Citations romantiques française

Dive into the minds of great French writers and explore their thoughts on the concept of  love.

The human need for love, to love, and be loved, has caused many wars and many miracles throughout history. Let us look into how famous French authors have tried to express and understand the concept of love, with their own words, in their famous texts.

1.  Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Terre des Hommes (1939)

«Aimer ce n’est point nous regarder l’un l’autre mais regarder ensemble dans la même direction.»

“To love is not to look at each other, but to look together towards the same direction.”                                              

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, the beloved author of Le Petit Prince (The Little Prince) is one of the most well known French Authors in the world. In his autobiographical novel Terre des Hommes (Wind, Sand, and Stars), the writer, aviator, and aristocrat, retells the story of his life and his expeditions as a pilot for the Aéropostale (airmail carrier).


2. Françoise Sagan, Bonjour Tristesse (1954)

« J’ai aimé jusqu’à atteindre la folie. Ce que certains appellent la folie, mais ce qui pour moi, est la seule façon d’aimer. »

"I loved until I reached madness. It is what some call madness, but for me, it is the only way to love."

Françoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse (Hello Sadness) tells the story of a young girl of 17 who meddles with the life of her father resulting in unintended and tragic consequences. Published when she was only 18 years old, Sagan became an overnight success with her scandalous book about the disillusioned French bourgeoise.


3. Simone de Beauvoir, Le Deuxième Sexe (1949)

«Le couple heureux qui se reconnaît dans l'amour défie l'univers et le temps ; il se suffit, il réalise l'absolu.»

"The happy couple who recognizes themselves in love defy the universe and time; it is enough, it realizes the absolute."

French philosopher, feminist, and existentialist, Simon de Beauvoir explores what it is to be a woman in her magnum opus Le Deuxième Sexe (The Second Sex). In her work, she asserts the fundamental existential belief that freedom of the individual, regardless of one's sex, class, or age, should be encouraged, to define oneself and take responsibility of what comes with that freedom. 


4. Albert Camus, Les Justes (1949)

« C'est cela l'amour, tout donner, tout sacrifier sans espoir de retour.»

"This is what love is, giving everything, sacrificing everything without hope of return."

Born in Algeria (during the French colonisation), writer and activist Albert Camus is one of  the literary giants of French literature. His novels, essays, and plays, like L’Étranger (The Stranger)  and La Peste (The Plague), among others, garnered him a Nobel Prize for Literature when he was only 44 years old.  In his play Les Justes (The Just Assassins), Camus fictionalizes the true story of the assassination of Grand Duke Sergei Alexandrovich by Russian Socialist-Revolutionaries, and explores the idea of morality in the fight for freedom, love, and justice.


5. George Sand, Histoire de Ma Vie (1847)

«Voila l'innocence, voilà la perfection, voilà la beauté de l'âme dans celle du corps. Voilà celui que j'aime, que je sers et que je prie. L'amour divin est dans une de ses caresses, et je vois le ciel dans ses yeux bleus.»

"Here is innocence, here is perfection, here is the beauty of the soul in that of the body. This is the one I love, serve and pray for. Divine love is in one of her caresses, and I see the sky in her blue eyes."

Amantine-Lucile-Aurore Dupin, more popularly known by her pen name George Sand, was a romantic writer who played an important role in the spread of feminist consciousness throughout Europe. She was most known for her rustic novels which are stories about the life of common people living in the countryside. Histoire de Ma Vie (The History of My Life), is her first autobiography where she retells the story of her life from before her birth up to the February Revolutions of 1848 in France.


6. Honoré de Balzac, Peines de cœur d'une chatte anglaise (1845)

«L'amour désire jusqu'à l'impossible, et sait se contenter de peu.»

"Love desires even the impossible, and knows how to be satisfied with little."

Peines de cœur d'une chatte anglaise  (The Afflictions of an English Cat) is a story by the famous French novelist and playwright Honoré de Balzac. The story was published in Scènes de la vie privée et publique des animaux (Public and Private Life of animals), a collection of animal fables whose contributors included other famous authors including George Sand, and the publisher Pierre-Jules Hetzel (P. J. Stahl). Balzac is known for his magnum opus La Comédie humaine, a collection of his novels, short stories, and plays, in which he reflected French society in the years after the fall of Napoléon Bonaparte.


7. Molière, Dom Juan (1665)

«Tout le plaisir de l'amour est dans le changement.»

"All the pleasure of love is in change."

Born Jean-Baptiste Poquelin, Molière was a French actor and playwright known for his unique take on comedy. His plays caused much scandal during his time, particularly with the Catholic church, and almost had his plays banned from public performance. However, he was resilient and remained on stage and is known today as one of the greatest French comic dramatists of all time. Molière's Dom Juan or le festin de Pierre (the Feast of Stone) is a French adaptation of the Spanish legend of Don Juan, popularized in Tirso de Molino's play "El burlador de Sevilla"  (The Trickster of Seville and the Stone Guest). 


8. Victor Hugo, Les Misérables (1862)

«Aimer ou avoir aimée, cela suffit. Ne demandez rien ensuite. On n'a pas d'autre perle à trouver dans les plis ténébreux de la vie. Aimer est un accomplissement.»

"To love or to have loved is enough. Don't ask for anything afterwards. There is no other pearl to find in the dark folds of life. Loving is an accomplishment."

Victor Hugo is known in France as one of its greatest poets. Internationally however, he is known for his novels like Notre-Dame de Paris (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) and Les Misérables. A poet, novelist, and playwright, Victor Hugo was a romanticist and an activist whose writings and actions lead to his exile from France in 1851. It was during his exile when he wrote his masterpiece, Les Misérables, a historical novel about the plight of the poor and the outcasts in France, and the rebellion of the republicans against the monarchy. Hugo lived the rest of his life in exile. After his death, his body was returned to France and he was given a national burial where his body was laid in state under the Arc de Triomphe and was then buried in the Panthéon.


9. Marguerite Duras, Les petits chevaux de Tarquinia (1953)

« Il n'y a pas de vacances à l'amour, ça n'existe pas. L'amour, il faut le vivre complètement avec son ennui et tout, il n'y a pas de vacances possibles à ça.»

"There are no vacations from love. Love, it is necessary to live it completely with its boredom and everything; there are no vacations from that"

Marguerite Duras was born in Saigon, French Indochina (current Vietnam) and moved to France when she was 17 years old. A novelist, screenwriter, playwright, and film director, Duras' portfolio of critically acclaimed work include Hiroshima mon amour (Hiroshima, my love),  India Song, and L'amant (The Lover) which won her the prestigious Prix Goncourt in 1984. In her novel  Les petits chevaux de Tarquinia (The Little Horses of Turquinia)," a group on summer vacation, in the same place where they go every year, are desperate for excitement and the cool breeze.  In Duras' famous style of prose, the characters exchange their thoughts, desires, fears, and feelings, in their lethargy and boredom, under the sweltering heat of the Italian sun. 


10. Sylvie Germain, Petites scènes capitales (2013)

«L'amour n'a pas à se parer de grandes déclarations, de gestes et de postures emphatiques, il n'a à s'encombrer de rien, il a juste à être, et à agir là et quand il faut, sans se soucier si on le voit à l'oeuvre.»

"Love does not have to adorn itself with grand declarations, emphatic gestures and postures, it does not have to burden itself with anything, it just has to be, and to act there and when it is necessary, without worrying if we see it at work."

Sylvie Germain is an author of magic realism, with thirteen works in her portfolio some of which have been translated to twenty one languages and have received worldwide acclaim. She has won several awards, most notably for her first three novels: Le livre des nuits (The Book of Nights), Nuit d'ambre (Night of Amber), and Jours de colère (Days of Anger). In her novel Petites scènes capitales (Small Capital Scenes), she writes about Lili, a child who is abandoned by her mother and ends up living with her father's new family. The novel deals with themes of abandonment, family relations, and the search for self identity.


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