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``Plainly, translating Rabelais is extraordinarily difficult,'' writes Raffel in his preface. Indeed, Rabelais (1483?-1554?) is not easy to read in the original Middle French, with its long, intricate sentences and its immense vocabulary mixing erudition, obscenities, and scatology. The reader will find here the comic chronicles of two giants, Gargantua and his son, Pantagruel (and let's not forget Pantagruel's companion, Panurge) exploring and passing judgment on all aspects of the life of their times. A satire on religion, education, and law appears alongside unabashed descriptions of bodily functions and desires. Parts of the work were censured upon publication, and since that time timid modern French and English translations have freely expurgated segments of the text. Fortunately, Raffel has not and, having wrestled with this difficult text, has provided us with a classic work, restored to its original complexity, humor, and gusto.-- Danielle Mihram, Univ. of Southern California