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(?1483/1494-1553) French monk, doctor, priest and author. The various titles now generally gathered together as Gargantua and Pantagruel (1532-1552 plus a posthumous text of dubious authenticity 1564) were initially published as separate volumes [see Checklist for individual titles plus the translations of same by Sir Thomas Urquhart – first two books 1653, third book 1693 – and Peter Anthony Motteux – fourth and fifth books 1694]. This assemblage of closely linked texts has often been assembled under titles indicating that they comprise the author's collected works, as in Les oeuures de Maistre François Rabelais [for full title see Checklist] (1567), rather than a connected narrative as such. Recent translations – the most idiomatic contemporary version being Burton Raffel's version under the title Gargantua and Pantagruel (1990) – have tended to revert to common sense, and treat as substantially one inspiration Rabelais's immense, exuberant, linguistically inventive, adventurous Satire, which may seem to lack coherence until it is understood that medieval Christendom is a constant target; it is also possible to trace a gradual increase in the savagery of his satirical assaults over the twenty years of composition. The giants of the title are literally enormous, and enormous in their joyous, Rabelaisian, charismatic gusto; the violence of their upsetting of the world in order to expose and inhabit it fully was taken by the Russian Formalist critic Mikhail Bakhtin (1895-1975), in Rabelais and His World (trans 1968), to embody the principle of the carnivalesque, to present a world governed by cleansing misrule: as a revel where class distinctions have been obliterated, and a non-hierarchical Utopia can be conceived; less skilful, but similarly disruptive, The Prophecies (1555; exp 1568; best trans Richard Sieburth 2012) of Rabelais's contemporary Nostradamus can also be understood as a transfiguring response to the troubled sixteenth-century world..
In the Fourth Book (1552) of the sequence, the narrative – the first English translation is entitled Pantagruel's Voyage to the Oracle of the Bottle (1694) – becomes a Fantastic Voyage, during the course of which Islands exemplary of various aspects of society are visited – an Archipelago that includes the island of the Papimanes, description of whose inhabitants (once again) involves a radical criticism of the Catholic Church. Darker and more bitter in tone, the Fifth Book (1564) – which may well have been completed by another hand from Rabelais's first draft – incorporates a section, L'Isle sonante ["The Ringing Island"] (1562), originally published separately, with the most notable sf imagery of the entire work. The islands of the fourth and fifth books were probably the most sustained invention of other worlds in literature up to that time. The succession of Alien societies, often manifesting some kind of satirical comment on our own, complete with all sorts of colourful anthropological detail, has been greatly influential in Proto SF, and a little later on Herman Melville's Mardi: And a Voyage Thither (1849 3vols); its resonances can be sensed even today in the work of writers like Jack Vance, who, even if not directly influenced by him, continue the Rabelais tradition. [JC/PN]
see also: Chess; France.
born Chinon, Indre-et-Loire, France: circa 1483-1494 [the latter date is more likely]
died Paris: 9 April 1553
The bibliography of Gargantua and Pantagruel is complex, and we do not attempt to encompass it. For convenience, we break the checklist below into two parts: initial publication in single volumes of the five parts, with the first translation of each, plus the first full printing; secondly, publications of the book as a whole.
- Pantagruel: les horrible et espouẽtables faictz [et] prouesses du tres renõme Pantagruel Roy des Dipsodes, filz du grand geãt Gargantua (Paris: C Nourry, 1532) [date not secure: first book of Gargantua and Pantagruel: binding unknown/]
- The First Book of the Works of Mr Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Physick: Containing five books of the lives, heroick deeds, and sayings of [G]argantua, and his sonne Pantagruel. Together with the Pantagrueline prognostication, the oracle of the divine Bacbuc, and the response of the bottle. Hereunto are annexed the navigations unto the sounding isle, and the isle of the Apedefts: as likewise the philosophical cream with a Limosm epistle (London: Printed for Richard Baddeley, 1653) [trans by Sir Thomas Urquhart of the above: usually bound in with The Second Book below: binding unknown/]
- La vie très horrifique du grand Gargantua: père de Pantagruel, jadi composée par N Alcofribas, abstracteur de Quinte Essence, livre plen de pantaguirelisme (no place or publisher given: 1534) [second book of Gargantua and Pantagruel: binding unknown/]
- The Second Book of the Works of Mr Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Physick: Treating of the Heroick Deeds, and Sayings of the Good Pantagruel (London: Printed for Richard Baddeley, 1653) [trans by Sir Thomas Urquhart of the above: usually bound in with The First Book above: binding unknown/]
- Le tiers livre des faictz et dictz Heroiques du noble Pantagruel (Lyons: no publisher given, 1546) [third book of Gargantua and Pantagruel: binding unknown/]
- The Third Book of the Works of Mr Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Physick: Containing the Heroick Deeds of Pantagruel the Son of Gargantua: Now faithfully translated into English, by the unimitable pen of Sir Thomas Urwhart, Kt. & Bar: The translator of the two first books: Never before printed (London: Printed for Richard Baldwin, 1693) [trans by Sir Thomas Urquhart (and Peter Anthony Motteux uncredited) of the above: Urwhart is thus spelt in title: binding unknown/]
- The Works of F Rabelais, M D; Or, the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua & Pantagruel: Done out of French by Sir Tho. Urchard, Kt. and others: With a Large Account of the Life and Works of the Author: Particularly an Explanation of the Most Difficult Passages in Them (London: Printed for Richard Baldwin, 1693-1694) [published in two volumes: exp vt of the above: adding trans of the first two books, Sir Thomas Urquhart's translation here modified by Peter Anthony Motteux: binding unknown/]
- Le Quart Livre des Faicts et dicts Heroiques du bon Pantagruel (Briefve declaration d'aulcunes dictions plus obscures contenues on quatrieme livre) (Paris: Michel Ferzandat, 1552) [fourth book of Gargantua and Pantagruel: binding unknown/]
- L'Isle sonante, par M. Francoys Rabelays, qui n'a point encores esté; imprimeée ne mise en lumière; en laquelle est continuée la navigation faicte par Pantagruel, Panurge et autres ses officiers ["The Ringing Island"] (France: no publisher given, 1562) [comprising a portion of the above: binding unknown/]
- Le quint livre (no place or publisher given: 1564) [fifth book of Gargantua and Pantagruel: binding unknown/]
- Pantagruel's Voyage to the Oracle of the Bottle: Being the Fourth and Fifth Books of the Works of Francis Rabelais, M D; with the Pantagruelian Prognostication, and Other Pieces in Verse and Prose by that Author: Also his Historical Letters: Compleating All his Works that are Extant: Never Before Printed in English: Done out of French by Mr. Motteux (London: Printed for Richard Baldwin, 1694) [trans by Peter Anthony Motteux of books four and five above: binding unknown/]
Gargantua and Pantagruel complete (selected)
- Les oeuures de Maistre François Rabelais, docteur en medecine: contenant cinq liures de la vie, faits & dits heroïques de Gargantua, & de son fils Pantagruel: plus, La pronostication Pantagrueline, auec l'oracle de la diue Bacbuc, & le mot de la bouteille: de nouueau veu & augme[n]té de ce qui s'ensuit outre les autres impressio[n]s (Lyons, France: Par Iean Martin, 1567) [assembled works: including the Five Books comprising Gargantua and Pantagruel: binding unknown/]
- The Whole Works of F Rabelais, M D: in Two Volumes: Or, the Lives, Heroic Deeds and Sayings of Gargantua & Pantagruel: Done out of French, by Sir Thomas Urchard, Knight, Mr Motteux, and Others: With a Large Account of the Life and Works of the Author: Particularly an Explanation of the Most Difficult Passages in Them: Never Before Publish'd in any Language (London: Printed for James Woodward, 1708) [published in two volumes: trans by Sir Thomas Urquhart and Peter Anthony Motteux of the above: Urchard is thus spelt: this title might also be considered an exp vt of relevant parts of The Works of F Rabelais, M D (1693) (see above): but translations may differ substantially: binding unknown/]
- The Works of Mr Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Physick: Containing Five Books of the Lives, Heroick Deeds & Sayings of Gargantua and his Sonne Pantagruel: Together with the Pantagrueline Prognostication, the Oracle of the Divine Bacbuc, and Response of the Bottle. Hereunto are Annexed the Navigations unto the Sounding Isle and the Isle of the Apedefts: as Likewise the Philosophical Cream with a Limosin Epistle (London: Grant Richards, 1904) [published in two volumes: trans by Sir Thomas Urquhart and Peter Anthony Motteux of the above: illus/hb/W Heath Robinson]
- Gargantua and Pantagruel (New York: W W Norton and Company, 1990) [trans by Burton Raffel of the above: hb/]
- The Complete Works of Francois Rabelais (Berkeley, California: University of California Press, 1992) [trans by Donald Murdoch Frame of the above and other material: hb/]
about the author
- John Cowper Powys. Rabelais: His Life, and the Story he Told, Selections Therefrom Here Newly Translated, and an Interpretation of his Genius and his Religion (London: The Bodley Head, 1948) [nonfiction: hb/P Vinten]
- Mikhail Bakhtin. Rabelais and His World (Cambridge, Massachusetts: M I T Press, 1968) [nonfiction: trans by Hélène Iswolsky from 1955 manuscript: hb/]
Entry from The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction (2011-current) edited by John Clute and David Langford.
Accessed 22:48 pm on 4 February 2023.