Few countries have housed writers whose works are as enduring and celebrated as the French. From Victor Hugo, Voltaire, Marcel Proust, and Emile Zola, to heartwarming French Canadian tales by Gabrielle Roy and Rich Carrier, French authors have brought us some of the best stories throughout the decades. This list looks at some of the best works from classic French writers and Canadian favourites alike, exploring the importance of French literature and the French voice. Each of these works has been translated from française and is performed for English-speaking audiences while maintaining the famous French style that makes these short stories, novels and audiobooks the classics that they are.

The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories

Roch Carrier is one of Canada’s most beloved French authors, and certainly one of the best-known authors from Quebec. Carrier is an established short story author, having penned a number of notable tales, which can be found in the collection The Hockey Sweater and Other Stories. Each of these stories shows a piece of French Canadian and Quebecois life, highlighting this rich and unique Canadian culture. His works are an important part of Canada's French Literary scene, and the Canadian literary landscape in general.

“The Hockey Sweater” is a true Canadian classic tale and a must-listen for any fan of French authors. This much-loved short story, translated by Sheila Fischman, tells the tale of a young boy and his love for the hockey team, the Montreal Canadiens, and their star player Maurice Richard. Originally a children's picture book, it has been adapted into a cartoon and this delightful audiobook.

The story (and the others in this title) are also narrated by Carrier, adding authenticity and depth to the reading. Carrier's warm, distinct French Canadian accent matches perfectly with the content and carries it to the listener with ease. Whether listening to “The Hockey Sweater” itself, or any of his other stories from this collection, audiences will fall in love with the charming and honest depictions of life in Canada, and the tale of French Canadian life.

Rue Deschambault

Gabrielle Roy is another French Canadian author that is a must feature for this list. Her stories are largely autobiographical or at least pull heavily on experiences from her own life. “Rue Deschambault” ( “Street of Riches,” in English) focuses a lot on the social and cultural divide between the English-speaking and French-speaking communities in Canada, and the inherent divide caused by differences in language, culture, and heritage.

“Rue Deschambault,” and Roy's other stories have an important role in French Canadian literature and are some of the best French representations of Canadian writing. Roy grew up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, not an inherently French city, but one where both English-speaking and French-speaking Canadians live side by side. This formed much of the foundation for stories such as “Rue Deschambault,” and is a distinctly Canadian experience many listeners can relate to and learn from.

Both Rue Deschambault and Bonheur D'Occasion have been translated by Dorothée Berryman and Marie-Pierre Beausejour respectively. The titles are written and narrated in French, (which is something to note for English-only audiences) and are a noteworthy part of the landscape of both Canadian literature and the Canadian French voice.

Mauve Desert

No list of French authors (especially Canadian ones) would be complete without Nicole Brossard. Brossard holds the Order of Canada and Order of Quebec for the impact her literature has had on the nation. Her novels and poems explore feminist themes and challenge the typically male dominate nature of French literature, and the French language more widely. Her writings and novels such as Mauve Desert tackle these challenges head on, and played an important role in establishing a strong female French Canadian voice throughout the late 60s, 70s and 80s.

Brossard has written a wide variety of works, many of which, like Mauve Desert, were translated into English. Her voice helped to spark a feminist French Revolution in Canadian literature, establishing both her beliefs and the need for diversity within the literary world at the time. Her works speak both to the French population of Canada, as well as more widely to the Canadian identity in general and the conflicts born from having both strong French and English-speaking communities throughout the nation’s history.

The Mauve Desert English adaptation is narrated by Allegra Fulton. Her soft voice brings a calm and delicate tone to the strong and distinct novel, which in turn adds to the duality and dichotomies in the novel itself. Fulton's voice is at once soothing and sultry, which brings power and presence to the feminist French authorial voice of Nicole Brossard.

Cousin Bette

The great Honore de Balzac is renowned for being one of the founders of realism within European literature. He was born in and lived in Paris in the 19th century and wrote a large number of novels, plays, novellas, and short stories. His realist style brought to life the worlds and characters within his works, showcasing a depth and level of detail not often seen prior to his works. His classic, signature style was foundational in shaping the way in which writing moved forward both during his time and after his death.

No list of classic French authors would be complete without him, as his body of work shaped so much of the world of French literature, and was such a strong part of the early French voice. From his first novel in 1829, Les Chouans, to the works incomplete at the time of his early death, he expressed characters that felt truly real—with all their flaws, triumphs and emotions. This depiction of literary characters as neither wholly good nor wholly evil was not seen (at least not widely) before him, and his work was revolutionary in influencing many French novelists that came after him.

Cousin Bette is one of his more popular works, translated in English and narrated by Johanna by Johanna Ward. Ward's crisp English voice adds a sense of time and importance to the work fitting for the setting of 18th Century Paris. This work, or any title by Honore de Balzac, is a must-listen for anyone looking to explore the world of great French authors.

The Second Sex

For anyone fascinated by French authors, the work of Simone de Beauvoir absolutely cannot be missed. She too was born in Paris, France in 1908, and is praised for being an acclaimed writer, social theorist, feminist and political activist. Her writings helped to shape feminist existentialism and feminist theory, making her an important fixture in French literature and feminist theory alike.

Her book The Second Sex was, and remains, an influential piece of feminist writing and feminist history. Beauvoir raised the question of gender identity in a way never expressed before, and the questions her book sparked live at the heart of conversations about feminism and gender even today. Her famous line "One is not born but becomes a woman" shaped a new way of thinking about how gender is a social construct, trained into women and girls from a young age, rather than being simply a set of traits everyone of a born sex has inherently.

Simone de Beauvoir was a truly influential writer, and titles like The Second Sex form part of an essential canon for understanding the French voice, French identity, and in this case, the female identity. She is a must-listen for anyone seeking to dive into classic French literature and explore some of the best thinkers and writers France has to offer.

The Stranger

One of the most well respected French authors, Albert Camus won the 1957 Nobel Prize in Literature when he was only 44, making him the second-youngest recipient of the award in history. He wrote a number of influential and respected titles including The Stranger, an acclaimed novella. Though he was born in French Algeria, he later moved to Paris where he became part of the French resistance during World War II. There he worked on an outlawed newspaper, becoming a strong voice for change and resistance within France.

Camus was influential in both his resistance writing and his novels and novellas. He was a founder of what later became known as absurdism, and his philosophical views were thought to embody existentialism, though he did not identify this way. A political writer and essayist, he is an important part of classic French literary history. The Stranger was published in 1946 and has since been renowned as an excellent work of fiction, as well as an influential novel in terms of writing style. Its themes of “otherness” and how it emphasizes the lack of meaning in the characters' life is what gave rise to the absurdist movement that followed.

The adaptation of The Stranger is narrated by Adriel Brandt, who brings a steady pace and tone to the classic work. Brandt has narrated several Audible works and his experience shows through in this excellent performance. Listeners will love this classic tale which is both an engaging story and an important piece of French literature.

La Vagabonde

Colette was a 20th Century French author whose works were highly acclaimed and are considered French classics even today. She won or was nominated for several awards, and her works were adapted into stage plays and movies. La Vagabond received several votes for the prestigious Prix Goncourt award, and is still thought to be a shining piece of literature over a century after its initial release.

Colette is an important addition to this list of classic French authors not only for her prestige, but for her ability to withstand the test of time. Though written long ago, Colette's depictions of relationships, and the exchanges between her male and female characters is masterful, meaningful, and relatable even today. Many of her tales depict strong female characters, and romance stories that are unconventional for their time. Colette’s women do not always follow the course societally expected of them. This strength of character is what makes these works so powerful and timeless.

Johanna Ward narrates Audible's English translation of La Vagabonde adding all the style, strength and emotion the story needs in her clear commending voice. A story as impactful now as it was when it was first published, La Vagabonde, and Colette's works more generally, are must-listens for anyone interested in exploring more of what the French Classics have to offer.

The Count of Monte Cristo

Alexandre Dumas is a French literary master, and his classic best seller, The Count of Monte Cristo, is a must on any list of French authors. Dumas is one of the most widely read French writers, and his work has been translated into a variety of languages. His novels, originally written as serials, are some of the most well-known and loved French stories of all time, and have surpassed their French lit status to simply be some of the most famous stories, period.

Classics such as The Three Musketeers have had countless adaptations as plays, cartoons, and a number of movies, and the work is so popular the the title has become a saying for any tight knit group of three people. This appropriation of "The Three Musketeers" into everyday language is a marker of just how widespread and influential Dumas's work is. Similarly, The Count of Monte Cristo, a gripping tale of a falsely accused young man, is a beloved work of fiction which has continued to be a popular story throughout the many decades.

The works of Dumas have become so well known, that even those that don't know the story, know the names of his books. For anyone that hasn't heard the original stories—despite perhaps having seen film adaptations—the original tales are just as gripping and enticing. The audiobook adaptation of The Count of Monte Cristo is a must-listen experience that will pull in any listener, whether they’re new to the story or a longtime fan.

Madame Bovary

Even those that may not know Gustave Flaubert will likely have heard of Madame Bovary. Flaubert was also a leader in the realm of French Literary Realism. His most well-known title, Madame Bovary depicted a much more realistic display of bourgeois life than was the norm in literature at the time. This more realistic take on literature moved away from the sentimentalism that came before and helped spur a move towards more true-to-life stories and characters in French literature.

Flaubert's works were so much a part of this movement that they have become classic tales, and important titles in the study of French writing. His stories, including Madame Bovary, have been adapted into plays, operas and various film versions, showcasing just how beloved the story continues to be.

Flaubert's titles also translate exceptionally well to audiobooks, as their real nature and emotive characters are all the more compelling when brought to life by a talented performer. It was this move towards realism that drew in readers and continues to draw listeners to this day. This features an adaptation of the novel read exceptionally by Fiona Glascott.

Les Misérables

Is there any greater French classic than Victor Hugo? Widely regarded as the greatest French writer, he was part of the Romantic movement in the 19th century. Hugo had a long career, writing for some 60 years, and publishing works in a wide variety of genres. His best-known work, however, was poetic and romantic in nature, with many of his stories focusing on political or social injustices, and both the beauty and horror of human nature.

The Hunchback of Notre Dame is a well-known and cherished French story that both paints a picture of Notre-dame de Paris, and delivers emotive, engaging and complex characters. This well-known story has been adapted many times and remains a favourite among young and old audiences alike (due in part to its classic Disney animated film adaptation). Regardless of the star power associated with it, the story itself is powerful and deeply compelling.

Similarly, Hugo's most famous title, Les Miserables, is one that simply cannot be missed. This French historical novel is one of the most well-known stories to come out of France and depicts the trials and history of a country in turmoil. Not only is it political, but it is beautifully tragic, romantic, nationalist and critical all at once. This moving tale was and remains so popular that it has been translated countless times, and adapted seemingly endlessly on stage and film. Hugo wrote many other influential French novels, novellas, short stories and poems which both emphasized and forged the romantic movement of French Literature making him a pillar of French writing, and one of the greatest French authors of all time.