For my "independent study" class, I want to read some classics that either take place in France or were written by a well-known French author. I've already read The Count of Monte Cristo and Les Miserables and loved them! I'm thinking about reading The Hunchback of Notre Dam, but I thought it would be better to get a feel for a different author besides Victor Hugo. If anyone has a good suggestion, I'd be very happy to hear it! I need to find a French novel, but if there's a classic that I should be sure not to miss, feel free to add it. Thanks!
You have to read Le Petit Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery if you have not already read it. It is a beautiful book and if you have read it in English do not think you are finished because the French original has a lot more power and meaning than the English translation. After reading it in French, I was appalled by the very literal English version and felt almost as if I should rewrite it to capture more of the original meaning. Although many people consider it a children's book they fail to realize its depth and the fact that it can have almost any interpretation after reading. It's certainly a thought provoking book and I think it counts as a classic although it is very small and simple. (And Notre-Dame de Paris, or The Hunchback of Notre Dame, is also very good, but very depressing. Le Petit Prince is not so dark if you want to get away from that sort of thing.)
"The Three Musketeers" by Alexandre Dumas is a must. He does not go off on 100 page tangents, like Hugo. Every page, every paragraph, every word moves the story along. Although there are many good translations out there, you should read it in French, if you can.
french literature, like french movies, commonly focus on man's relation with god and/or mighty forces bigger then ourselves. this means, then, that we must be ready to digress, to explore and perhaps even take a 180 turn. reading proust has turned my world; and he, like hugo, waits to invite you to change your life. in my opinion, proust gives us the greatest instruction on how to transform our soul and lives.
First of all: Balzac. From him, you begin to get to serious French literature. Pere Goriot is the place to begin. Then, Flaubert. Madame Bovary is of course great, ditto Sentimental Education. Stendhal's Red & Black and Charterhouse of Parma are wonderful! The best Nineteenth Century writer, though, in my opinion is Zola. In him you get the marriage of stylistic brilliance and virtuosity and a deeper vision of the world, society, and history; he's not a bystander musing with savage irony the way the wonderful Stendhal is, but he's a passionate and omniscient participant, especially in The Debacle, a novel immersed and enmeshed in the daily lives of soldiers and revolutionaries. The Twentieth Century is an easier pick: Proust. All of A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. It's the great modernist novel in Nineteenth Century dress. I do love Celine's Journey to the end of Night and Camus' The Stranger and The Plague, not to be discounted. Have a happy life-time's reading, as have I!