Monday, April 09, 2007


On this day in 1553 the French monk, physician, humanist scholar and writer, Francois Rabelais died. His influential and much-imitated satiric masterpiece, Gargantua and Pantagruel (five books, 1532-52) is in the mock-quest tradition, with the emphasis decidedly on the 'mock.' The author's lampoon of religious orders, lawyers, Sorbonne pedants and just about every other power-group going brought condemnation and censorship in the author's lifetime; modern readers marvel more at the style, that exuberant combination of humor, sex and scatology now deemed "Rabelaisian." His irreverence in part stemmed from ignorance of the "rules" of the novel, which I believe this is an early example. So he made his own rules and the result is a delight for readers ever since. One modern example of the Rabelaisian that I enjoyed reading is Henry Miller's Tropic of Cancer, a wild ride indeed.

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