BRUSSELS, Belgium — Six months after the release of the French edition of 50 nuances de Grey, or Fifty Shades of Grey, the three volumes of EL James's erotic trilogy, still sit proudly atop the bestseller list of Amazon.fr.
The runaway success has confounded critics who thought French women raised on the sophisticated S&M of the Maquis de Sade or The Story of O would resist the global mommy porn phenomenon.
"They said this trifling tale spiced with spanking was only good for giving cheap thrills to puritanical Americans, and it would flop in the land of de Sade and French lovers," wrote Macha Séry in Le Monde. "How wrong!"
The first volume has sold two-and-a-half million copies in France and has been credited for triggering a boom in sex toy sales and wave of interest in female-orientated internet sex sites.
"This novel has given me the idea to try some naughty games, but nothing too hard core," Ingrid from Rouen told the daily Le Parisien. "It shook off my inhibitions, so I could let myself go. Today, I'm a little be less uptight, thanks to E L James."
Muriel Ross, founder of Femme Majuscule, a magazine aimed at women over 40, told Radio France International that Fifty Shades reaches women left cold by high-brow French erotic classics.
"It’s not like erotic books by de Sade or (Catherine) Millet which is literature for educated people and a bit too intellectual," she said.
The "Fifty Shades" books, about a young girl who enters into a sado-masochist relationship with a handsome billionaire, have sold 65 million copies internationally and two and half million copies in France, RFI reported.
"Everybody thought that in France we were the best for sex and so this book wouldn’t do well," Fifty Shades' French publisher Isabelle Laffont explained. "[But] erotic literature in France is more sombre, very dark, with people who are submissive and very unhappy... This book is very light and happy."
More from GlobalPost: 'Fifty Shades' gives Bertelsmann boost
German media giant Bertelsmann said Tuesday the best-selling trilogy was the publisher's biggest-ever bestseller and last year's sales helped boost the company's overall profits. In 2012, Bertelsmann sold millions of copies of print, audio, and e-book editions in a number of languages including English, German and Spanish.