French Short Stories

These stories were written by French authors. I believe all the selections were originally written in french and later translated.

Short Stories from France

A Passion in the Desert | Honore de Balzac

A captured French soldier escapes but gets stranded in the desert, and encounters a panther.

Read “A Passion in the Desert”

The Mysterious Mansion | Honore de Balzac

A man’s landlady tells him part of the story of an old dilapidated house involving a Spanish prisoner of war. It’s unclear what became of him so the man tries to get the rest of the details from the housekeeper.

Read “The Mysterious Mansion”

The Atheist’s Mass | Honore de Balzac

Desplein was a lauded physician, brilliant and a staunch atheist. Despite this, his protégé, Bianchon, saw Desplein attending mass. Bianchon relates Desplein’s story to explain this discrepancy.

Read “The Atheist’s Mass”

The Guest | Albert Camus

An Arab prisoner is brought to the home of a teacher, Daru, who’s supposed to deliver the man to police headquarters. He doesn’t want to do it, but the Arab’s soldier escort leaves him there anyway.

Read “The Guest”

The Other Wife | Colette

A husband and wife go to a restaurant for supper. The man sees his ex-wife seated at a nearby table. The man and his new wife talk about his ex.

Read “The Other Wife”

The Hidden Woman | Colette

A husband and wife talk about the possibility of going to a costume ball where licentious behavior is common. The man says he has to make an out-of-town call on a patient; the woman demurs because of all the strangers there who could touch her.

The Substitute | Francois Coppee

Jean Leturc has been in trouble with the law since he was ten. After many years he finds legitimate work and tries to go straight.

Read “The Substitute”

The Ensign | Alphonse Daudet

A French regiment is holding their position on the banks of a railway. They keep their flag flying despite the advance of a Prussian force. Twenty-two officers fall before Sergeant Hornus takes over the job.

Read “The Ensign”

The Last Lesson | Alphonse Daudet

Near the end of the Franco-Prussian War, a schoolboy gets his last lesson in French because the Prussian authorities have outlawed teaching French in schools.

Read “The Last Lesson”

Our Lady’s Juggler | Anatole France

A poor but adept juggler travels and puts on performances. Eventually, he joins a monastery, and sees the monks using their abilities to praise God, making him wonder what he has to offer.

Read “Our Lady’s Juggler”

The Procurator of Judea | Anatole France

Aelius Lamia has a chance encounter with his old friend Pontius Pilate. Pilate retired early from public service. They discuss the things that he had to deal with from the Roman authorities and the Jews.

Read “The Procurator of Judea”

The Mummy’s Foot | Theophile Gautier

A man goes to a curiosity shop looking for a paperweight. He buys a mummified foot that is supposedly the four-thousand-year-old foot of Egyptian princess Hermonthis. Later that night he has a strange episode.

Read “The Mummy’s Foot”

The Doctor’s Heroism | Villiers De L’isle Adam

Doctor Hallidonhill is a renowned lung specialist with a steady stream of patients. One day a man in terrible condition comes to see him. He is tall, has enlarged pupils, is emaciated, and he’s looking for help.

The Torture of Hope | Villiers de L’isle Adam

Rabbi Abarbanel has been held in a dungeon and tortured for a year for usury and scorn for the poor. One day the Rabbi sees a sliver of light between the door and wall; he tries the door and finds it unlocked.

Read “The Torture of Hope”

Coco | Guy de Maupassant

A young farmhand beats and starves a nag in his care.

Read “Coco”

Boule de Suif | Guy de Maupassant

The Prussian army advances while the French army retreats. Ten passengers are given clearance to board a carriage and leave the city, with the possibility of crossing into England. Among the passengers is Boule de Suif, a prostitute who has to make a moral decision that will affect the whole group.

Read “Boule de Suif”

A Dead Woman’s Secret | Guy de Maupassant

A dead woman’s adult children, a judge and a nun, sit vigil and read her old letters which reveal a secret from her past.

Read “A Dead Woman’s Secret”

The Dowry | Guy de Maupassant

Simon and Jeanne are newly married. Simon plans to use Jeanne’s large dowry to buy a legal practice. They take a trip to Paris to enjoy each others company and to make the purchase.

Read “The Dowry”

The Necklace | Guy de Maupassant

Mathilde borrows a necklace from a rich friend to wear to a party, but she loses it.

Read “The Necklace”

Two Little Soldiers | Guy de Maupassant

Two soldiers take a weekly Sunday rest and meal at a little spot in the country. They become acquainted with a milk maid who passes by.

Read “Two Little Soldiers”

Regret | Guy de Maupassant

A sixty-two year old bachelor thinks about his lonely life, and of a woman that he has always loved.

Read “Regret”

The Kiss | Guy de Maupassant

A woman is upset when her husband leaves. Her aunt thinks she kissed her husband too much, so she explains the power of and proper use of the kiss.

Read “The Kiss”

The Jewels (The False Gems) | Guy de Maupassant

Monsieur Lantin is a government clerk. He and his wife are very happy. He is amazed by his wife’s ability to handle their finances. Madame Lantin has two vices: she loves going to the theatre and she loves jewelry – she comes home nearly every night with a new piece of costume jewelry.

Read “The Jewels”

A Piece of String | Guy de Maupassant

A man is walking to the market one day when he stops to pick up a piece of string. Soon after, it is reported that a wallet with 500 francs was lost. His act of picking up something makes him a suspect. He vehemently denies any guilt.

Read “A Piece of String”

The Christening | Guy de Maupassant

A doctor recounts the christening custom of his god-son’s people, where the baby is left exposed to the cold.

Read “The Christening”

The Vendetta | Guy de Maupassant

A widow’s son is murdered by a man who then flees to Sardinia. The boy’s mother vows to take revenge against her son’s killer.

Read “The Vendetta”

Mother Sauvage | Guy de Maupassant

The narrator’s old acquaintance tells him the story of Mother Sauvage. Her son went to war fighting the Prussians. Meanwhile, Prussian forces occupy her home territory, and she has four soldiers assigned to live in her home. Both sides understand the situation, and she treats them well. When she gets news of her son’s death her attitude toward them changes.

Read “Mother Sauvage”

The Confession | Guy De Maupassant

A woman makes a death-bed confession to her older sister about something that happened over 40 years ago.

Read “The Confession”

Bellflower | Guy de Maupassant

A narrator gives us a recollection of the life of Mother Bellflower, an old seamstress with a bad leg and a mysterious past.

Read “Bellflower”

Two Friends | Guy de Maupassant

Two men, now members of the Paris National Guard because of an attack by Prussian soldiers, meet up with each other in the street. They reminisce about the fishing they did before the war, and decide to try and go back to their fishing spot, even though it’s in no man’s land.

Read “Two Friends”

The Taking of the Redoubt | Prosper Merimee

A young soldier has to capture a Russian held fort. The company is discouraged after suffering heavy casualties and seeing a bad sign in the sky.

Read “The Taking of the Redoubt”

Mateo Falcone | Prosper Merimee

It is seventeenth century Corsica in a dangerous region. Fortunato, a ten-year-old boy, is outside alone when he hears gunshots and a wounded man appears. He knows Fortunato’s father and asks for help to hide from pursuing soldiers.

Read “Mateo Falcone”

The Wall | Jean-Paul Sartre

Pablo is accused of being a war criminal. He is held in a cell with two other men. They are all informed they will be executed. They each deal with the news differently.

Read “The Wall”

Jeannot and Colin | Voltaire

Jeannot and Colin are close friends in childhood. One day Jeannot receives a fancy coat and is taken away to a prosperous life – his father has had a business success. Colin is downcast. Jeannot is thrown into the education of a wealthy boy, which, suspiciously, doesn’t involve learning much.

Read “Jeannot and Colin”

Memnon the Philosopher, Or Human Wisdom | Voltaire

Memnon decides to become a great philosopher by rejecting all passions including love, intemperance, and quarreling.

Read “Memnon the Philosopher”