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The Works of Rabelais by François Rabelais

The Works of Rabelais (original 1564; edition 1949)

by François Rabelais

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Title:The Works of Rabelais
Authors:François Rabelais
Info:Tudor (1949), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, French lit

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Gargantua and Pantagruel by François Rabelais (1564)


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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
This collection of books began with the highest of the high, then proceeded immediately to tank miserably until it reached the lowest of the low. I read the version translated by Samuel Putnam, and in his hands, the word "lively" in the title was very well suited. The first book of Gargantua was a revelation, rich with linguistic acrobatics, profound in silliness, and filled to hilarity with hyperbole. I enjoyed every moment.

Then Pantagruel was born, and I wished he never was. I prefer the father, and the apple fell far from the tree. The first book on his life contained nothing I can remember. The second book contained hundreds of pages of a meandering conversation about whether or not his friend should marry. The third book had 20 or so pages on a missing hatchet? What a waste of my time. ( )
  MartinBodek | Jun 11, 2015 |
Imagine that the world insisted that Dante's Comedy, the Vita Nuova, the writings on Monarchy, his book about using Italian instead of Latin, and some random thing written by someone claiming to be Dante were all one book, and insisted on printing them together in one 2000 page behemoth. That is what happens here. 'Gargantua' and 'Pantagruel' are rollicking. The third book no doubt repays close study by people really into the Renaissance and who get off on making fun of the Papacy. The fourth book is somewhere in between. The fifth book, according to this translator and editor, isn't by Rabelais at all. Now, these are four utterly different books. I recommend the first two to everyone who appreciates a good dick joke. If you're really, really, really keen on puns, know latin, greek and hebrew, and are deeply, deeply invested in whether it's better to be a Lutheran or a Papist, you'll probably get a lot from the third and fourth. But even if that's the case, I'd go with the first two books here and Erasmus' 'Praise of Folly,' which is funnier, more comprehensible, and much, much shorter.

So, if you're in college and someone offers a course on Rabelais, you should definitely take it. If you're in the soi disant real world, maybe go with the name-calling and farting of 'Gargantua' and 'Pantagruel' instead.

( )
  stillatim | Dec 29, 2013 |
"To be Rabelaisian, means to be totally outrageous, raunchy, crude in every way, absolutely stubborn in matters of truth, relentless against hypocrisy, and against all forms of popular opinion; but, also, in a more profound way, it means AXIOM BUSTING." (http://goo.gl/f0K6WX) A sympathetic portrayal of the hilarious tragi-comedy of our lowest common denominators and the nobility of our most exhalted aspirations as humans. ( )
  Ron_Peters | Sep 6, 2013 |
Gargantua and Pantagruel at over 1000 pages can be a gruelling read. The penguin classic edition contains all five books published under Rabelais name in 16th century France and Mr Screech in his excellent introduction says that many students are advised to read only a part of book four. I am no student and so I started at the first page of Rabelais prologue to book 1 "Pantagruel: The horrifying and Dreadful Deeds and Prowess of the most famous Pantagruel; King of the Dipsodes, Son of the Great Giant Gargantua" and finished with the last page of "The fifth book of Pantagruel" which probably was not written by Rabelais. It is gruelling because I found the writing very uneven, some marvellous passages full of ideas, satire and bawdy humour are interspersed with some typical medieval writing with its mania for lists. Some of these lists go on for pages and many of them are meant to be funny, but the passage of time and the translation from the old French have taken away much of the humour.

Book 1 tells the story of the early life of Pantagruel, his birth, his infancy, his studies in Paris, his meeting with Panurge; his lifelong friend and finally his battle with the giants where he becomes the King of the Dipsodes (The Thirsty ones). Much of this book is bawdy, some of it is gross and most of it is fantastical. Here is an excerpt from a story told by a mendicant friar: A wounded lion comes upon an old woman who falls backwards in shock with her skirts chemise and petticoats riding up above he shoulders:

"He contemplated her country-thing and said, 'You poor woman! Who gave you that wound?'
As he was saying that, he saw a fox and called him over: 'brother Renard. Hey! here! Over here! There's a good reason'
When Renard came up the lion said:
'My fellow and friend, someone has given this woman a nasty wound between her legs. There is manifest dissolution of continuity. See how big the wound is: from her bottom to her naval it measures four, no, a good five-and-a-half spans. It's a blow from an axe. I fear it may be an old wound, so to keep the flies off, give it a good whisking inside and out. You have a brush fine and long. Whisk away; whisk away I beg you, while I go looking for moss to put in it. We ought to succour and help one another. God commands us to.
Whisk hard; that's right my friend, whisk hard, that wound needs frequent whisking; otherwise the person cannot be made comfortable. Whisk well my good little comrade, whisk on. God has given you a brush; yours is becomingly grand and gross. Whisk away and never tire. {A good Fly-whisker, ever whisking flies with his tassel, himself will ne'er fly whisked be. Whisk away, well-hung! Whisk away my dear} I won't keep you long"

The humour or bawdiness here has not travelled well from 16th century France and while Frenchmen at the time may well have been splitting their sides, it did not have that effect on me today.

Book 2 is titled Gargantua and tells the story of Pantagruel's father. In some ways it is a similar story to Pantagruel dealing with Gargantua's birth, infancy, education in Paris and then his battle against the tyrant Picrochole who invades his kingdom, however in Rabelais prologue it is clear that he is looking for this book to be taken more seriously as he invokes both Plato and Socrates in the first paragraph. More time is spent detailing Gargantua's education and it is very much a humanist education. He is taught to excel in the arts of both peace and war, there are chapters on the ideal lay abbey, there are chapters on politics, heraldry and the true meaning of colours. There is still much bawdiness, but it does not now take centre stage, however Gargantua's fight with the army of Picrochole is just as fantastic and over the top as Pantagruel's exploits in the previous book.

Book 3 takes us back to Pantagruel and the first ten chapters are a comic philosophical debate between Pantagruel, now a wise king and his elderly and confused friend Panurge. The style is quite different from Book 1 and yet there is still a little bawdiness, but the humour is more controlled. Here is Pantagruel explaining how a newly conquered territory should be governed:

You will therefore, you drinkers, take note that the way to hold and uphold a newly conquered land is not (as has been to their shame and dishonour the erroneous opinion of certain tyrannical minds) by pillaging, crushing, press-ganging, impoverishing and provoking the people, ruling them with a rod of iron: in short by gobbling them up and devouring them................ I shall not quote you ancient histories on this matter; I will simply recall to your mind what your father saw, and you too if you were not too young. Like new-born babes they should be suckled, dandled and amused; like newly planted trees they should be supported, secured and protected against every wind, harm and injury; like convalescents saved from a long and serious illness they should be spoiled, spared and given strength, in order that they should conceive the opinion that there is no king or prince in the world whom they would less want for a foe, more desire for a friend......

Book 3 then launches the question that will provide the focus for the rest of the book and those that follow; Panurge wants advice as to how he can avoid becoming a cuckold if he chooses to get married. There is much discussion on the legal situation and of legal ethics, Rabelais was trained in law and brings much learned argument to the discussions. Panurge also seeks advice from doctors on possible medical remedies and Rabelais a trained doctor has much fun ridiculing some of the "old wives tales" that Panurge is advised to follow. The question remains unresolved and Panurge and Pantagruel agree to seek advice from the oracle of the Divine Bottle. This involves putting out to sea to travel by the North west passage to india.

Book 4 sees Panurge, Pantegruel and the their comrades; the choleric Frere Jean, Carpalim, Epistemon and Eusthenes on board ship sailing the seven seas and making various landfalls in mystical and semi mystical lands. There is increasing literary plundering from Plutarch's "Moral Tales" and Erasmus' "Adages" as Rabelais targets reform of the Catholic church with a biting satire of the Pope and his entourage. There is also more politics and diplomacy in their dealings with the hostile Chidlings. There is some fine writing throughout this book.

Book 5 is now generally thought not to have been written by Rabelais, although there is much conjecture that it was pieced together from bits of stories and essays that Rabelais left behind. It continues from where book 4 left off. The comrades are still searching for the oracle of the divine bottle. In this book they reach their destination after a tangle with the legal profession on the island of Kitty-Claws. Everything seems to end rather too neatly not at all in Rabelasian style, however there is still much to enjoy.

It has been said that there is nothing quite like Rabelais and after reading him I would agree. The mixture of bawdy humour, philosophy, fantasy, and social satire is a heady one indeed. At times I was astounded by the brilliancy of the writing and at other times I was a little bored. Knowing what I do now I would not attempt another complete re-read, but I will go back and read some selections. There are many chapters and they are quite short and many of them can be read outside the context of the books. The penguin classics edition provides help for the modern reader, each chapter has an introduction from Mr Screech that highlights the sources used and the targets for much of the satire, they also provide a useful summary placing the writing in the context of the times. Rabelais used puns extensively, word games and irony in much of his writing and Mr Screech explains where the translation does not do justice to the word play. Difficult to give this book a star rating, because as a classic of 16th century literature it should get five stars, but I am going to rate it from my own reading experience and so give it four stars. ( )
6 vote baswood | Aug 25, 2013 |
I am putting this aside unfinished, as I am not really enjoying it. Here are my thoughts so far (15% through, about halfway done with the first 'Book'):

•Written in mid-1500's (before Shakespeare and after Chaucer)
•I find I have some of the same difficulties with language that I have with Shakespeare (my recent reading of Shakespeare's plays has enhanced my ability to skip over words not only unfamiliar to me but also unknown to my dictionary!) A fair amount of Latin & perhaps other languages untranslated :(
•The translation from French is good - still can appreciate the poetry of the work. And love the Doré illustrations!
•The humor is extremely crude - the 16th century version of Benny Hill, which isn't my cup of tea. Cross between Gulliver in Lilliput and Benny Hill. ( )
  leslie.98 | Jun 26, 2013 |
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» Add other authors (89 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
François Rabelaisprimary authorall editionscalculated
Bonfantini, MarioTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, J. M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, John M.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Doré, GustaveIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hémard, JosephIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Clercq, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Le Motteux, PeterTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
LeClerq, JacquesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pape, Frank C.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Putnam, SamuelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Raffel, BurtonTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sandfort, J.A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Screech, M. A.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Urqhart, Sir ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Most noble and illustrious drinkers, and you thrice precious pockified blades (for to you, and none else do I dedicate my writings), Alcibiades, in that dialogue of Plato's which is entitled The Banquet, whilst he was setting forth the praises of his schoolmaster Socrates (without all question the prince of philosophers), amongst other discourses to that purpose said that he resembled the Sileni.
So far as I am concerned, I would have every man put aside his proper business, take no care for his trade, and forget his own affairs, in order to devote himself entirely to this book. I would have him allow no distraction or hindrance from elsewhere to trouble his mind, until he knows it by heart; so that if the art of printing happened to die out, or all books should come to perish, everyone should be able, in time to come, to teach it thoroughly to his children, and to transmit it to his successors and survivors, as if from hand to hand, like some religious Cabala.
If you say to me: 'It does not seem very wise of you to have written down all this gay and empty balderdash for us,' I would reply that you do not show yourself much wiser by taking pleasure in the reading of it.
If you want to be good Pantagruelists, moreover - that is to say, to live in peace, joy, and health, always making good cheer - never trust in men who peer from under a cowl.
Friar John: "By my thirst, dear friend, when the snows are on the mountains - the head and chin, I mean - there's no great heat in the valleys of the cod-piece." Panurge: "By the blisters on your heels, you don't understand plain logic. When the snow's on the mountains there is thunder, lightning, whirlwinds, avalanches, tempests and all the devils in the valleys...You mock me for my greying hair, but you don't consider that my nature is like the leeks, which we find white on top when its tail's green, straight, and vigorous."
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Disambiguation notice
This work does indeed contain all five of the books of Gargantua and Pantagruel (i.e. Gargantua, Pantagruel, The Third Book, The Fourth Book, The Fifth Book), even though in some cases (e.g. the Penguin Classics edition), only ‘Gargantua’ and ‘Pantagruel’ are mentioned on the front cover.

Any editions consisting of only ‘Gargantua’ and ‘Pantagruel’ (check the table of contents) should be separated from this work.
This work consists of the five books of Gargantua and Pantagruel, i.e.:
- Gargantua
- Pantagruel
- The Third Book (Le tiers livre)
- The Fourth Book (Le quart livre)
- The Fifth Book (Le cinquième livre)
Should not be combined with editions that contain only the first two books.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014044047X, Paperback)

This text parodies everyone from eminent classical authors and schoolmen to Rabelais's own acquaintances. But the brilliance of the book lies not merely in these learned references, but in the story into which they are woven.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:07:32 -0400)

(see all 6 descriptions)

"The dazzling and exuberant comic 'Chronicles' of Rabelais (c. 1483-1552) are a feast of wisdom and laughter. Realism intertwines with carnivalesque fantasy, Renaissance learning with obscene humour to make readers look at the world afresh. Pantagruel, a tale of comic chivalry, satirizes lawyers, theologians and academic buffoons, while Gargantua mocks rash generals, idiotic monarchs and uncouth professors. It champions freedom and laughs at a dirty young giant before he turns into a splendid prince. Sequels lead into more complex and daring laughter and high mythology, often at the expense of Panurge - the mad, word-spinning companion of Pantagruel (who becomes a giant in wisdom, a Renaissance Socrates)."."M. A. Screech's translation captures Rabelais' ingenious wordplay and mastery of language. The introduction explores his individuality while comparing him to Shakespeare, and presents each book to open up the new horizons of Renaissance Europe. This edition also includes a chronology and notes."--BOOK JACKET.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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