No country has won as many Nobel Prizes for Literature as has France – 15 in total. The first winner ever was Frenchman Sully Prudhomme (barely heard of today), and others include Provencal poet Frédéric Mistral, novelist Anatole France, André Gide, Albert Camus, Saint-John Perse, and Jean-Paul Sartre, amongst others.
I started reading French literature in my teens, when I discovered the fabulous Dumas series of The Three Musketeers which taught me lots of French history, and the memorable The Count of Monte Cristo. I wept over Balzac’s superb novel Eugénie Grandet about the daughter of a miser, and read Zola’s powerful Germinal (and then watched Gérard Depardieu in a fabulous TV adaptation – by the way, are there any adaptations of French novels that do NOT have Gérard Depardieu in them?).
Sadly, my French has never been good enough to read these works in the original, but they gave me a deep love of French literature. And French writers all seem to have led such wonderfully colourful lives – mistresses galore, vast debts, larger-than-life personalities, fabulous food and even the writing of cookbooks, and so often gorgeous residences as their homes.
I’ve been revisiting all this in creating my new video talk – ‘Susannah’s Top Ten Places in Literary France’. It lasts for 85 minutes and will take you on a journey through glorious French countryside and chateaux, into a prison, a windmill and a medical history museum, amongst other places, and it will introduce you to some of the extraordinary personalities of French literature.
Choosing only 10 was incredibly difficult, but I did so love (in this time of NO travel) revisiting this utterly stunning part of the world. If you buy this new video talk, you can sit back and enjoy some virtual travel with me. Vive la France!