Gullivers Travels

by Jonathan Swift

Other authorsMaraja (Illustrator), Sarel Eimerl (Adapter)
Hardcover, 1962

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The voyages of an Englishman carry him to such strange places as Lilliput, where people are six inches tall; Brobdingnag, a land of giants; an island of sorcerers; and a country ruled by horses.

User reviews

LibraryThing member StephenBarkley
In the second half of the 17th century, Robert Hooke and Antony von Leeuwenhoek refined and used the microscope to view, for the first time, the microbiotic world around them. In a generation, people's conception of large and small shifted. "It is no exaggeration," says Henri Hitchins, "to say that
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without the development of microscopy Swift's book would not have been written" (376).

Most of us know that Swift wrote a tale about a seafarer named Gulliver who washed up on a beach in Lilliput only to be pinned to the ground by little people. Some know that Gulliver's next voyage was to Brobdingnag where he encountered people as large from his perspective as he was to the Lilliputans. This is only half the book.

In the second half he traveled to the floating island of Laputa where he met people who are so enraptured by philosophy and abstractions that they hire a "flappers" to attend to them on walks. The sole purpose of the flapper is to "gently to strike with his bladder the mouth of him who is to speak, and the right ear of him or them to whom the speaker addresses himself" (192). You could say the Laputans are so heavenly minded they're no earthly good.

The final journey puts Gulliver in the land of the Houyhnhnms, a place where proto-humans have degenerated into disgusting "Yahoos" who are disdained by utterly rational (and virtually passionless) horses.

If the microscope inspired the shift in optical perspective in Gulliver's first two journeys, it is a metaphor used to peer into the core of human nature during the second two trips. On the last journey, Gulliver's conversation with the Houyhnhnms reveal the depth of humanity's depravity—bordering on horror. He describes the reality of life in England in a richly ironic way that exposes dark truths about his society. Take his description of lawyers, for example:

"I said there was a society of men among us bred up from their youth in the art of proving by words multiplied for the purpose that white is black and black is white, according as they are paid. To this society all the rest of the people are slaves" (304).

While it's easy to spot the sarcasm in Swift's voice, I can't help but think that a better understanding of the history of 18th century England would help me to catch more of the specific references. Still, Gulliver's Travels, despite having been written three centuries ago, was quite a page-turner. This is no mere children's book!
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LibraryThing member KendraRenee
Such a witty, clever, fun critique of society. Like a true traveler, he pushes the limits of what one is naturally inclined to believe is possible or normal. I would read this book again and again.
LibraryThing member hbergander
My children’s edition cover showed the Lilliputians, fastening Gulliver to the ground. Later on, in a summer camp, in one occasion I was forced to lie spread-eagled in the grass, tied to stakes, because I refused to play football with the other boys. I hated ball games. While they played around
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me, I shut the eyes and imagined myself being Gulliver.
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LibraryThing member the.ken.petersen
The last time that I read this book, I must have been about nine years old. I would be fascinated to turn up that copy because it must have been heavily edited. This book is full of biting criticism of the failings of the human race and much too grown up for the average child.

A further point of
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interest is that whilst most people will know of Gulliver, they will talk of his trip to Lilliput and, just possibly to a land of giants: very few people speak of the other two lands visited - a city in the sky and a land where horse-like creatures rule. It is, however, to these two that I would imagine Swift would attribute the kernel of his tale. The horse people are very close to being the first si-fi book because it is clear that Swift is creating a race totally at variance with human beings.

Considering its age, the book has some remarkably prescient forecasts of modern living. I was struck by Laputa where Swift talks of language being cut and mauled in much the way that 'Text speak' does. I was also surprised by his decision to laud the Houyhnhnms to the extent whereby Gulliver is unable to settle back amongst his own kind: even today, I find myself bridling at such an attitude.

If your child has some bastardised version of this tale upon his or her bookshelf, then rip it away and wait until they reach maturity: it is a crime that this book has been reduced to kiddie fodder.
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LibraryThing member MeditationesMartini
Even on (fifth? sixth?) read, and even with a stronger acquaintance with the sources (hello, Gargantua! sup Lycurgus), the inventiveness never flags. And the satire certainly has its flat-in-2010 moments (mockin' on Walpole and Bolingbroke, like that immortal Simpsons moment when Barney and Wade
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Boggs get in a fistfight about whether the greatest British prime minister was Pitt the Elder or Lord Palmerston), but overall it surprises you with its Juvenalian saturninity, its baleful eye. These are stories you'll never forget, as useful for an impromptu fairytale as for thinking about the good society in a new way at 17, realizing "hey, the Houyhnhnms aren't the good guys at all . . . ."

No, the reason this loses a half star as I return to it in fullblown manhood is that I'm a lot less susceptible to the Augustan smoothness with which Swift invites us to agree with him, a lot less willing to accept the "dark failure" view of mankind as seductive now that I know I won't just forget it as soon as I go outside in the teenage sunshine. I won't condemn Swift's misanthropy on general principle. But I think we have to condemn him on the specifics too. So often he's condemning lawyers and whoremasters and degenerate nobles and all the usual targets, and then he gets around to women, and you'd expect the usual stuff about how they're silly and grasping or whatever, but Swift condemns them for "lewdness", and given the state of patriarchal relations at that time, that is fucking appalling. Or another example: footnote tells me that when he makes fun of "fiddlers" in Book IV, it's far from idle talk--this man, this deacon and thunderbolt moralist refused to come to a man's defense on a rape charge because he was a fiddler. It's "hang 'im! If he's not guilty of this it'll just be something else. Fiddlers."

And it comes across in the satire. How can it not? And it makes me sour. So don't love Jon Swift, but read Gulliver's Travels, the vividest English novel of the 18th c.
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LibraryThing member pokarekareana
I had a picture book version of this as a child, which I loved and which became suitably dog-eared over time. The grown-up version is equally delicious, and just the most perfect form of adventure. I must admit I can’t understand why you’d ever go to sea again after going to Lilliput, because I
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think I would be truly apprehensive, but there’s an adventurous spirit at work in this book that you don’t often see in literature. I read this very quickly, because I found it engrossing and the exploits grew increasingly, well, a little bit strange... definitely one to read!
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LibraryThing member evertrap
This is one book that must be read at least twice. The first time to discover the purpose, and the second time to laugh all the way through.
LibraryThing member bhowell
ah, another edition of Gullivers Travels to add to our library and why, I asked my husband, do we need a third copy when our bookshelves are bulging? Well, it's a copy with larger print that we can actually read (even though everyone in the house has read the book). You can't have too many, can you?
LibraryThing member Tahlil77
I must say that this is the first book that I KNOW I'm going to re-read at the turn of the year. I love social satire and this was right up my alley...although the critique of the human condition was very sad indeed. Especially when noticing that things haven't changed as much as they should have
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with concern to human behavior over the millenia. The story was humorous, informative, entertaining and philosophical all at once, and at all times. It was also much more vile and nasty than any of the childrens cartoons or movies based on the story we may have seen while growing up. The themes of social strength, human ego, the limits of human understanding, and the individual versus society were explored at length and at every angle possible (almost). A great read; but make sure you read the un-edited, unabridged version....that's the way Swift wanted it. You won't be able to look at the world, or your own beliefs through the same lens again.
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LibraryThing member MikeLancaster
One of the most remarkable books in the English language.

Swift dissects, shrinks, magnifies and distorts the world around him, and invites us along to witness the results through the eyes of Lemuel Gulliver, who -for deviation from planned routes- must rank among the world's unluckiest travellers.
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It is a great story, a great satire, and a book that rewards repeated readings.
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LibraryThing member Stbalbach
I found this to be a difficult read. It is a satire of travel literature (the preeminent form of literature in the early 18th century, like the novel is today) which recounts impossibly fantastic stories in a matter-of-fact manner that are uncomfortably obviously untrue (like many of the travel
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stories it is satirizing). It takes a dark and negative view of human nature that is disturbing, and is a fundamentally pessimistic book told in a witty and humorous way. Probably among the sickest of children-literature if it is read as such, but it has created a mythology that is a part of western culture. As protest literature it is way ahead of its time about colonialism and the idea of European might makes right. As satire it is one of the best. Some of the concepts can be found in later literature: the Yahoo's are like the wild-humans on "Planet of the Apes". Many of the fantasy ideas are very rich indeed. Overall - glad to be done with it! But if your going to read/write satire, it should be as biting and uncomfortable as this.
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LibraryThing member AshRyan
Gulliver's Travels has some amusing and even a few insightful bits, but Swift was no Voltaire. A satire not so much on some particular human follies as on man as such, this book is basically a monument to misanthropy---as is made painfully clear in the heavy-handed fourth part. Not that satire has
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to be subtle, but it should at least be accurate, at most an exaggeration of the truth rather than a projection of one's own bitter prejudices. Swift's portrayal of human society, even as imperfect as it was (and even more so in his time than now), is at best one-sided. It ends with the narrator repulsed by the smell of his wife, and disgusted with himself for ever having couple with her and brought children into the world. If you can sympathize with that sentiment, then you might find Swift's satire to be penetrating and clever. If, on the other hand, you see any value in human life and hold it to be more important than the vice and suffering that necessarily characterize some part of it, then you might be better off reading something else.
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LibraryThing member andyzhou
The said a man whose name is Gullivers.He travels lots of countries and has many experence.Every country is different and everything happened in these countries are attractive.There is a country that i like best--Houyhnhnms.It is a country which is mixed by kindness,honesty and friendship.There is
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no "lie" there.The people who lives there also can't understand what does it mean.They'd even don't kown what does "doubt" and "mistrust" mean.I hope all of this world will be like Houyhnhnms.
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LibraryThing member DanaJean
I thought this was an okay book. I understand what Swift was trying to accomplish with his 4 different worlds--the lessons he was trying to teach--but I wasn't that engaged with the stories. There were some interesting bits of writing, but overall, just one of those classics I felt I needed to read
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to be a well-rounded person. Yes, I am much rounder now but it has nothing to do with this book.
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LibraryThing member vicarofdibley
satire on the political word atthe time can be applyed today
LibraryThing member readafew
That was interesting. Just finished. I would say it was written for someone at with a middle school level of reading. Fun easy read.

I think I was missing some important info regarding the countries being made fun of to really 'get it'. Swift enjoyed a little too much, the making up of strange
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names and words to emphasize the differences in the other lands and cultures the charactor 'visited'. One of the points that could be taken from it, are peoples problems and worries are all relative to their perspective.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
When this book was first written, it became famous for its biting satire and disdain for 'modern' politics and politicians. In the near-300 years that have passed since then, the satirical edges have softened, leaving a great adventure story.
LibraryThing member AngelaB86
Swift's ideas about human nature and government are timeless. Gulliver's Travels is a must read!
LibraryThing member pratchettfan
Written about 300 years ago this story has aged very well and Gulliver's adventures are event today very entertaining. Gulliver's Travels was meant to mock the hordes of books about adventurous travels released at the time which often exaggerated the dangers faced and the belitteled the intellect
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of the natives encountered. And so Gulliver meets giants, tiny people, horses which rule over men and people living on a floating island. In addition to the entertainment value these episodes hold it is also very interesting to see how critical Jonathan Swift was of English society and values. This criticism is never voiced by the main character directly, but surface through the discussions Gulliver has with the people he meets.

The Audiobook version published by Alcazar AudioWorks features a terrific Narrator which makes the story a joy to listen to.
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LibraryThing member fothpaul
Alot of variety in this book. The different lands that Gulliver visits are never the same. A good book indeed.
LibraryThing member andyray
The earliest continually recorded satire piece of literature, plus being long-lasting in human culture via jONATHAN sWIFT'S WONDERFUL IMAGINATION. The whole of the four voyages comes through after several readins. At first, the Lilliputians is all one remembers, and indeed, is all that is filmed,
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but the Houghyhm (sp) (neigh) horses pick perfectly at the imperfect society of thazt time (and of this).
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LibraryThing member ayumig
At first , I thought this book was a fairy tale. But after I read this book, I realize that this book had lessons.for example, this book teaches us that people tell alie ,steal something and fight, just they have always done, and probably will always do.We usually don't notice that fact.So we
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should think our own lives deeply.
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LibraryThing member markbstephenson
Was Glubbdubdrib on J.K. Rowling's mind when she envisaged Hogwarts? Swift's deadpan satire is a treat, but so is his earnest advocacy of freedom.
LibraryThing member satsche
Well, to make it short: I was disappointed. Somehow I expected some kind of "great literature". But it's definitively not. The writing style is much too simple, when the story starts to get "deeper" it mostly says something like "I don't want to talk about this anymore, because the reader could be
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bored". What the...? I'm not enjoying this one. 2,5 stars just because the story itself is interesting - but could be better written.

I know it's world literature, but I really don't know why. Maybe this is because of my edition (or translation).
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LibraryThing member tjsjohanna
I can't help but wonder what a conversation with Mr. Swift might have been like. He is so overwhelmingly conscious of all the faults of human kind that it is almost depressing to come to the end of "Gulliver's Travels" and feel condemned to be such a Yahoo! Still, it must be admitted that his
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observations are truthful. One thing I found particularly interesting about the book was the bluntness with which Mr. Swift addresses such things as bodily functions - and the chapters about the Yahoos are quite distasteful if the reader stops to consider that Gulliver makes a boat using the skin and fat of humans, as well as articles of clothing and sails. Somehow, by assigning another name, and continually referring to Yahoos as brutes, Mr. Swift leads the reader to skim right past these details.
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