Uses the narrative of a mock travel writer to explore exotic and imaginary locations. This book mounts a scathing attack on the morals, politics and learning of the 18th century, culminating in possibly the greatest satire ever written: the story of the Houyhnhnms.
In cut and bowdlerized versions, Swift's Gulliver's Travels has been turned into a book for children. The humour of scale accounts for this: Gulliver as a giant among the tiny Lilliputians, Gulliver as a finger-sized manikin among the giant Brobdingnagians. Mary Norton exploited the same fantasies in The Borrowers: the device appeals to children, who are giants to their toy soldiers and farm animals, and dwarfed by adults. But Gulliver uncut is emphatically a book for adults and, like so much that Swift wrote, both funny and shocking. Through Gulliver he exposes the unutterable horror of war and the destructive and sometimes pointless excesses of science; he anatomizes greed, hypocrisy, pretension, oppression, vanity, pettiness and the ludicrous posturing of politicians. Swift's contemporaries picked up specific references to persons and events which may mean little to us now. But it matters not at all, as flaws in humanity are timeless and universal, and as tragi-comically prevalent now as in 1726. Our task is still, as in Forster's phrase from Howards End, to connect 'the beast and the monk' within us. The Yahoos in Gulliver are gross, primitive, savage, coarse, violent and mindless. Gulliver recognized to his mortification that he, like all humans, was basically a Yahoo and that the best we can hope for is to be 'clean, civil, reasoning Yahoos'. Review by Victoria Glendinning, whose many books include a biography of 'Jonathan Swift' (Kirkus UK)