Francois Rabelais 1484(?)-1553(?) A Franciscan monk turned Benedictine, he abandoned the cloister in 1530 and began to study medicine at Montpellier. Two years later he wrote his first work, Pantagruel, which revealed his genius as a storyteller, satirist, propagandist and creator of comic situations and characters. In 1534 he published Gargantua, a companion to Pantagruel, which contains some of his best work. It mocks old-fashioned theological education, and opposes the monastic ideal, contrasting it with a free society of noble Evangelicals. Following an outburst of repression in late 1534, Rabelais abandoned his post of doctor at the Hotel-Dieu at Lyons and despite Royal support his book Tiers Livre was condemned. His last work, and his boldest, Quart Livre was published in 1551 and he died two years later. M. A. Screech is a Fellow of All Souls College and Honorary Fellow of Wolfson College, Oxford, and Fellow of the British Academy, He is a world-renowned Renaissance scholar who has published widely on Rabelais, Montaigne and Erasmus. He has translated Montaigne's Essays for Penguin.
``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 sentences and its immense vocabulary mixing erudition, obscenities, and scatology. The reader will find here the comic chronicles of two giants, Gargantua and his son, Pantagruel (and let's not forget Pantagruel's companion, Panurge) exploring and passing judgment on all aspects of the life of their times. A satire on religion, education, and law appears alongside unabashed descriptions of bodily functions and desires. Parts of the work were censured upon publication, and since that time timid modern French and English translations have freely expurgated segments of the text. Fortunately, Raffel has not and, having wrestled with this difficult text, has provided us with a classic work, restored to its original complexity, humor, and gusto.-- Danielle Mihram, Univ. of Southern California