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Some Great French Female Writers to Discover

Source: tumblr.com
Source: tumblr.com

George Sand

Who? Aurore Dupin (1804-1876) was born out of different worlds. Her father was a nobleman and her mother a commoner. Although this status raised some eyebrows, Aurore enjoyed many privileges as a child, including a very complete classical education. She was married off at 18 and had her first child a year later. However, married life did not suit her and her relationship with her husband soon became tense. Some years later, she met Jules Sandeau, a young writer who inspired her to move to Paris and become active in intellectual circles. Together, they published a couple of novels under a pseudonym. Soon however, Aurore wrote her first novel, Indiana and started publishing her own works under the name of George Sand. That was the beginning of a long and fruitful literary career. George Sand is a major figure of romanticism, but she was also a scandalous woman, who dressed as a man (she had an authorization from the police to do so) and had multiple love affairs after leaving her husband at a time when divorce was illegal. However, she is not as much of a feminist as one might think. She often showed disdain towards women, considering herself an exception, and she refused to get involved with the feminist movements of the time. Still, her work is meaningful, and, even though she was affected by her era's negative conceptions of women, she made brave personal choices.

What to read? Indiana, Consuelo: a romance of Venice, Fanchon: The Cricket, The Devil's Pool, The George Sand-Gustave Flaubert Letters, Story of my life: the autobiography of George Sand...

Source: babelio.com
Source: babelio.com

Françoise Sagan

Who? Françoise Quoirez (1935-2004) is one of the most interesting figures of modern French literature. Françoise was born in a bourgeois family. A charismatic kid with a boiling personality, she always got her way. Not only was she brilliant but also precocious. She published her first novel, Bonjour Tristesse, at 18 under the pseudonym of Francoise Sagan, after the name of a princess in Proust's In Search of Lost Time. She instantaneously became a sensation, even travelling to the US for a promotional tour, although she apparently dodged most of her engagements to go see live jazz shows, a style of music she loved (she had a passion for Billie Holiday). Sagan is very interesting because she acquired a celebrity status never seen before for a writer. Her sudden affluence caused her to live a life of excess. She spent a lot of time on the Côte d'Azur, gambling and providing for her gang of rowdy friends. She particularly enjoyed fast cars and nearly died in a crash she had while apparently driving at 100 mph. No matter how famous she got for her exuberance though, she continued writing until her death and was very productive.

What to read? Bonjour Tristesse, La Chamade, Aimez-vous Brahms?, Scars on the Soul, A Certain Smile, Château in Sweden, With Fondest Regards...

What to watch? Bonjour Tristesse (1958), by Otto Preminger, with Jean Seberg.

Source: britannica.com
Source: britannica.com

Germaine de Staël

Who? Madame de Staël (1766-1817) was born in an affluent aristocratic family. Like George Sand, she separated from her husband and had an exciting love life. What's fascinating about Madame de Staël is how important she was to the intellectual life of her time, as well as how crucial she is to French literary culture in general, in particular literary criticism. She was instrumental in introducing France to romanticism through her book De l'Allemagne (Germany), which focused on German literature and culture. She wrote several philosophical and political essays. During France's revolutionary years, she got into some trouble by taking position in favor of a constitutional monarchy rather than a republic. On top of that, she had a complicated relationship with Napoleon, who took power in 1799. As a result, she frequently lived in exile, which wasn't too big of an issue for someone as rich and well-connected as her. She is remembered as a very sentimental writer, but one cannot ignore her political activism and her dedication to philosophy.

What to read? Germany, Corine or Italy, Delphine...

Source: ert.tn
Source: ert.tn

Annie Ernaux

Who? Born in 1940, Annie Ernaux is a particularly introspective writer. Her novels have a sociological touch to them as she likes to paint social landscapes, which is most notably exemplified in La Place, which was published in 1983. In it, she broaches the subject of her rather underprivileged childhood in Normandy. A literature graduate, she has worked as a teacher for a good part of her life and has published several scientific articles. She is militant about political and social issues. In the 2012 presidential elections, she supported a far left candidate. She also openly wrote about her abortion in two of her works (Les Armoires vides and L'évènement). Her work is very respected in France, and she obtained several literary prizes for a 2008 novel: Les Années. She has been publishing regularly for the past few years and even has a new book coming out in April of this year : Mémoire de filles.

What to read? A Man's Place, Simple Passion, Things Seen, I Remain in Darkness, A Woman's Story...

Source: alalettre.com
Source: alalettre.com

Madame de La Fayette

Who? Marie-Madeleine Pioche de La Vergne, countess of La Fayette (1634-1693) is a decisive figure of French literature. Indeed, her most notable work, La Princesse de Clèves, is believed by many to be the first modern French novel. This delicate love story is admired for its in-depth psychological portrait of the main character, a beautiful noblewoman who falls for someone other than her husband (the fact that she herself was unhappily married -like many women of the time- might have influenced her). Madame de La Fayette must also have been inspired by the courtly life she experienced as the lady in waiting of Anne of Austria (the mother of Louis XIV) and as the friend of the House of Stuart princess Henrietta of England. She was also very involved in the intellectual life of her time, befriending writers such as La Rochefoucauld, Racine and Boileau.

What to read? The Princesse de Cleves (or The Princess of Cleves), The Princess of Montpensier, Zayde: A Spanish Novel...

What to watch? La Princesse de Clèves (1961), written by Jean Cocteau, directed by Jean Delannoy, with Jean Marais and Marina Vlady; The Beautiful Person (2008) by Christophe Honoré, with Lea Seydoux and Louis Garrel; The Princess of Montpensier (2010) by Bertrand Tavernier, with Mélanie Thierry and Gaspard Ulliel.

Enjoy your reading!

Source: giphy.com

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