The middle ages marked the beginning of French literature. Despite the absence of a uniform language, Tristan and Iseult, Occitan, and other literary pieces were created. Until now, the 16th century work of François Rabelais, the Gargantua and Pantagruel, remains well-known. Michel de Montaigne was also famous during the 16th century courtesy of his work Essais. La Princesse de Clèves, hailed as one of the very first psychological novels of all times, was written by Madame de La Fayette who was popular during the 17th century. Fables also became a hit during that century, and the most popular fabulist of all was Jean de La Fontaine, who wrote legendary fables such as The Ant and the Grasshopper.
French literature even flourished during the 18th and 19th centuries. Puss in Boots, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty were created during this century, authored by Charles Perrault who became a famous fairy tale writer. Symbolist poetry emerged on the 19th century and became a relevant part of French literature. Acclaimed symbolist poets during that time were Charles Baudelaire, Stéphane Mallarm, and Paul Verlaine.
French literature became known all over the world because of exemplary literary works of great authors such as Victor Hugo, who is considered as the greatest French writer of all times. Two of his most popular literary pieces are The Hunchback of Notre Dame and Les Miserables. The works of Alexandre Dumas—the County of Monte Cristo and The Three Musketeers-- were legendary as well.
The Prix Goncourt, an award-giving body for deserving French writers, was founded in 1903. During this time, more French authors became famous, such as the likes of Antoine de Saint Exupéry who wrote the all-time favourite children story The Little Prince. Marcel Proust, Louis-Ferdinand Céline, Albert Camus, and Jean-Paul Sartre also became famous French authors in the 20th century.