French Literature

French Authors
  • Victor Hugo
  • Marcel Proust
  • Jules Verne
  • Charles Baudelaire
  • Molière
  • François Rabelais

François Rabelais (1493-1553)

Born in Chinon, Touraine, son of a prosperous lawyer, Rabelais began studying at the Benedictine abbey of Seuilly and eventually became a Franciscan friar. He studied Greek in Paris and medicine in Montpellier, practicing medicine in Lyon.

His first great work was "The Grand and Inestimable Chronicles of the Grand and Enormous Giant Gargantua" ("Les Grandes et Inestimables Cronicques du Grand et Énorme Géant Gargantua") printed in 1532 and the four sequels that followed it, an adventure story with two main characters, a lusty young giant and his father. Through these characters, Rabelais offered his readers a comical view of his contemporary society, using social satire and political insight. The books, printed under the pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier, were very successful, despite being condemned as obscene by the Sorbonne.

While Francis I was alive, Rabelais enjoyed the support afforded by the king, who greatly enjoyed the author's literature. After Francis I died, however, liberty of thought began to be suppressed, forcing Rabelais to eventually flee to Metz and then to Rome. His works are expressions typical of the French Renaissance, reflecting the love of life and individual liberty, through the use of his great imaginative ability as well as his clever and expressive use of language.