Title: The Histories of Gargantua & Pantagruel
Author: François Rabelais, Walter Brooks (illus), John M Cohen (trans)
Publisher: Franklin Library, 1978. A Limited Edition.
Condition: Hardcover, full red leather. Gargantuan size. All edges gilt, satin bookmark. Very good+. Some very slight spotting, some slight creasing to spine because of thickness. Shipping overseas will cost extra.
The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel (in French, La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel) is a connected series of five novels written in the 16th century by François Rabelais. It is the story of two giants, a father (Gargantua) and his son (Pantagruel) and their adventures, written in an amusing, extravagant, satirical vein. The text features much crudity, scatological humor, and violence. Lists of explicit or vulgar insults fill several chapters. The censors of the Sorbonne stigmatized it as obscene, and in a social climate of increasing religious oppression, it was treated with suspicion, and contemporaries avoided mentioning it. According to Rabelais, the philosophy of his giant Pantagruel, “Pantagruelism”, is rooted in “a certain gaiety of mind pickled in the scorn of fortuitous things” (French: “une certaine gaîté d’esprit confite dans le mépris des choses fortuites”).
Rabelais had studied Ancient Greek, and he applied it in inventing hundreds of new words in the text, some of which became part of the French language. Wordplay and risque humor abound in his writing.
The introduction to the series, in an English translation, runs:
Readers, friends, if you turn these pages
Put your prejudice aside,
For, really, there’s nothing here that’s outrageous,
Nothing sick, or bad — or contagious.
Not that I sit here glowing with pride
For my book: all you’ll find is laughter:
That’s all the glory my heart is after,
Seeing how sorrow eats you, defeats you.
I’d rather write about laughing than crying,
For laughter makes men human, and courageous.