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:
- Language International Bookshop – 13-15 Station Street, Kew East, VIC, 3102
- Continental Bookshop – order online
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
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!
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.