This book was originally published in France under the title Les testaments trahis.ISBN 0060171456 PART ONE The Day Panurge No Longer Makes People Laugh 1PART TWO The Castrating Shadow of Saint Garta 35PART THREE Improvisation in Homage to Stravinsky 55PART FOUR A Sentence 99PART FIVE A la Recherche du Present Perdu 121PART SIX Works and Spiders 147PART SEVEN The Unloved Child of the Family 179PART EIGHT Paths in the Fog 199PART NINE You're Not in Your Own House Here, My Dear Fellow 241PART ONE The Day Panurge No Longer Makes People LaughThe Invention of HumorThe pregnant Madame Grandgousier ate too much tripe, and they had to give her a purgative; it was so strong that the placenta let go, the fetus Gargantua slipped into a vein, traveled up her system, and came out of his mania's ear. From the very first lines, Rabelais's book shows its hand: the story being told here is not serious: that is, there are no statements of truths here (scientific or mythic); no promise to describe things as they are in reality. Rabelais's time was fortunate: the novel as butterfly is taking flight, carrying the shreds of the chrysalis on its back. With his giant form, Pantagruel still belongs to the past of fantastic tales, while Panurge comes from the yet unknown future of the novel. The extraordinary moment of the birth of a new art gives Rabelais's book an astounding richness; it has everything: the plausible and the implausible, allegory, satire, giants and ordinary men, anecdotes, medita- tions, voyages real and fantastic, scholarly disputes, digressions of pure verbal virtuosity. Today's novelist, with his legacy from the nineteenth century, feels an envious nostalgia for the superbly heterogeneous universe of those earliest novelists and for the delightful liberty with which they dwelt in it.
Just as Rabelais starts his book by dropping Gargantua onto the world's stage from his mama's ear, so in The Satanic Verses, after a midair plane explosion, do Salman Rushdie's two heroes fall through the air chattering, singing, and carrying on in comic and improbable fashion. While "above, behind, below them in the void" float reclining seats, paper cups, oxygen masks, and passengers, one of them—Gibreel Farishta—swims "in air, butterfly-stroke, breast-stroke, bunching himself into a ball, spreadeagling himself against the almost-infinity of the almost-dawn," and the other—Saladin Chamcha—like "a fastidious shadow falling headfirst in a grey suit with all the jacket buttons done up, arms by his sides. . . a bowler hat on his head." The novel opens with that scene, for, like Rabelais, Rushdie knows that the contract between the novelist and the reader must be established from the outset; it must be clear: the story being told here is not serious, even though it is about the most dreadful things.