Honoré de Balzac - Considered one of the founders of realism in European literature. His works influenced other writers, including Marcel Proust, Émile Zola, Charles Dickens, Edgar Allan Poe, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, Gustave Flaubert, as well as some philosophers.
Balzac is known for his complex, morally ambiguous characters.
Victor Hugo - French novelist, playwright, poet, essayist, visual artist, statesman, and human rights activist. He also advocated the Romantic movement in France. His best works include Les Misérables and The Hunchback of Notre-Dame. He was considered a realist.
Stendhal - French 19th century author named Marie-Henri Beyle, who often went by his pen-name "Stendhal". He is best known for Le Rouge et le Noir (The Red and the Black, 1830) and La Chartreuse de Parme (The Charterhouse of Parma, 1839). Also considered a realist.
Alexander Dumas - French author, born into poverty. He was the grandson of a Haitian slave and a French noble. His famous books include The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years After, and The Vicomte de Bragelonne.
Gustave Flaubert - French author considered one of the Western Greats. He is known for his lifetime devotion to art and style. He began writing at the very early age of eight, later becoming acquainted with Victor Hugo through his writings.
He is best known for his first novel, Madame Bovary.
Charles Baudelaire – French poet also known as an essayist, art critic, and translator for Edgar Allan Poe. His most famous work is Les Fleurs du mal (The Flowers of Evil). He influenced a whole generation of poets and is credited with coining the term “modernity.”
He won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1915.
Jean-Jacques Rousseau - Geneva philosopher, writer and composer. He was best known for his contribution to 18th century Romanticism in France. He strongly influenced the French Revolution. He also composed 7 operas and contributed to music theory.
He was made a national hero in France 16 years after his death.
Lev Nikolayevich Tolstoy - Russian writer considered to be one of the world’s greatest novelists. War and Peace and Anna Karenina stand among the greatest novels of all time. Tolstoy is known for his complex plots and realist fiction as well as intense moral tones thought to be the result of a spiritual awakening in the 1870s. Tolstoy is said to have had an important impact on leaders such as Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.
Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol – Ukrainian-born Russian dramatist and novelist. His early works such as "The Nose", "Viy", "The Overcoat" and "Nevsky Prospekt" are considered among his best and were influenced by his Ukrainian roots.
Fyodor Mikhaylovich Dostoyevsky – Russian author whose works explore human psychology in the political, social, and spiritual context of 19th century Russian society. Using the voice of the anonymous "underground man", Dostoyevsky wrote Notes from the Underground (1864), which was called the "best overture for existentialism ever written" by Walter Kaufmann.
Charles Dickens – 19th century English author, considered by some to be the best writer of the Victorian Period. A celebrity in his own lifetime, none of his novels have ever gone out of print.
Rudyard Kipling – English poet and author. He wrote mainly about British Imperial life in India. His children's stories include The Jungle Book. He won the Nobel Prize in 1907, thereby becoming the first English writer, and the youngest person ever, to receive the award. His reputation has suffered in more recent times because of his Imperialist subject matter.
Emily Brontë – English novelist and poet, best known for her one novel, Wuthering Heights. Her sisters, Anne and Charlotte, were also distinguished authors.