Absurdism, Books, Rhetoric

A fellow of infinite jest

Recently I summarised, dissected, reviewed and analysed Cervantes’s masterwork Don Quixote. It elicited a request for further classic works, more revered than read, to be so treated. Here, in a continuation of that public service, therefore, is my rumination on an English comic novel: The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman by Lawrence Sterne, first published in York in 1759.

The Monty Python team once held an All-England Summarise Proust Competition in which the finalists were required to summarise A la recherche du Temps Perdu, once in swimsuit and once in evening dress. Continue reading

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Art, Books, Law

Rabelaisians

The prototype of French comedic excess is François Rabelais with his gross, bawdy, scatalogical, jesting, fantastical narratives that pushed back the frontiers of decency. His two classics texts Pantegruel and Gargantua (both 1530s) reveal him to be a moralist in the French sense, inclined to paint folly than inveigh against it. Knowing that humans are not at ease with their condition or sexuality, bodily functions or death he asserted that laughter was the “property of Man”. In doing so he gave us the term Rabelaisian, defined by the Oxford dictionary as “an exuberance of imagination and language, combined with extravagance and coarseness of humour and satire”. Continue reading

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