Francois Rabelais, ca. 1490-1553?

Biographical note

Rabelais was first an ordained priest but he left the monastery to study medicine. As a doctor, he used his spare time to write and publish humorous pamphlets which were critical of established authority and stressed his own perception of individual liberty. His revolutionary works, although satirical, revealed an astute observer of the social and political events unfolding during the first half of the sixteenth century.

Using a pseudonym, in 1532 he published his first book, titled Pantagruel that would be the start of his successful Gargantua series. In his book, Rabelais sang the praises of the wines from his hometown of Chinon through vivid descriptions of the eat, drink and be merry lifestyle. Despite the great popularity of his book, both it and his follow-up book were condemned by the academics at the Sorbonne for their unorthodox ideas and by the Roman Catholic Church for its derision of certain religious practices. Rabelais’ third book, published under his own name, was also banned.

With support from members of the prominent du Bellay family, Rabelais received the approval from King François I, to continue to publish his collection but after the death of the enlightened king, Rabelais was frowned upon by the academic elite and the French Parlement suspended the sale of his fourth book.

François Rabelais left the country for several years before spending his last days in Paris.

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