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The Histories of Gargantua and Pantagruel (Classics) Paperback – 28 Feb 1983

4.2 out of 5 stars 6 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 720 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New impression edition (28 Feb. 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014044047X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140440478
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 2.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 417,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Format: Paperback
Rabelais was a benedictine monk writing in the 16th Century. This hardly sounds like a recommendation for a good read, does it? However, as Rabelais points out, there are two types of monk: those that are abstemious and chaste, and those that drink too much and sleep with as many nuns as possible. He is the latter, and he expects his readers (his 'fellow boozers') to be likewise. 'G&P' is a bawdy romp through the social and religious philosophy of medieval Europe.
Rabelais' humour is often toilet humour. His characters defecate, urinate, belch and fart their way through a series of grotesque fairy tale style adventures. They are obsessed with bodily functions, and with the pursuit of all manner of sensual pleasures in general, be they concerned with sex, drink or eating. Much amusement is drawn from word play arising from the multitude of names for the more unmentionable parts of human anatomy. Women are ferociously denigrated, as is anyone from a different race or creed to the author (more or less). If all of the doesn't sound particularly sophisticated, thats because often it isn't, but it remains very funny, especially when you bear in mind the period during which the book was written and the ocupation of its author.
'G&P' does (sometimes) have a serious point, however, as it lampoons many of the figures and organisations active during that period. Some references are obvious, others oblique, but to be honest it doesn't really matter if they all pass you by. The book (actually 5 books) remains a very good read and a very good laugh. The first, second and fourth parts are brilliant. I found the third (concerning Panurge's worries about his future wife) very dull and the fifth (much of which may not have actually been by Rabelais) very strange.
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By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 12 May 2011
Format: Paperback
Here's a book in which the name of one of the main characters has given us a synonym for "enormous", whilst the author's name has spawned an adjective for coarse humour or bold caricature (which I came across most recently in the title track of Donald Fagen's Morph the Cat). Rabelais was a monk and physician who lived in sixteenth century France, and who took aim at oppressive religious and civil forces, pomposity and humbug of all kinds in this classic of world literature. One of its most well-known sections is a description of the so-called Abbey of Thélème, which Rabelais presents as a utopia (with the motto 'Do What Thou Wilt') in order to critique society and the state of the church; this imaginary institution may have also formed the inspiration for Francis Dashwood's Hellfire Club and Aleister Crowley's Thelema religion.

The book's characters travel through a vividly-drawn grotesque world of violence, stupidity and greed in which no opportunity is lost to describe bodily functions and various types of sensual pleasure. Little attention is paid to plot, or consistency in character development; instead, there's a flood of outrageous anecdotes and adventures which come from the author's wildly original imagination, and his almost uncontrollable fascination with words. This latter quality is made manifest throughout the text in lengthy lists - which, in places, are arranged in columns that march across many pages - and that illustrate the author's propensity to (as mentioned on p17 of the introduction) "play with words as children do with pebbles; he piles them up into heaps".
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Format: Paperback
Reading doesn't get much more enjoyable than books 1 and 2 of Gargantua and Pantagruel. Both are wonderfully ludicrous, playfully crass, consistently hilarious and jolly good fun. Of course, there's more to Rabelais than all that but you get the distinct impression that the man himself would rather be entertaining than painstakingly examined - and entertain he most certainly does!

For me, book 3 doesn't live up to the first two. I admit to finding it a bit dull! The trademark humour is still there but it's neither as concentrated nor as consistent and that's a shame. Book 4 is excellent once again, although I still feel it doesn't reach the glorious heights (or should that be dirty depths?) of the first two, whilst book 5 is rather bizarre!

All in all, Gargantua and Pantagruel is brilliant but I couldn't give it the full 5 stars because of that third book.
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