where to buy french books in melbourne bastille day french festival melbourne

Some say France has produced the best works of literature in the world! The statistics seem to agree: France has produced more Nobel laureates in Literature than any other nation, at a whopping 17! So where, in Melbourne, can you indulge in France’s rich literary culture?

If you are French speaking, here are some librairies to pick-up your favourite French novel:

If you are still mastering la langue française, here are some English language bookshops:

  • Readings – many locations but the Carlton one is the original and best: 309 Lygon St, Carlton VIC 3053
  • The Avenue Bookshop – like Readings it has multiple shops but the Albert Park one is the largest:  127 Dundas Pl, Albert Park VIC 3206
french book bookshelf bastille day french festival melbourne
So many books to read, but where to start?

Here is my guide to the must-reads of the French literary canon.

Blessed with grandparents of both Polish and French origin, my exposure to culture was greatly assured. 

I grew up reading from a collection of many twentieth-century French writers, thanks to my grandmother’s and mother’s fixation on literature and reading in general. As an older teen, I went through a French – somewhat romantic – phase and still recall today, the poetically evocative rural scenes as expressed in Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier. From there, I heartily consumed novels by Guy de Maupassant, Boule de Suif being a favourite. From there, I moved on to the novels of French female authors that my grandmother had also collected, especially the works of Colette, The Vagabond and Gigi among my most cherished. Later I discovered the novellas of Anaïs Nin and most importantly the work of Simone de Beauvoir. What tours de force they were!

maupassant french books bastille day french festival melbourne
Guy de Maupassant – a childhood favourite

I inherited a copy of Carlyle’s The History of the French Revolution from my grandfather; it is now so tattered that the pages are now held together by a ribbon!

I still often think about Flaubert’s Madame Bovary and think it could be time for a 21st-century film version (perhaps with a far more female viewpoint). But my most treasured of all these books is my copy of Moulin Rouge by Pierre La Mure, left to me by my grandmother before I even was born. This book is actually about the life of Henri de Tolouse-Lautrec, and frankly set the scene for living my own art and carnival-style life.

So, as ‘The curtain rises’ (the opening chapter of the aforementioned novel) on the 2021 Bastille Day French Festival, I hope my French influences and subsequent touches will pay a small homage to France, the Melbourne French community, and francophiles, like me. 

À bientôt, Marisia.