case, by Georges Simenon, transl. Ros Schwartz
      40. Mission to Kala, by Mongo Beti, transl. Peter Green
      41. Moderato Cantabile, by Marguerite Dumas, transl. Richard Seaver
      42. My Father’s Glory & My Mother’s Castle: Marcel Pagnol’s Memories of Childhood, by Marcel Pagnol, transl. Rita Barisse
      43. Nedjma, by Yacine Kateb, transl. Richard Howard
      44. No Exit, by Jean-Paul Sartre, transl. Stuart Gilbert
      45. Losing North: Essays on Cultural Exile, by Nancy Huston, transl. Nancy Huston
      46. Oscar and the Lady in Pink, by Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt, transl. Adriana Hunter
      47. Poems of Emile Verhaeren, by Emile Verhaeren, transl. Alma Strettell
      48. Rhinoceros, by Eugène Ionesco
      49. Sarah’s Key, by Tatiana de Rosnay
      50. Savage Seasons, by Kettly Mars, transl. Jeanine Herman
      51. Selected Poems, by Emile Nelligan, transl. P.F. Nelligan
      52. Silent Day in Tangier, by Tahar Ben Jelloun, transl. D. Lobdelli
      53. So Long a Letter, by Mariama Bâ, transl. Modupe Bode-Thomas
      54. Sphinx, by Anne Garréta, transl. Emma Ramadan
      55. Submission by Michel Houellebecq, transl. Lorin Stein
      56. Suite Française by Irène Némirovsky, transl. Sandra Smith
      57. Suspended Sentences: Three Novellas, by Patrick Modiano, transl. Mark Polizzotti
      58. Swann’s Way, by Marcel Proust, transl. Lydia Davis
      59. The Cid, by Pierre Corneille, transl. John Cairncross
      60. The Complete Essays, by Michel de Montaigne, transl. M.A. Screech
      61. The Count of Monte-Cristo by Alexandre Dumas, transl. Robin Buss
      62. The Dark Child by Camara Laye, transl. Ernest Jones and James Kirkup
      63. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, by Jean-Dominique Bauby, transl. Jeremy Leggatt
      64. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barbery, transl. Alison Anderson
      65. The Exchange of Princesses, by Chantal Thomas, transl. John Cullen
      66. The Extraordinary Journey of the Fakir who got trapped in an Ikea Wardrobe, by Romain Puertolas, transl. Sam Taylor
      67. The Fairies are Thirsty, by Denise Boucher, transl. Alan Brown
      68. The Flowers of Evil, by Charles Baudelaire, transl. James N McGowan
      69. The Foreign Student, by Philippe Labro
      70. The Grand Repudiation,  by Rachid Boujedra, transl. Golda Lambrova
      71. The Hunchback of Notre Dame, by Victor Hugo
      72. The Illusionist, by Francois Mallet-Joris, transl. Terry Castle
      73. The Imaginary Invalid by Moliere, transl. Henri van Laun
      74. The Library of Unrequited Love, by Sophie Divry, transl. Sian Reynolds
      75. The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, transl. Richard Howard
      76. The Lover, by Marguerite Duras, transl. Barbara Bray
      77. The Meursault Investigation, by Kamel Daoud, transl. John Cullen
      78. The Poor Man’s Son by Mouloud Feraoun, transl. James D Le Sueur
      79. The Red and the Black, by Stendhal, transl. Roger Gard
      80. The Red Collar, by Jean-Christophe Rufin, transl. Adriana Hunter
      81. The Rights of the Reader, by Daniel Pennac, transl. Sarah Ardizzone
      82. The Sand Child, by Tahar Ben Jelloun, transl. Alan Sheridan
      83. The Savage Night, by Mohammed Dib, transl. C. Dickson
      84. The Scar, by Bruce Lowery, transl. Bruce Lowery
      85. The Scorpion: Or, The Imaginary Confession, by Albert Memmi, transl. Eleanor Levieux
      86. The Second Sex, by Simone de Beauvoir, transl. Constance Borde
      87. The Simple Past, by Driss Chraibi, trans. Hugh A. Harter
      88. The Song of Roland, by Unknown Author, transl. Dorothy L Sayers
      89. The Stranger, by Albert Camus, transl. Matthew Ward
      90. The Suns of Independence, by Ahmadou Kourouma, transl. Adrian Adams
      91. The Three Musketeers by Alexandre Dumas, transl. Tom Gauld
      92. The Wound, by Laurent Mauvignier, transl. Nicole and David Bell
      93. The Wretched of the Earth, by Frantz Fanon, transl. Richard Philcox
      94. The Year of the Elephant, by Leila Abouzeid, transl. Barbara Parmenter
      95. Thérèse and Isabelle, by Vioilette Leduc, transl. Sophie Lewis
      96. Tom Is Dead, by Marie Darriesseucq, transl. Lea Hills
      97. Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne, transl. Scott McKowen
      98. Waiting For Godot, by Samuel Beckett, transl. Samuel Beckett
      99. Will You Be There? by Guillaume Musso
      100. With Downcast Eyes, by Tahar Ben Jelloun, transl. Joachim Neugroschel

 

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