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Gargantua and Pantagruel Paperback – September 17, 1991

15 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


“Grand to see this new rendition of a work full of what life is all about and translated with an equal authenticity.” (J. P. Donleavy)

“Raffel has done the impossible. . . . [He] has produced a text which is amazingly true to the meaning and the linguistic gusto of the original.” (Alain Renoir)

“[Raffel] has provided us with a classic work, restored to its original complexity, humor, and gusto.” (Library Journal)

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: French --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 623 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; Reprint edition (September 17, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393308065
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393308068
  • Product Dimensions: 0.6 x 0.2 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.5 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #27,458 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

172 of 172 people found the following review helpful By A reader on March 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Some of the other reviews summarize the plot and discuss Rabelais' style; my review is directed to people trying to decide which edition to buy. The Everyman's Library edition, which I just received, uses a late seventeenth-century English translation by Sir Thomas Urquhart and Pierre Le Motteux, not the recent Burton Raffel translation. (One might be led to assume that it reprints Raffel, given that the "Search Inside" feature on the Everyman's edition leads you to his translation in a Norton paperback edition.) One should approach the Urquhart/Le Motteux translation with some caution. Terence Cave points out in his (excellent) introduction to the edition that the translation is "extremely free" and expands the first three books by 50%, but at the same time he calls the translation "an extraordinary feat . . . a literary work in its own right." My sense after reading the first book is that he's right--the language has a lively and strange effect--but this is probably not the ideal introduction to Rabelais. There are no editor's notes. Moreover, the snippets of Latin, Greek, and other languages which riddle the text are left untranslated. Perhaps the phrase "charitatis nos faciemus bonum cherubin; ego occidit unum porcum, et ego habet bonum vino" gives you no problems, but if it does, I would recommend a different translation, like Donald Frame's, which Cave specifically recommends in the bibliographical note in his introduction.

I don't want to make this review too long, but it might be useful to see brief excerpts from the Urquhart/Le Motteux, Donald Frame, and Burton Raffel translations for you to judge for yourself which one you would enjoy spending time with. (I don't have the Cohen translation published by Penguin).
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31 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Andrew R. Weiss on September 21, 2009
Format: Paperback
This review piggy-backs on to the review of "A Reader" from 2006, which usually (and appropriately) has the most "helpful" votes and winds up on top. No doubt A Reader's review is so helpful because it compares different translations of the same passage, thus giving us a flavor of each (and, thankfully for those of us who have a little French, provides the original as well). These comparisons are useful in helping us decide which version fits our preferences.

My purpose is to add to his/her review by offering two other translations for comparison: that of J.M. Cohen, originally published by Penguin in 1955 and generally well-regarded, and that of Samuel Putnam, whose translation of Rabelais' complete works was first published in 1929 and was more recently published in abridged form in Viking's "Portabe Rabelais." Both are out of print, but used copies of each are readily available through amazon's Marketplace vendors.

Here's Cohen:

"Grandgousier was a good jester in his time, with as great a love of tossing off a glass as any man then in the world. He had also quite a liking of salt meat. For this reason he generaly kept a good store of Mayence and Bayonne hams, plenty of smoked ox-tongues, an abundance of chitterlings in their season and beef pickled in mustard, a supply of botargos, and a provision of sausages; though not of Bologna sausages, for he feared Lombard concoctions -- but those from Bigorre, Longaulnay, La Brenne, and Le Rouergue. In the prime of his years he married Gargamelle, daughter of the king of the Butterflies, a fine, good-looking piece, and the pair of them often played the two-baked beast, joyfully rubbing their bacons together, to such effect that she became pregnant of a fine boy and carried him into the eleventh month.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By IRA Ross on October 27, 2005
Format: Paperback
The title characters of this amazing classic are father and son, respectively. Gargantua is so huge that men climbing into his mouth got stuck in the crevices of his teeth as if they were food particles. Pantagruel, while being born, was so enormous that his unfortunate mother had to be ripped open to accomodate his exit from her womb.

_Gargantua and Pantagruel_ has lots of screamingly funny toilet humor, so much so, that occasionally I had to prevent myself from falling off my seat with laughter. Yet, there is really nothing pornographic about this book. There is absolutely no graphic sexual activity. Rabelais often quotes Greek, Roman, and French philosophers and intellectuals while recounting his tales. Rabelais also effectively satirizes political leaders, judges, Churchmen, and taste-makers of his day.

On his voyages to foreign lands, Pantagruel, takes along, among others, his closest friend, Panurge and Friar John. Seemingly a braggart, Panurge is really a man suffering from great insecurity and cowardness. He is as loveable as the Cowardly Lion in the Wizard of Oz. Panurge is also very introspective and learns quite a bit about himself by the conclusion of the book. The monk, Friar John, is, on the other hand, a brave and swashbuckling character, who would not hesitate to run a sword through a seeming enemy. Many of the surroundings and individuals on these uniquely strange places are so unusual and the situations so inventive that they boggle the mind.

I read _Gargantua and Pantagruel_ in the Modern Library edition, which was fortunate, because some of the earlier translations used too formal English (lots of "thees" and "thous" and "haths).
This is a book of great intelligence and thoughtfulness, which, as I noted at the beginning of this review, is also delightfully bawdy and imaginative. I only wish one of my high school English teachers had made _Gargantua and Pantagruel_ required reading.
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