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Gulliver's Travels by Jonathan Swift

Gulliver's Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
16,210163176 (3.63)617
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» See also 617 mentions

English (140)  Dutch (5)  Spanish (4)  Italian (4)  French (3)  Portuguese (2)  Swedish (1)  Portuguese (Brazil) (1)  German (1)  Catalan (1)  All languages (162)
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
would not wish upon my worst enemy

also made me feel really uncomfortable about horses ( )
  ireneattolia | Sep 3, 2018 |
Yeats said he saw Swift peeping around every corner. So do I. So will you. ( )
  Stubb | Aug 28, 2018 |
It is difficult to describe what Swift's masterpiece means to me. Gulliver's Travels is a book that I will probably be grappling with for the rest of my life, and I mean that in a good way. It is a savage jeu d'esprit, a book about religion with no mention of God, a philosophical end-game written in unadorned prose, a deeply pessimistic statement on human nature, a lacerating attack on the primacy of Reason in Englightenment thought, a pacifist tract, and, yes, one of the funniest books ever written. An earlier Penguin edition had a foreword by British critic (and MP!) Michael Foot that is one of the most penetrating pieces of literary analysis I have ever read. ( )
2 vote MikeLindgren51 | Aug 7, 2018 |
Only Book IV ( )
  Eileen9 | May 23, 2018 |

I first read this at about the age of eight or nine; I’m pretty sure it was the Cassell edition with illustrations by Thomas Morten, because a) the scatological bits have been bowdlerised out and b) I remember my grandfather, in what may well have been the last conversation I ever had with him, teasing me for not knowing Gulliver’s first name; it does not appear in the Cassell edition, which omits the two introductory letters where he is introduced as Lemuel Gulliver.

In case you don’t know, the story is of a normal English naval surgeon who finds himself on four adventures: first, he goes to a country where everyone is very small; then he goes to a country where everyone is very big; then he goes to a country where everyone is a mad scientist (or at least pursuing peculiar paths of knowledge); and finally he goes to a country where horses are intelligent and humans are primitive brutes. They deserve separate treatment, though they are coherent parts of a whole. The illustrations below are Morten’s from the Cassell edition; the text is from the Penguin edition with footnotes by Robert DeMaria.

Part I: A Voyage to Lilliput

Lilliput is the best known of the four books - perhaps it is the easiest to grasp and to film. In 1981 Barry Letts did an adaptation which centred much more around Lady Flimnap than Gulliver; the lead was played by Elisabeth Sladen, formerly (and future) Sarah Jane Smith.

This is the most directly satirical of the four parts, the story of Lilliput and its eternal rival Blefuscu, clearly modelled on England and France, divided also by the debate over which end of the egg to break first, and in the case of Lilliput riven by internal court intrigue into which Gulliver becomes a deeply disturbing factor. Turning the telescope around is an old satirist’s trick, and reducing the squabbles of European politicians and churchmen to a twelfth of their usual size is a good way of putting things in perspective.

This is the only one of the four books where Gulliver is forced to leave by the inhabitants (or rather to avoid their intention to kill or maim him). The precipitating moment is when he puts out a fire in the Queen’s apartments by urinating on it. (This is one of the bits that was left out of the Cassell edition.)

Part II: A Voyage to Brobdingnag

If Lilliput is the most satirical of the four parts of the story, Brobdingnag is the most philosophical. (Also, ironically, the shortest.) The two particularly memorable aspects of the story are, first, the body horror of everything being twelve times its normal size, including lice, flies, rats, monkeys and indeed dwarves; and second, a long conversation about political theory between Gulliver and the King of Brobdingnag, in which Gulliver leads off with a naïvely idealistic description of the British constitution, and the King gently destroys every single point in a series of hypothetical questions. It is the closest we get to sæva Indignatio (though there are several other near encounters).

Incidentally, I surely can’t be alone in detecting an echo of “dashing out the Brains of a poor harmless Creature found by chance in his Field“ in “To a Mouse”.

Part III: A Voyage to Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib and Japan

The third section has perhaps weathered the test of time least well of the four - though ironically it is the most sfnal, in that the first half is very much about the application of science and the second half then takes us into accessing the past (by summoning ghosts, and talking to immortals). Swift’s rejection of scientific research as a worthwhile activity, and of science as a useful tool for statecraft, is pretty startling for the modern reader. We make a mistake if we read the floating island of Laputa as a scientific endeavour; it’s essentially a magical mechanism enabling the plot to happen, and the scientists above and below are deranged idealists. Of the three books, this is the one where Gulliver travels the most, and the result is a somewhat disjointed narrative.

Part IV: A Voyage to the Land of the Houyhnhnms

The fourth and final part is by far the most misanthropic story of the book. The Houyhnhnms are intelligent horses, philosopher kings who do not seem to know crime or even sin. The Yahoos (who they exploit) are degenerate humans with disgusting personal hygiene and morals. Again Gulliver attempts to explain his own society to his hosts, but now he emphasises the negatives rather than the positives. He is appalled to find himself closer physically to the Yahoos, and aspires to be one of the Houyhnhnms. (This of course makes him unbearable to his family, and vice versa, when he eventually does get home.) Again, the reversal of roles is an old satirist’s trick; it’s maybe a little less successful here because we modern readers can’t help but notice the Houyhnhnms’ exploitation of the Yahoos, and also wonder exactly how horses can develop even a modest level of technology without opposable digits. But that’s not the point; to invoke Burns again, the point is “To see oursels as ithers see us”, and the disgusting behaviour of the Yahoos should be read as disturbingly close to our own societies.

Alas, there is precisely no evidence that Swift was inspired to write about Gulliver’s capture in Lilliput by the anthropomorphic profile of Cave Hill as it overlooks Belfast. Shame; it would have been nice if it were true. ( )
2 vote nwhyte | Apr 6, 2018 |
Showing 1-5 of 140 (next | show all)
Jonathan Swift's Gulliver's Travels: Reviewing a Classic in a Modern Context

» Add other authors (282 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Swift, JonathanAuthorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bawden, EdwardIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Becker, May LambertonIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Blankensteyn, C. vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Christian, AntonIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
D'Amico, MasolinoEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DeMaria, Robert, Jr.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dettore, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Foot, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Formichi, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Geismar, MaxwellIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grandville, JeanIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hollo, J. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kottenkamp, FranzTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
MarajaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mehl, DieterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nimwegen, Arjaan vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pirè, LucianaEditorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Powers, R.M.Illustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Schuenke, ChristaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Seidel, MichaelIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Syrier, PaulTranslatorsecondary 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.
And he gave it for his opinion, "that whoever could make two ears of corn, or two blades of grass, to grow upon a spot of ground where only one grew before, would deserve better of mankind, and do more essential service to his country, than the whole race of politicians put together.”
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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.

» see all 77 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

5 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141439491, 0140382402, 0141196645, 0141195177, 0141198982

Tantor Media

2 editions of this book were published by Tantor Media.

Editions: 1400102723, 1400109027

Urban Romantics

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