While I’m on the subject of Metamorphic Genitalia and Fantastical Sexual Images, I recently found out that I’d previously misinterpreted the famous “How Panurge showed a very new way to build the walls of Paris” episode in Gargantua and Pantagruel by French writer Rabelais.
I thought that Panurge wanted to build the walls with women’s bodies while in fact he wanted to build them with women’s vulvae, these being cheaper than stones. My mistake was due to the fact that the Urquhart and Motteux translation I based my research on, speaks of “kallibistris” (“callibistrys” in the French original), probably one of the neologisms of Rabelais (although Rabelais scholar Lazar Saineanu (1859-1934), remarks that the word callibistrys was used in the valley of the Yères, so it could actually be an obscure loan-word).
In Rabelais and His World (which uses the 1936 Jacques LeClercq translation of Gargantua and Pantagruel), kallibistris has been replaced by the much more straightforward “pleasure-twats”:
- “I have observed that the pleasure-twats of women in this part of the world are much cheaper than stones, therefore the walls of the city should be built of twats.”
Everyone knows what a twat is.
I can’t help but imagine what Yoshifumi Hayashi (the greatest living artist when it comes to grotesque genitalia, you should google him) would make of a wall of twats, a fortification of disembodied vulvae.