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This report is taken from PN Review 250, Volume 46 Number 2, November - December 2019.

from The Notebooks of Arcangelo Riffis Marius Kociejowski
Arcangelo was always on at me about Rabelais, saying that I must read him, which, some months ago, I finally did and not entirely without pleasure, although I could not warm to the book as a whole. I couldn’t get on with the endless buffoonery, which I prefer as snacks rather than as a full course. I am torn between a reluctance to admit this and a willingness to say what I feel except that I think I am probably wrong in assessing the book as I do. Some door to it wouldn’t open for me. I’d read Mikhail Bakhtin’s Rabelais and his World and was wholly in sympathy with his ideas on the carnivalesque. It is the most engaging work of literary criticism I’d ever read and so it was with something like shock and disappointment, more with myself than with the book, that I was unable to more fully engage with the work that so inspired Bakhtin during the most terrible years of World War Two, which is when he wrote his great work. And then I got to Chapters 55 and 56 in The Fourth Book of Pantagruel which contain some of the most powerfully imagined passages in all literature. It was worth the journey of over eight hundred pages to get there. The ship that carries Pantagruel and Panurge enters the Frozen Sea and it is there, with no land in sight, Pantagruel, studying the horizon, hears the sounds of voices in the air. He calls for everyone to be silent and listen. The crew, hearing nothing at first, gradually begins to hear ...

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