Title: A voyage to Lilliput
Author: Jonathan Swift
Publisher: Orion Books
Publication date: 1996
Original publication date: 1726
Synopsis: Gulliver’s Travels, and in particular ‘A Voyage to Lilliput’, was, in the words of its author, written to vex rather than to diver the world. Ever since its first publication in 1726, it has managed consistently to provoke both responses. The fantastically inventive fictional world Swift created accommodated satire on the state of man still unsurpassed in its savagery, its indignation and its humour.
Last year I visited Hay-on-Wye, the first booktown in the world, and brought many books with me, including a Lilliputian edition of “Gulliver’s Travels” Part I (probably the most famous one)… “A voyage to Lilliput”.
After suffering a shipwreck, surgeon Lemuel Gullivert swims towards an island that happens to be inhabited by small humans. At first they will take him prisoner, but our protagonist will gain the emperor's trust, His Majesty Golbasto Momaren Evlame Gurdilo Shefin Mully Ully Gue.
Jonathan Swift creates an exotic and silly civilization that mirrors our own society: the insatiable ambition of emperors and kings, rivalries between countries… I’m pretty sure Swift thought of England and France when writing about the enmity between Lilliput and Blefuscu, two empires «parted only by a channel of eight hundred yards wide» and engaged in an obstinate war to decide the correct way of breaking eggs.
He even describes human nature pretty accurately: ignorance, envy, narrow-mindedness… For example, Lilliputian philosophers prefer to think Gullivert fell from the moon or the stars than to accept their beliefs are wrong «because it is certain, that a hundred mortals of your bulk, would, in short time, destroy all the fruits and cattle of his Majesty’s dominions.»
There are even some deep reflections about our way of life, which hasn’t changed much from the 18th century… Gulliver’s clock is described the following way by the Lliliputians that find it in his pocket: «He put this engine to our ears, which made an incessant noise like that of a water-mill: and we conjecture it is either some unknown animal, or the god that he worships: but we are more inclined to the latter opinions, because he assured us, (if we understood him right, for he expressed himself very imperfectly) that he seldom did anything without consulting it.»
Gulliver imitates the elegant and delicate writing style of famous explorers and narrators while describing all kinds of absurd adventures. It is supposed to sound pompous and serious, but ends up causing the contrary effect (which reminds me of “The Adventures of Baron Munchausen” by Gottfried August Bürger).
Politics, hypocrisy, conspiracies… they are all wrapped in satire and ready to upset and entertain readers throughout time. Are you ready to travel with Gulliver?