This first book is quite cohesive. I guess Rabelais didn’t know himself if he would write another and the impetus seems to be his own amusement and that of his friends. This was a very enjoyable experience and as a result I took my time reading Book One. I like the way the episodes aren’t really connected they just sort of flit about and are not as linear as most novels.
Pantagruel makes you laugh, consider things philosophically and stimulates the imagination: it doesn’t get much better than this. I can now see where many of the writers I love got a great deal of their inspiration. There were free translations I could have found for the kindle but I decided that if I was going to make the effort to read all five books then it should be with the best translation – by most accounts Professor Screech’s translation is the best. There are many footnotes – but they don’t get in the way as the book is the kind that stimulates you in bursts as it is all angles and the footnotes don’t interfere but add to the richness of the text. The rest are coming up shortly.
This a very detailed alternative history of the last 50 years. It is well referenced and written. Reading this was actually quite a depressing experience – at various times it seemed that there was no hope and those with money and resources seem to keep themselves on top and also win the propaganda war. The way the book ends with some analysis of South America gives some grounds for optimism. I think I want to read about the history of Bolivar, he seems to be behind the desire for self-determination of many South American countries.
Another immensely enjoyable novel. This one had a very strange atmosphere about it. The other books I have experienced something similar are those by Thomas Mann and Herman Hesse – almost like whimsical folk-tales. It’s a good story, well written and it transports you. You can see the beginnings of the precocious imagination of some of his later works – Pale Fire in particular. John Updike described it as ‘… far from the least of this happy man’s Russian novels.’ I haven’t really touched the surface of these yet but this observation could be correct.