Despite the hundreds of books and scholarly articles which have been devoted to him, François Villon remains a mysterious figure who, in the words of the sort of paradox he applies to himself, appears both near yet far. Near because he seems to articulate feelings to which readers down the ages have been able to respond, far because the world he lived in seems to a modern reader a tantalizingly foreign one. No analysis of the poet's work is complete without some description of that world in all its physical and mental strangeness. This new book will also show how Villon consciously fashioned his own image, manipulating his original readers and offering them a version of himself and his talents designed to amuse, impress, move and perhaps deceive. For he had been a villain as well as a poet, and he uses selected episodes from his past together with a very personal treatment of the great literary and moral themes of his age not only to express his own conflicting emotions but also to demonstrate that he is a reformed man who needs and deserves sympathy and understanding. This consummate artist comes across in his deliberately ambiguous work as a loveable rogue, by turns jaunty and maudlin. The baffling persona he created raises many questions. The author of the present study looks in particular at the reception of Villon's work in his own day, suggesting that it was meant to be presented (and perhaps performed) as part of a process of rehabilitation and a return to the fold he had been forced to leave by his own behaviour. The poet's work might thus help him achieve social acceptance and the longed-for ‘maison et couche molle’. However, events on the streets of Paris in late 1462 would silence his voice forever.
Introduction Living on the Edge Paris: the city that knows no equal The Last Laugh Men beware Women The Skull beneath the Skin Crime does not pay Ain't Misbehavin' A Lantern in the Wind Selective Bibliography Index