Gargantua and Pantagruel

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W. W. Norton & Company, 1991 - Fiction - 623 pages
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Biting and bawdy, smart and smutty, lofty and low, Gargantua and Pantagruel is fantasy on the grandest of scales, told with an unquenchable thirst for all of human experience. Rabelais's vigorous examination of the life of his times-from bizarre battles to great drinking bouts, from satire on religion and education to matter-of-fact descriptions of bodily functions and desires-is one of the great comic masterpieces of literature.
 

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Gargantua and Pantagruel

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"Plainly, translating Rabelais is extraordinarily difficult,'' writes Raffel in his preface. Indeed, Rabelais (1483?-1554?) is not easy to read in the original Middle French, with its long, intricate ... Read full review

Contents

The First Book
14
The Third Book
237
The Fourth Book
381
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About the author (1991)

One of the leading humanist writers of the French Renaissance, Rabelais was at first a Franciscan and then a Benedictine monk, a celebrated physician and professor of anatomy, and later cure of Meudon. The works of Rabelais are filled with life to the overflowing, hence the term "Rabelaisian." His principal protagonists, Gargantua and his son, Pantagruel, are appropriately giants, not only in size, but also in spirit and action. The five books of their adventures are separate works, containing, in different measure, adventures, discussions, farcical scenes, jokes, games, satires, philosophical commentaries, and anything else that a worldly, learned man of genius such as Rabelais could pour into his work. His style is innovative and idiosyncratic, marked by humorous neologisms made up from the learned languages, Greek and Latin, side by side with the most earthy, humble, and rough words of the street and barnyard. His Gargantua, published in 1534, satirizes the traditional education of Parisian theologians and, in the Abbe de Theleme episode, recommends a free, hedonistic society of handsome young men and women in contrast to the restrictive life of monasticism. The gigantic scope of Rabelais's work also reflects the Renaissance thirst for encyclopedic knowledge.

Burton Raffel is Distinguished Professor of Humanities at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette Emeritus. He is the translator of many works, including Gargantua and Pantagruel (awarded the French-American Foundation Translation Prize), Père Goriot, Beowulf, and the five romances of Chrétien de Troyes.

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