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Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift
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Gulliver's Travels (original 1726; edition 2011)

by Jonathan Swift

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13,623141155 (3.63)481
Member:Keksa
Title:Gulliver's Travels
Authors:Jonathan Swift
Info:Penguin Press/Classics (2011), Paperback, 336 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***
Tags:Victorian, fantasy, adventure

Work details

Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

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» See also 481 mentions

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Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
What a stinging satire on English politics.

The most intriguing is how Gulliver's mindset has changed over the course of four discrete voyages and comes to think of his circumstances differently upon his return home.

The allegories and satire appear to elude many who simply look at the story at face value for entertainment without trying to understand the author's intent or interest in the story behind the story.

This book was highly influenced by the political events of the English Civil War and that of the Protestant/Anglican in-fighting. Some things seem astonishingly prescient that they have changed very little in nearly 400 years. A few examples:

1) Seemingly trivial differences in religious doctrines between different groups often become of tremendous importance and lead to acrimonious civil conflicts and eventually wars, compared to the long and bloody war between the Big-Endians and Little-Endians caused a disagreement over where to crack eggs. (The Small Endians break their eggs on the small end, while the Big-Endians break their eggs on the large end.)

2) The Whigs and Tories waste a massive amount of energy and resources on political infighting, represented by the two Lilliputian political parties separated solely by the aesthetic choice between wearing high heels and low heels.

3) Billions of dollars of research grant (taxpayers' money) are wasted on "silly science" today, like the "shrimp on a treadmill." [Here] [And here], exemplified by the years of research expended by the Royal Academy scientists in Laputa on extracting sunshine from cucumbers or mixing paint by smell.
The first man I saw was of a meagre aspect, with sooty hands and face…[H]e has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers. He told me, he did not doubt, that, in eight years more, he should be able to supply the governor’s gardens with sunshine, at a reasonable rate...
Swift's exploration of imaginary societies is full of humor, irony, and exaggeration, and effectively exposes and criticizes the stupidity of English politics at that time, although he falls short on delivering resolutions or ideas for improvement.

Swift’s commentaries are often insightful and piercing, but sometimes harsh and unforgiving to the point where narrative eloquence and lyrical quality (which I've expected to find in classic literature) are sacrificed for the sake of crushing causticity.

A major argument that Swift makes in this novel is that balance and moderation are the keys to success, individually and collectively. However, I occasionally find Swift's bitter irony a little excessive and extreme. For example, when Gulliver returns home from the land of the Houhynhnms and is greeted by his wife and children, he feels the utmost shame, confusion and horror. To me, this borders on straight-out misanthropy. Sarcasm may employ ambivalence, and sarcasm doesn't necessarily have to be jarringly ironic.

Also, some of Swift’s critiques seem lifeless and didn't strike any strong chord with me.

Despite the legacy of this work, I find the prose hardly enjoyable or memorable.

This is just how I saw it. Glad I read it.
( )
  sunrise_hues | Jul 8, 2015 |
[From Books and You, Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1940, p. 32-33:]

Then I should like you to read Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. I am going to deal with Doctor Johnson later on, but here I must note that, speaking of this book, he said: “When once you have thought of big men and little men, it is very easy to do all the rest.” Doctor Johnson was an excellent critic and a very wise man, but here he talked nonsense. Gulliver's Travels has wit and irony, ingenious invention, broad humour, savage satire and vigour. Its style is admirable. No one has ever written this difficult language of ours more compactly, more lucidly and more unaffectedly than Swift. I could wish that Doctor Johnson had said of him what he said of another: “Whoever wishes to attain an English style, familiar but not coarse and elegant but not ostentatious, must give his days and nights to the volumes of Addison.” He could then have added a third to his pairs of adjectives: virile but not overweening.

[Further thoughts on Swift; from The Summing Up, The Literary Guild of America, 1938; x, 26-27; xxiii, 82; xlvi, 178:]

The prose of Swift enchanted me. I made up my mind that this was the perfect way to write and I started to work on him in the same way as I had done with Jeremy Taylor. I chose The Tale of a Tub. It is said that when the Dean re-read it in his old age he cried: 'What genius I had then!' To my mind his genius was better shown in other works. It is a tiresome allegory and the irony is facile. But the style is admirable. I cannot imagine that English can be better written. Here are no flowery periods, fantastic turns of phrase or high-flown images. It is a civilized prose, natural, discreet and pointed. There is no attempt to surprise by an extravagant vocabulary. It looks as though Swift made do with the first word that came to hand, but since he had an acute and logical brain it was always the right one, and he put it in the right place. The strength and balance of his sentences are due to an exquisite taste. As I had done before [with Jeremy Taylor] I copied passages and then tried to write them out again from memory. I tried altering words or the order in which they were set. I found that the only possible words were those Swift had used and that the order in which he had placed them was the only possible order. It is an impeccable prose.

But perfection has one grave defect: it is apt to be dull. Swift's prose is like a French canal, bordered with poplars, that runs through a gracious and undulating country. Its tranquil charm fills you with satisfaction, but it neither excites the emotions nor stimulates the imagination. You go on and on and presently you are a trifle bored. So, much as you may admire Swift's wonderful lucidity, his terseness, his naturalness, his lack of affectation, you find your attention wandering after a while unless his matter peculiarly interests you.

[…]

I have often heard writers complain that they wanted to write but had nothing to write about, and I remember one distinguished author telling me that she was reading through some books in which were epitomized all the plots that had ever been used in order to find a theme. I have never found myself in such a predicament. Swift, as we know, who claimed that he could write on any subject whatever, when he was challenged to write a discourse on a broomstick acquitted himself very creditably.

[…]

Writing is a whole-time job. To write must be the main object of the author's life; that is to say, he must be a professional writer. He is lucky if he has sufficient fortune to make him independent of his earnings, but that does not prevent him from being a professional writer. Swift with his deanery, Wordsworth with his sinecure, were just as much professional writers as Balzac and Dickens.
  WSMaugham | Jun 24, 2015 |
Most people have at least heard of Gulliver’s Travels and it’s hard not to have a few preconceived notions pop into your head for a book like that. I knew the general idea before I read it, but I was surprised by the specific observations Gulliver shares about each race he visits. A shipwreck strands Gulliver with the Lilliputs and a series of adventures follow.

Originally published as a satire, the book is now read by all ages. He travels all over and meets the strangest people. He makes observations about their ways of life and in doing so often tells more about himself and his prejudices than he means to. Each new group teaches him something about the way he sees the world.

The Lilliputs are a tiny people, so small they can fit in his hand. They have to make 100 meals just to feed him. The very next group he discovers are giants and he is now the tiny figure that can fit in their hand. His observations of both of these groups were not always what you would expect. Sometimes he remarks on the texture of their skin. He even makes some hilarious comments about watching one of the giants nurse and being terrified by her enormous breast. The woman who takes care of him in the giants’ land sews him shirts lets him to use items from her dollhouse.

There’s a lot of humor worked into the stories. At one point he gets in a fight with the queen’s dwarf and is dropped into a giant bowl of cream and then stuck into a marrow bone. There are houseflies that constantly plague him because they're the size of birds. He can see when the flies lay eggs in the giants’ food because they look so large to him. Gulliver also discovers the Houyhnhnms, a race of horses that are superior to all the other races he describes.

The thing I loved about it was that it made you look at your own world a little differently. It makes you notice things that you normally take for granted. The whole book is a fascinating exercise in how our situation and surroundings affect the way we see the world. Swift manages to do this in a humorous way, never taking himself too seriously. It broke my heart a little that Gulliver kept leaving his family to travel and then when he finally returns he never quite gets over leaving the Houyhnhnms.

BOTTOM LINE: At times clever, at others dry, this classic gives the reader a lot to think about when they view their own society. It’s a reminder that so much of what we believe is based on what we already know. The more we learn about other cultures, the more we can understand them and appreciate their strengths. ( )
  bookworm12 | Apr 6, 2015 |
Still not a wortwhile read, ( )
  fabooj | Feb 3, 2015 |
I am doing work on masculinity with this book, but even with that interest in mind I did not particularly enjoy Gulliver. ( )
1 vote librarycatnip | Jan 12, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 123 (next | show all)
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels: Reviewing a Classic in a Modern Context
 

» Add other authors (154 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Swift, Jonathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Swift, Jonathanmain authorall editionsconfirmed
Asimov, IsaacEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Becker, May LambertonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blankensteyn, C. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christian, AntonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Amico, MasolinoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dettore, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Formichi, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geismar, MaxwellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grandville, JeanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollo, J. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kottenkamp, FranzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mehl, DieterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, R.M.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuenke, ChristaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Turner, PaulEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Weisgard, LeonardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winter, MiloIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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My father had a small estate in Nottinghamshire; I was the third of five sons.
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This is the main work for Gulliver's Travels. Please do not combine with any adaptation, abridgement, etc.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0141439491, Paperback)

Shipwrecked castaway Lemuel Gulliver’s encounters with the petty, diminutive Lilliputians, the crude giants of Brobdingnag, the abstracted scientists of Laputa, the philosophical Houyhnhnms, and the brutish Yahoos give him new, bitter insights into human behavior. Swift’s fantastic and subversive book remains supremely relevant in our own age of distortion, hypocrisy, and irony.


@LittleBigMan Awoke in an unfamiliar land. The boat and my crew are gone. Oh dear, the people here are very small. Oops. Sorry about that.

I don’t mean to boast; I’m not a terribly tall man. But these people of Lilliput are the size of child’s Johnson. Still, they have captured me.

I have become a great favorite of the Lilliputian court, whose antics are like an adorable tiny version King George’s, the blithering idiot.

From Twitterature: The World's Greatest Books in Twenty Tweets or Less

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:02:19 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

The unusual voyages of Englishman Lemuel Gulliver carry him to such strange locales as Lilliput, where the inhabitants are six inches tall; Brobdingnag, a land of giants; an island of sorcerers; and a nation ruled by horses.

(summary from another edition)

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6 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439491, 0140382402, 0451531132, 0141196645, 0141195177, 0141198982

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Editions: 0763624098, 0763647403

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