The passé simple is used to express an action in a past time, that has no influence on the time now (when it is told about). To underline that it is still used, however not in everyday life, but in sublime literature we would like to present a short example from a famous French author: Marcel Proust. We have named him already a couple of times in this manual, now you can see a small part of his work.
The example is take from the last part of his famous work: In Search of Lost Time, which is called Le temps retrouvé, Time regained. The passé simple is marked blue.
Marcel Proust, À la recherche du temps perdu
Je retrouvai là un de mes anciens camarades
que, pendant dix ans, j' avais vu presque
tous les jours. On demanda à nous représenter. J' allai donc à lui et il me dit d' une voix que je reconnus très bien: "C' est une bien grande
joie pour moi après tant d' années."
At the party I discovered one of my early friends whom I had formerly seen nearly every day during ten years. Someone reintroduced us to each other. As I went near to him, he said with a voice I well remembered: "What a joy for me after so many years!"
Mais quelle surprise pour moi! Cette
voix semblait émise par un phonographe
perfectionné, car si c' était
celle de mon ami, elle sortait d' un
gros bonhomme grisonnant que je ne connaissais
pas, et dès lors il me semblait
que ce ne pût être qu' artificiellement,
par un truc de mécanique qu'
on avait logé la voix de mon
camarade sous ce gros vieillard quelconque.
But what a surprise for me! His voice seemed to be proceeding from a perfected phonograph for though it was that of my friend, it issued from a great greyish man whom I did not know and the voice of my old comrade seemed to have been housed in this fat old fellow by means of a mechanical trick.
Well, you see the
simple may be used quite actively, even if we admit that the text is not taken from a recent chat. However, it would be very useful to recognize the form in the future. Additionally another aspect is interesting - this form is still used in Spanish and Italian, so, when your next language is one of these two, you will know what to expect.