Journey of French Literature in the twentieth century
When it comes to French literature in the 20th century, it was an era full of numerous “stars”, but how many of their works have you read?
Today, AAA recommends four writers of contemporary French literature as well as their representative works.
Unlike writers such as Simone de Beauvoir and Marguerite Duras, the name Marguerite Yourcenar (1903-1987) may appear surprising to you. She spent her childhood with her father and received a private family education. As a teenager, she started to display extraordinary literary acumen and creative talent.
Yourcenar’s works are primarily based on history, showing an in-depth depiction of human nature. In 1951, Yourcenar won the Prix Femina for her novel Mémoires d’Hadrien. This novel is a worldwide success and definitively established her reputation as a major author. In 1968, she again won the Femina Prize for L’oeuvre au noir. At the same time, Yourcenar was the first woman elected member of the French Academy in 1980.
Raymond Queneau (1903-1976) is a French novelist, poet, playwright, co-founder of the literary group Oulipo (Oulipo, Ouvroir de littérature potential). He joined the Gallimard publishing company in 1938 and stayed in the company since then until his death. In 1947, inspired by Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge, he created his work Exercices de style as his experimental novel.
Remember the movie Zazie in the metro? It was adapted from a novel by Raymond Queneau and was directed by French director Louis Mahler. The film tells the story of a little girl “Zazie” coming from the provinces to discover Paris for the first time. She feels the indifference between Parisians and other people. The film is relaxing, fun, and quite ironic, if you haven’t seen it, go try for it!
Georges Perec (1936-1982), a contemporary French vanguard novelist and a cat-lover, his novels feature mostly for their intricate plots and unique narrative style.
Published in 1978, La vie mode d’emploi, is one of the major works in the history of contemporary French literature, and is hailed as a masterpiece of the 20th century by the Italian writer Calvino.
Additionally, due to George Perec’s unique writing style, it’s hard to translate his works into other languages.
(Alain Robbe-Grillet, 1922-2008), French writer and director, representative of the “new novel” genre.
Also called “anti-traditional novel”, the “new novel” is a style of novel that prevailed in the 1950s and 1960s. Works of this style usually attempt to reform the plot, the characters, the themes, the time sequence, and even the language of the novel. Much like the Oulipo literary group featured above, it is looking for a new form of literary writing.
Not satisfied only as a writer, Robbe-Grillet was also passionate about cinema and screenwriting. His novel Last Year at Marienbad was directed by Alain Resnais, and won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival that year (1961).
If these French writers interest you, be sure to go and read their books！