21 French Short Stories You’ll Want to Read Again and Again
Reading is one of the main French skills you need to know to become fluent.
While it may seem tedious to read, short stories can be a powerful French learning technique as they don’t take too much time to complete.
This post contains 21 of the best French short stories for you to use for your next quick study session!
- 1. “Fables Choisies Pour Les Enfants”
- 2. “Cendrillon”
- 3. “Le Chat Botté”
- 4. “Aux Champs”
- 5. “Contes de la Bécasse”
- 6. “Trois Contes”
- 7. “Le Curé de Tours”
- 8. “Nouvelles Orientales”
- 9. “Le Passe-muraille”
- 10. “La Grande Bretèche”
- 11. “Les Choses”
- 12. “Un papillon dans la Cité”
- 13. “Moderato Cantabile”
- 14. “L’étranger”
- 15. “Huis Clos”
- 16. “Pierre et Jean”
- 17. “Avatar”
- 18. “Un Drame dans les Airs”
- 19. “Boucles d’or et les Trois Ours”
- 20. “Le Premier Noël de Bonbon”
- 21. “L’Histoire de L’Éclipse”
1. “Fables Choisies Pour Les Enfants”
This is a collection of classic short stories by Jean de la Fontaine. The stories have been staples of children’s literature for generations.
Most involve a cast of animal characters, such as “Le Tortue et le Lievre” (“The Tortoise and the Hare”).
While these stories are meant for children, they are quite old so keep in mind that some of the writing may be a bit archaic.
“Cendrillon” (Cinderella) is perhaps the most well-known fairy tale of all.
It is the famous story of a young woman who is mistreated by her stepmother and stepsisters, but ends up marrying a prince.
You likely know this classic, so you can focus on the French in this one without having to worry too much about the plot.
3. “Le Chat Botté”
In this classic tale, a young man is disappointed because he receives nothing but a cat from his father’s inheritance.
However, this shrewd cat turns out to be extremely useful to the man.
The story is not very long, and it introduces you to the passé simple (simple past), which is only used in writing.
4. “Aux Champs”
If you are in for something more dark and thought-provoking, this story is for you.
This is the story of two poor families that receive an offer from a rich couple to adopt one of the poor children and pay the parents generously.
This story is one of the more challenging stories on this list, due to its literary and older language style (19th century).
5. “Contes de la Bécasse”
“Contes de la bécasse” is Guy de Maupassant’s collection of short stories.
These follow the friends of a baron as they each have to tell their own story.
The stories are fun and you can even read the entire collection online for free!
6. “Trois Contes”
This is yet another collection of short stories, this time by Gustave Flaubert.
There are three stories in this collection: “Un cœur simple,” “La légende de Saint-Julien l’hospitalier” and “Hérodias.”
All the stories are different, but each just as inspiring.
7. “Le Curé de Tours”
“Le Curé de Tours” is a short story by Honore de Balzac that’s perfect for a beginner as the prose tends to be easy to read.
The story is one of the best known of Balzac’s works as it follows two priests that are very different in personality and in ambition.
The story follows their adventures and mishaps in the city, as well as their interactions with different people.
8. “Nouvelles Orientales”
This is the perfect book for diving into the works of 20th century women in French literature.
Marguerite Yourcenar was the first woman elected to the Académie française, which is no small feat.
This collection contains 10 works revolving around Eastern themes.
The stories are modern and full of symbolism that is sure to stimulate you intellectually and linguistically.
9. “Le Passe-muraille”
This 20th century short story is a fun one to read for those who have visited Paris, as a tribute to the novel stands on the square bearing the name of the author.
“Le Passe-muraille” tells the story of a man who can walk through walls…until he can’t.
10. “La Grande Bretèche”
This piece is one of the short stories that make up Honoré de Balzac’s La Comedie Humaine (“The Human Comedy”).
In “La Grande Bretèche” a traveller stumbles on an abandoned manor, where the lawyer of the late owner tells the story of the house.
While this is a favorite, I recommend you read any of the stories in this collection for a great look into 19th century literature.
11. “Les Choses”
George Perec’s “Les Choses” (“Things”) is a great short story for picking up on vocabulary.
“Les Choses” recounts the life of a young couple in Paris just after World War II.
As members of the first postwar generation touched by modern consumerism, they struggle to afford their lavish lifestyles on middle class salaries.
12. “Un papillon dans la Cité”
“Un papillon dans la cité” (“A Butterfly in the Projects”), by Gisèle Pineau, recounts life in Paris from an immigrant’s perspective.
Young Felicia moves from her native Guadeloupe to live with her mother in Paris, growing up between two cultures.
This is a great story that highlights immigration and multiculturalism, which are important themes in the French world.
13. “Moderato Cantabile”
“Moderato Cantabile,” by Marguerite Duras, is the epitome of 20th century French literature.
A wealthy couple moves to a “backward” coastal town, where the wife witnesses a murder.
This book captures a France in its transition away from the traditional pre-war society towards the sensational liberation that characterized the Nouvelle Vague (New Wave) movement.
No list of classic French stories would be complete without mentioning “L’étranger” (“The Stranger”) by Albert Camus.
In Algiers, a Frenchman named Meursault kills an Algerian man on the beach and then has to cope with the consequences of his actions.
“L’étranger” is a relatively easy read for all levels of French.
15. “Huis Clos”
Although technically a play, “Huis Clos” (“No Exit”) deserves mention for being written by one of France’s greatest short-form writers, Jean-Paul Sartre.
In this story, three cruel people die and find themselves trapped together in a gloomy room for eternity.
The story has a great diversity of vocabulary, which may make it better for the more advanced learner.
16. “Pierre et Jean”
Another Maupassant masterpiece, “Pierre et Jean” (“Pierre and Jean”) follows two very opposite brothers who inherit a fortune and grow apart.
The dialogue can be quite complex, but this is a great way to expose yourself to some older French literature.
A short story treasure from the 19th century by the famous French novelist Théophile Gautier, “Avatar” tells the fantastic story of Octave de Saville.
Madly in love with the countess Prascovie Labinska, he hires a doctor to put him in the body of her husband.
18. “Un Drame dans les Airs”
No list of French short stories would be complete without mentioning one of Jules Verne’s many short texts.
In this one, a stranger forces his way into a hot air balloon of partygoers and forces them to drop the ballast and climb ever higher, while relating stories of air travel.
Like most of Verne’s stories, this includes lots of technical vocabulary!
19. “Boucles d’or et les Trois Ours”
Yet another classic, this French version of “Goldilocks and the Three Bears” is sure to be an easy read.
“Boucles d’or et les Trois Ours” is filled with useful verbs and imparfait conjugations.
20. “Le Premier Noël de Bonbon”
Yes, bonbon is the French word for candy, but it’s also the name of the precious lead puppy in this book.
This story teaches readers a lot of vocabulary related to winter and Christmas.
I would recommend “Le Premier Noël de Bonbon” for intermediate readers since some vocabulary is advanced.
21. “L’Histoire de L’Éclipse”
Four French learners created this adorable story about the eclipse.
There’s lots of imparfait practice as well as plenty of vocabulary about the sky and outer space.
Since it was written by students, this story has a great learning-based perspective.
Voilà! (There it is!) Now you have a whole library of French short stories to help you practice your French reading skills!