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Generating the Unwritten Text: The Case of Rabelais Fred J. Nichols A T THE END of Rabelais’ Pantagruel, we are promised further adventures in a continuation, which will be available at the next Frankfurt book fair, “ et là vous verrez: comment Panurge fut marié, et cocqu dès le premier moys de ses nopces; et comment Panta­ gruel trouva la pierre philosophale, et la manière de la trouver et d ’en user; et comment il naviga par la mer Athlantique, et deffit les caniballes, et conquesta les isles de Perlas, comment il espousa la fille du roy de Inde, nommé Presthan; comment il combatif contre les diables et fist brusler cinq chambres d’enfer, et mist à sac la grande chambre noire, et getta Proserpine au feu, et rompit quatre dentz à Lucifer et une corne au cul; et comment il visita les régions de la lune pour sçavoir si, à la vérité, la lune n’estoit entière, mais que les femmes en avoient troys quartiers en la teste; et mille aultres petites joyeusetéz toutes véritables.” 1 In fact, the continuation of the adventures of Pantagruel in the Tiers Livre hardly touches on most of these matters. It does focus on the ques­ tion of whether Panurge should marry and whether he will be cuckolded if he does. But we never read an account of the marriage, much less the cuckolding, nor is there an account of Pantagruel’s marriage. The Quart Livre likewise does focus on a voyage across the Atlantic, as a way of seeking a resolution of the problem of Panurge’s marriage, but the con­ quest of the cannibals never takes place. The rest of the adventures sketched out in this passage never take any subsequent written form. When at last we reach the end of the book we are still without the philos­ opher’s stone, not to mention the very useful information about how to get it and what to do with it. We also miss Pantagruel’s descent into hell and his heroic exploits there, as well as his trip to the moon and what he did or did not find there. Although we have by the end read many fine things in the text and we do finally reach the oracle of the Dive Bouteille —perhaps not in a text written by Rabelais, but nevertheless in a written text—looking back on it all at the end, we may still feel a twinge of regret at having missed the adventures that have been promised but never delivered to us. What I propose to do here is to show that these missing adventures VOL. XXVIII, NO. 1 7 L ’E s pr it C réa te u r are one, perhaps the most notable, in a whole series of texts in the work that are alluded to, but which we never see in their written form. Gargan­ tua and Pantagruel situates itself in a fictional universe where there exist literally hundreds of volumes known to the narrator but inaccessible to us, not to mention texts like the adventures I have just referred to which are promised but never written. Rabelais’ great work is not very much like any other, and this is one of the ways in which it is unique. What follows here is a meditation on the significance of the (non)existence of these absent texts. If we are never to read them, why are they mentioned at all? Let us begin with Pantagruel, the first part of the work in order of composition. It is worth remembering that this book does not present itself to us as a fully autonomous text. It tells us in the Prologue de l’auteur that it is the continuation of an already existing text, the Grandes et inestimables Chroniques de l’énorme géant Gargantua. This resolute instance of intertextuality renders our text in some sense de­ pendent upon one that precedes it. Further on in the Prologue we are given a list of other texts which share with the Chroniques certain occult healing properties. Six of the eight works listed unquestionably exist, but the first, Fessepinte, is known...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1931-0234
Print ISSN
0014-0767
Pages
pp. 7-17
Launched on MUSE
2017-07-05
Open Access
No
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