François Rabelais (1494–1553) was, and still is, a much-loved eccentric thought of with affection. He was a writer, doctor, philosopher and monk.
Rabelais was born near Chinon, not far from Amboise. His father was a successful lawyer. You do wonder what he thought of his son who was famous for dirty jokes and bawdy songs. No-one was safe from his funny, mocking, provocative satires. An avant-garde inventor of fantasy and of the grotesque, his laugh out loud crude language still shocks five hundred years later. His comic masterpieces are about two giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel whose adventures are littered with crude scatological humour. Rabelais gave the world its ‘gargantuan’ appetite and its ‘Rabelaisian’ sense of humour.
Influenced by Thomas More’s Utopia, Rabelais invented Thelemes, his own fictitious Utopian monastery where monks lived according to its rule: DO WHAT YOU WANT.
It was once common In France, perhaps it still is, that the moment in a restaurant when the waiter presents the bill was called le quart d'heure de Rabelais (Rabelais’ quarter of an hour) in memory of a trick he is fabled to have used to get out of paying a bill. According to legend, after enjoying a meal he couldn't pay for, the destitute Rabelais displayed three envelopes labelled ''poison for the king'' ‘poison for the queen’ and ''poison for the dauphin.'' The innkeeper had Rabelais arrested and escorted to Paris, where he was taken before François I who laughed heartily. The King commented that he must have spent an unpleasant quarter of an hour but Rabelais laughed and said ‘No. The unpleasant quarter of an hour was when I saw the innkeeper’s bill.”
The public loved his books, the establishment was outraged and tried to stop publication.
Rabelais asked the King for permission to publish which was freely given. Rabelais dedicated his next book to the King’s much loved sister, Marguerite.
Despite royal privilege (license to print) when François I died in 1547, Parliament suspended the sale of his books. Rabelais, condemned of heresy, had to lie low, only the protection of influential friends saved him.
Wine was of paramount importance for Rabelais. He said ‘the white wine of Ligré (near Vouvray) is like taffeta’ and ‘grapes and fresh cake are a dish for the gods’.
Vouvray named a street in his honour.
The University in Tours is Université François Rabelais.
The novelist Honoré Balzac loved Rabelais and quoted him in twenty novels.
In 1982 Asteroid '5666 Rabelais' was named in his honour in 1982.
The French Noble Prize winner for literature J.M.G Le Clézio said ‘Rabelais is the greatest writer in the French language".
Max Ernst, the surrealist painter, who lived near Chinon, was an avid fan of Rabelais. He visited his birthplace and came away with a souvenir, a porcelain kitchen sink which he used in his own house. Ernst was the embodiment of DO WHAT YOU WANT.
Post by Pamela