Gargantua and Pantagruel (La vie de Gargantua et de Pantagruel) is a French satire from the 16th century written by Francois Rabelais, a medical doctor. The tome consists of five books that chronicles the life history of two honourable giants, Gargantua and his son Pantagruel. The author is a ruthless social critic, sparing nobody from uppity academics to the clergy. Bawdy and extremely vulgar and violent at times, the stories revolve around the everyday routine of the giants and their sidekicks as they mock and tease everybody who is unfortunate enough to get in their way.
It’s definitely not a novel, the chapters are loosely connected with not much of a plot. I laughed out loudly several times while reading it, I guarantee your eyes will not be left dry, should you give it a try.
I’m quite certain the English translation could not entirely convey the humour and poignancy of the French original, but allow me to give you some excerpts to give you a taste. On one occasion Pantagruel is browsing the books in a library, and the author lists the titles (on several pages) our good giant comes across:
The Testes of Theology;
On the Art of Discreetly Farting in Company, by Magister Noster Ortuinus;
Tartaretus: On how to Defecate;
Three Books On How to Chew Bacon, by the Reverend Father Provincial of Drivell;
Magister Noster Rostock-Assley: On the Serving of Mustard after Dining, Fourteen Books;
Eleven Decades on the Taking-off of Spurs, by Magister Albericus de Rosate;
Marforio, a Bachelor lying in Rome: On Skinning and Smudging Cardinals’ Mules;
Putting Things into the Mouths of Masters of Arts;
The Surgeon’s Kiss-me-arse.
Another time, young Gargantua imparts the art of arse-wiping to his father. After listing about a hundred ways and means to wipe one’s bottom, here’s his conclusion:
But to conclude: I affirm and maintain that there is no bottom-wiper like a downy young goose, provided that you hold its head between your legs. Believe me on my honour, for you can feel in your bumhole a mirifical voluptuousness, as much from the softness of its down as from the temperate heat of the young goose which is readily communicated to the arse-gut and the rest of the intestines until it reaches the region of the heart and the brain. And do not believe that the blessedness of the heroes and demi-gods in the Elysian Fields lies in their nectar, asphodel or ambrosia, as these old women would maintain: in my opinion it consists in the fact that they wipe their bums on a young goose.