Does anyone know of some relatively easy books to read from French literature?
I know people always tell you to start out with children's books, but to be honest, that's not what really interests me and I find most of them boring. I've always been a fan of classic literature because it's a blending of reading and history, two of my favorite things. Would you guys happen to know of some relatively easy authors to read in classic French literature? I was originally looking to read works in the 1700-1800s but if there's not any relatively easy works in that time period I don't know what I'm going to do. I'm fine with looking up obsolete words and all, as long as there's something.
The first books we read in French class were L'étranger, Bonjour Tristesse, and Le Petit Prince. All of these have already been recommended, so I'm seconding the recommendations.
I'll add Le Collier Rouge by Jean-Christope Rufin, which we read in a class at Alliance Française. The class was B2, but I think it was relatively easy and it's short. You might try short stories. I highly recommend this website for purchasing books in French: http://www.europeanbook.com/
If you want to read literature written pre-1800 or even pre-1900ish, you'll need to learn Passé Simple. It's not that difficult but you don't get exposed to it in conversation, so you have to study it. Otherwise, you might be able to find more contemporary literature written about the 1700-1800s. That would probably be much easier.
if you have a book you like very much, try buying the same book in French!!! and then read through the french book, while being able to compare it with the English book you already have (presuming you are first language English of course!!!) and as for classic literature - well, the Bible has some very easy books in it, which contain simple words. Try the first chapter of 1 John.
Search "AP French Literature syllabus" to get reading lists from high school AP classes who post them online. Wikipedia lists the 2008 test reading list:
The works required by the College Board for the 2008 [AP French Literature] exam were:
Moderato Cantabile by Marguerite Duras Le Cid by Pierre Corneille Candide by Voltaire Une Tempête (A Tempest) by Aimé Césaire Pierre et Jean (Pierre and Jean) by Guy de Maupassant L'École des femmes (The School for Wives) by Molière Poems by Charles Baudelaire, Jean de la Fontaine, Joachim du Bellay, Guillaume Apollinaire, and Louise Labé.
I would add Le Petit Prince, which is standard reading for most high school French classes.
One more suggestion - reading translated books. Pick a book from your favorite author or even an English-language book you've already read. I re-read the first Harry Potter book in French. Knowing the story helped me learn new words and work through the text.
What I like best is to read novels that you already read in your native language.
For example, I'm reading A song of ice and fire in German and as I already read it in English before (I'm French), it's easy to follow what is happening. It's a rather hard book to read, but it's fine as I already know the story.
This way, you get the benefits of a complex language while being able to follow the text.
Also, using an audiobook is great as you learn to make the link between sound and text, knowing how to pronounce words is often the hardest part when you learn new words.
Bonus: this is an outstanding reading of a rather famous French novel, which a great animation behind. This isn't reading though.
L'Homme qui Plantait des Arbres - 1987 - Frederic Back, Jean Giono, Philippe Noiret https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwU85WUZPqk
I don't know if you considered Jules Verne's books as well (they're more young adult, I think), if not you should give him a try, he can be challenging, especially at the beginning, but probably less so than others and he's quite interesting to read.
And how about comics? They're often self explainatory thanks to the images, contain a lot of dialog, words and useful expressions (look for bande dessinée on Amazon, for example).
Georges Simenon a un style assez simple. Ses livres sont courts.
Guillaume Musso, qui vend beaucoup de livres actuellement, est un auteur assez facile à lire. il a un grand succès.
Jacques Prévert est un poète qui utilise une langue très simple et j'espère facile à lire pour un locuteur étranger.
Wolf Pup books has bilingual editions of French classics available for e-readers.
It's a bit before the 18th century, but a huge classic is "Les fables de la Fontaine" (a collection of 'moral' poems). Something most children learn very early. You can see for yourself if it is manageable for you.
Le Corbeau et le Renard
Maître Corbeau, sur un arbre perché,
Tenait en son bec un fromage.
Maître Renard, par l’odeur alléché,
Lui tint à peu près ce langage :
« Hé ! bonjour Monsieur du Corbeau.
Que vous êtes joli ! que vous me semblez beau !
Sans mentir, si votre ramage
Se rapporte à votre plumage,
Vous êtes le Phénix des hôtes de ces bois. »
À ces mots le Corbeau ne se sent pas de joie ;
Et pour montrer sa belle voix,
Il ouvre un large bec, laisse tomber sa proie.
Le Renard s’en saisit, et dit : « Mon bon Monsieur,
Apprenez que tout flatteur
Vit aux dépens de celui qui l’écoute.
Cette leçon vaut bien un fromage, sans doute. »
Le Corbeau, honteux et confus,
Jura, mais un peu tard, qu’on ne l’y prendrait plus.
As-tu eu l'occasion de lire ce que Jean-Jacques Rousseau, en 1762, pensait des fables de La Fontaine qu'on donne à apprendre aux écoliers ? http://michel.balmont.free.fr/pedago/fablesx/emile.html
Je ne l'avais pas lu jusqu'à présent non, mais ça ne m'a pas empêché de trouver ces fables très critiquables moralement (d'où mes guillemets autour de "moral"), et ce depuis mon enfance (même pour un enfant la chute de la Cigale et la Fourmi, par exemple, est très discutable). Du coup, je trouve certaines critiques de Rousseau intéressantes et peut-être que ces fables sont en effet enseignées trop tôt (surtout concernant la forme, parce que sur de nombreux points je sous-estime beaucoup moins les enfants que Rousseau).
Ceci dit, ça ne change pas le fait que ces fables restent des classiques, et je suppose que la personne qui recherche de la littérature du 18ème est au moins un adolescent, donc avec un esprit critique assez développé pour se faire son propre avis sur ces textes. Concernant la forme, c'est en effet assez complexe pour quelqu'un qui apprend le français, raison pour laquelle je lui laisse voir par lui-même si il pense que c'est abordable.
A mon sens, le principal avantage de ces textes pour quelqu'un qui s'intéresse à la littérature classique de cette époque et ne maîtrise pas complètement le français c'est qu'ils sont courts.
Look for the 20th century authors as they use the modern language. Books I read in class were Chemin de Fer, Bonjour Tristesse, Le Petit Prince, Hiroshima Mon Amour to name ones I can remember. Camus has other books as well. Magazine articles are good too. If you don't mind comics I like the Asterix series.
There are a lot of wonderful suggestions in the comments already. I would suggest to look into "bandes dessinées" too, because it's a huge genre in the French literary world (much more important than graphic novels in English, I believe). Tintin, Astérix et Obélix, Cédric, Lucky Luke, Gaston Lagaffe, Boule et Bill, Spirou and even les Schtroumphs are great for kids, but for adults there are many series with more adult themes : Largo Winch, for example. If what you really want to read are novels, blending history and fiction, then my favorite author is Alexandre Dumas. More recently I also loved the works of Maryse Rouy (Québécois author): Azalaïs, Les Bourgeois de Minerve...
I should like to suggest the classic Le Grand Meaulnes by Alain Fournier. It is the only book he wrote as he was killed during the first weeks of WW1. The book is widely read in schools I believe and there are not too many pages. (I have only read it in English.) There is also a film called 'The Wanderer' which I saw many years ago based on this book too.