Short summary - Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships - Jonathan Swift

British literature summaries -

Short summary - Travels into Several Remote Nations of the World, in Four Parts. By Lemuel Gulliver, First a Surgeon, and then a Captain of several Ships
Jonathan Swift

«Gulliver’s Travels» is a work written at the intersection of genres: this is a fascinating, purely novel narrative, a novel-journey (by no means, however, is «sentimental,» which Lawrence Stern will describe in 1768); it is a pamphlet novel and at the same time a novel bearing distinct features of anti-utopia, a genre that we are accustomed to believing to belong exclusively to 20th-century literature; it is a novel with equally distinct elements of fiction, and the riot of Swift imagination truly knows no limits. Being a dystopian novel, this novel is also utopian in the full sense, especially its last part. And finally, undoubtedly, one should pay attention to the most important thing - this is a prophetic novel, for, reading and rereading it today, perfectly realizing the undoubted specificity of the addressees of the Swift merciless, caustic, murderous satire, you think about this specificity last. Because everything that his hero encounters during his wanderings, his peculiar Odysseus, all manifestations of human, let’s say, oddities - those that grow into «oddities,» which are both national and supranational, are global, all this not only did not die together with those against whom Swift addressed his pamphlet, did not go into oblivion, but, alas, it amazes with its relevance. And so - the author’s astounding prophetic gift, his ability to catch and recreate that which belongs to human nature, and therefore has a character, so to speak, enduring. all manifestations of human, let’s say, oddities — those that grow into «oddities» that are both national and supranational, also global, - all this not only did not die together with those against whom Swift addressed his pamphlet, it did not go away into oblivion, but, alas, striking in its relevance. And so - the author’s astounding prophetic gift, his ability to catch and recreate that which belongs to human nature, and therefore has a character, so to speak, enduring. all manifestations of human, let’s say, oddities — those that grow into «oddities» that are both national and supranational, also global, - all this not only did not die together with those against whom Swift addressed his pamphlet, it did not go away into oblivion, but, alas, striking in its relevance. And so - the author’s astounding prophetic gift, his ability to catch and recreate that which belongs to human nature, and therefore has a character, so to speak, enduring.

Swift's book has four parts: his hero makes four journeys, the total duration of which in time is sixteen years and seven months. Departing, or rather, sailing, every time from a very specific port city that really exists on any map, he suddenly finds himself in some strange countries, getting acquainted with those mores, way of life, everyday life, laws and traditions that go there, and talking about his country, about England. And the first such "stop" turns out to be the country of Liliputia for the Swift hero. But first, two words about the hero himself. In Gulliver, some features of his creator, his thoughts, his ideas, a kind of «self-portrait» merged, however, the wisdom of the Swift hero (or, more precisely, his sanity in that fantastically absurd world, what he describes each time with an inimitably serious, deadpan mines) is combined with the "innocence" of Voltaire Huron. It is this simplicity, this strange naivety, that allows Gulliver to so sharply (that is, so inquisitively, so accurately) grasp every time, when he finds himself in a wild and foreign country, the most important thing. At the same time, a certain detachment is always felt in the very intonation of his narrative, calm, unhurried, non-vain irony. It’s as if he’s not talking about his own «walking in agony», but he is looking at everything that’s happening as if from a distance, and quite a lot. In a word, sometimes it feels like it's our contemporary, a genius writer unknown to us is leading his story. Laughing at us, at ourselves, at human nature and human mores, which he sees as unchanging.

So, the first "stop" for the Swift hero is the country of Liliputia, where very small people live. Already in this, the first part of the novel, as well as in all subsequent ones, the author’s ability to convey, from a psychological point of view absolutely accurately and reliably, the sensation of a person among people (or creatures) who are not like him, to convey his sense of loneliness, is striking abandonment and internal lack of freedom, constraint precisely by what is around - all the others and everything else.

In that detailed, unhurried tone with which Gulliver narrates about all the absurdities and absurdities that he encounters when he gets into the country of Liliput, an amazing, exquisitely-hidden humor is reflected.

At first, these strange, incredibly small in size people (correspondingly just as miniature and everything that surrounds them) meet Man of the Mountain (as they call Gulliver) friendly enough: he is provided with housing, special laws are adopted that somehow regulate his communication with local residents, so that it flows equally harmoniously and safely for both sides, provide him with food, which is not easy, because the diet of an uninvited guest is grandiose in comparison with their own (it is equal to a diet of 1728 midgets!). The emperor himself friendly talks with him, after the help Gulliver provided to him and his entire state (he walks to the strait that separates Liliput from the neighboring and hostile state of Blefusku, and drags the entire Blefuskan fleet on a rope), he is granted the title of backgammon, the highest title in the state. Gulliver is introduced to the customs of the country: what, for example, are the exercises of rope dancers, which serve as a way to get a vacant post at court (is it not from here that the inventive Tom Stoppard borrowed the idea of his play "Jumpers", or, otherwise, "Acrobats"?). Description of the «ceremonial march» ... between Gulliver’s legs (another «entertainment»), the oath of oath that he brings to allegiance to the state of Liliputia; its text, which draws particular attention to the first part, which lists the titles of «the most powerful emperor, joy and horror of the universe,» is all inimitable! Especially when you consider the disproportion of this midget - and all those epithets that accompany his name. Then Gulliver is initiated into the political system of the country: it turns out that in Lilliput there are two «warring parties, known under the name of Tremeksenov and Slemeksenov ", differing from each other only in that the supporters of one are adherents of ... low heels, and the other - high, and between them there are on this undoubtedly very significant ground" fierce contention ": high heels are most consistent with ... the ancient state system "of the Liliput, but the emperor" decided that in government offices ... only low heels were used ... ". Why not the reforms of Peter the Great, the debate regarding the impact of which on the further «Russian path» has not subsided to this day! Even more significant circumstances brought to life a "fierce war" waged between the "two great empires" - Liliputia and Blefuscu: from which side to break the eggs - from the blunt end or, on the contrary, from the sharp one. Well of course Swift is talking about modern England, divided into supporters of the Tories and Whigs - but their confrontation has sunk into oblivion, becoming part of history, but the wonderful allegory allegory invented by Swift is alive. Because the matter is not in the Whigs and Tories: no matter how specific parties are called in a particular country in a particular historical era, the Swift allegory is «for all time». And it’s not a matter of allusions - the writer has guessed the principle on which everything has been built for a century, will be built and will be built. no matter how specific parties are called in a particular country in a particular historical era, the Swift allegory is «for all time». And it’s not a matter of allusions - the writer has guessed the principle on which everything has been built for a century, will be built and will be built. no matter how specific parties are called in a particular country in a particular historical era, the Swift allegory is «for all time». And it’s not a matter of allusions - the writer has guessed the principle on which everything has been built for a century, will be built and will be built.

Although, by the way, Swift allegories certainly belonged to that country and that era in which he lived and whose political inside out he had the opportunity to learn first-hand. And therefore, after Liliputia and Blefusku, which the emperor of Liliputi, after the Gulliver’s withdrawal of the ships of the Blefuskans, «thought ... to turn into his own province and govern it through his governor,» relations between England and Ireland are read without any difficulty, and they didn’t go to the field of legends, day painful and destructive for both countries.

It must be said that not only the situations described by Swift, human weaknesses and state principles strike with their current sound, but even many purely textual passages. You can quote them endlessly. Well, for example: «The language of the Blephuscans is as different from the language of the Lilliputians, as far as the languages of the two European peoples differ. Moreover, each of the nations is proud of the antiquity, beauty and expressiveness of its language. And our emperor, taking advantage of his position created by the capture of the enemy fleet, obliged the embassy [Blefuskans] to submit credentials and negotiate in the Liliputian language. » Associations - obviously unplanned by Swift (however, who knows?) - arise by themselves ...

Although where Gulliver goes on to set forth the foundations of the legislation of Liliput, we already hear the voice of Swift, a Utopian and idealist; these Lilliputian laws that place morality above mental virtues; laws that consider fraud and crime fraud are much more serious than theft, and many others are clearly nice to the author of the novel. As well as the law, which considers ingratitude a criminal offense; this last was especially reflected in the utopian dreams of Swift, who knew the price of ingratitude well, both on a personal and state scale.

However, not all the emperor’s advisers share his enthusiasm for the Mountain Man; for many, exaltation (in the sense of figurative and literal) is not at all like. The indictment that these people organize turns all the good deeds shown by Gulliver into crimes. "Enemies" require death, and methods are offered one worse than the other. And only the chief secretary of secret affairs, Röldresel, known as Gulliver’s «true friend», turns out to be truly humane: his proposal boils down to the fact that it is enough for Gulliver to gouge both eyes; "Such a measure, having satisfied justice to some extent, will at the same time lead the whole world into admiration, which will be welcomed by the monarch’s meekness as much as the nobility and generosity of those who have the honor of being his advisers." In reality, however (state interests are after all above all! ) "The loss of eyes will not do any harm to the physical strength of [Gulliver], thanks to which [he] can still be useful to His Majesty." Swift’s sarcasm is inimitable - but hyperbole, exaggeration, allegory absolutely correlate with reality. Such a "fantastic realism" of the beginning of the XVIII century ...

Or here’s another example of Swift providence: «The Lilliputians have a custom instituted by the current emperor and his ministers (very different ... from what was practiced in the past): if, for the sake of the revenge of the monarch or the malice of the favorite, the court condemns someone to severe punishment, then the emperor delivers a speech at a meeting of the state council depicting his great mercy and kindness as qualities known to all and recognized by all. Speech is immediately announced throughout the empire; and nothing so frightens the people as these eulogies of imperial mercy; for it was established that the larger and more eloquent they were, the more inhuman the punishment and the innocent victim. » That's right, but what does Liliputia have to do with it? - Any reader will ask. And really - with what? ..

After escaping to Blefuscu (where the story repeats with a depressing similarity, that is, everyone is happy about Man Mountain, but no less happy to get rid of him as soon as possible) Gulliver sailed on the boat built by him and ... accidentally meeting an English merchant ship, he safely returned to his native land. He brings with him miniature lambs, which in a few years have bred so much that, as Gulliver says, «I hope that they will bring significant benefits to the cloth industry» (Swift’s undoubted «reference» to his «Clothsman’s Letters» - his pamphlet, which was published in light in 1724).

The second strange state, where the restless Gulliver finds himself, turns out to be Brobdingneg - the state of the giants, where Gulliver is already a kind of Lilliput. Each time, the Swift hero seems to fall into a different reality, as if into a kind of «looking glass», and this transition occurs in a matter of days and hours: reality and irreality are located very close, you just want to ...

Gulliver and the local population, in comparison with the previous plot, seem to change roles, and the treatment of local residents with Gulliver this time exactly corresponds to how Gulliver himself behaved with the Lilliputians, in all the details and details that are so masterful, we can say lovingly describes, even writes out Swift. Using the example of his hero, he demonstrates an amazing property of human nature: the ability to adapt (in the best, «Robinson's» sense of the word) to any circumstances, to any life situation, the most fantastic, the most unbelievable - a property that all those mythological, invented creatures are deprived of as a guest which turns out to be Gulliver.

And one more comprehends Gulliver, knowing his fantastic world: the relativity of all our ideas about him. The Swift hero is characterized by the ability to accept the «proposed circumstances», the very «tolerance» advocated by another great enlightener, Voltaire, several decades earlier.

In this country, where Gulliver is even more (or, more precisely, smaller) than just a dwarf, he undergoes many adventures, eventually getting back to the royal court, becoming the king’s favorite conversationalist. In one of the conversations with His Majesty, Gulliver tells him about his country - these stories will be repeated more than once on the pages of the novel, and each time Gulliver’s interlocutors will be amazed again and again about what he will tell them, representing the laws and customs of his own country as something quite familiar and normal. And for his inexperienced interlocutors (Swift brilliantly portrays this «innocent naivety of misunderstanding»!), All of Gulliver’s stories will seem limitless absurdity, nonsense, sometimes just fiction, lies. At the end of the conversation, Gulliver (or Swift) summarized some features: «My brief historical outline of our country over the past century has plunged the king into utter amazement. He announced that, in his opinion, this story is nothing but a bunch of conspiracies, unrest, murders, beatings, revolutions and expulsions, which are the worst result of greed, partisanship, hypocrisy, treachery, cruelty, rage, madness, hatred, envy , voluptuousness, anger and ambition. " Shine!

Gulliver’s words even more sarcasm: «... I had to calmly and patiently listen to this insulting harassment of my noble and dearly beloved fatherland ... But you can’t be too demanding of the king, who is completely cut off from the rest of the world and therefore completely ignorant of morals and customs of other nations. Such ignorance always gives rise to a certain narrowness of thought and many prejudices, which we, like other enlightened Europeans, are completely alien. " And in fact - aliens, completely alien! Swift's mockery is so obvious, the allegory is so transparent, and our naturally occurring thoughts about it today are so clear that it’s not worth the trouble to comment on them.

The king’s equally naive judgment on politics: the poor king, it turns out, did not know its basic and fundamental principle: «everything is permitted» - due to its «excessive unnecessary scrupulousness». Bad politician!

Nevertheless, Gulliver, being in the company of such an enlightened monarch, could not help but feel the whole humiliating nature of his position - a midget among the giants - and his own, ultimately, lack of freedom. And he is again eager to go home, to his family, in his own country, so unjustly and imperfectly arranged. And when he gets home, he cannot adapt for a long time: his own seems ... too small. I'm used to it!

In the third part of the book, Gulliver first gets to the flying island of Laputo. And again, everything that he observes and describes is the height of the absurd, while Gulliver-Swift's authorial intonation is still calmly and meaningful, full of undisguised irony and sarcasm. And again, everything is recognizable: like trifles of a purely worldly character, such as the «addiction to news and politics» inherent in the Laputians, and fear that always lives in their minds, as a result of which «Laputians are constantly in such anxiety that they cannot sleep peacefully in their beds nor enjoy the ordinary pleasures and pleasures of life. " The visible embodiment of the absurdity as the basis of life on the island is the slammers, whose purpose is to force the listeners (interlocutors) to focus on what they are currently being told about. But allegories of a larger scale are present in this part of Swift’s book: concerning rulers and power, and how to influence «rebellious subjects,» and much more. And when Gulliver descends from the island to the «continent» and falls into the capital city of Lagado, he will be shocked by the combination of endless ruin and poverty that will catch the eye everywhere and peculiar oases of order and prosperity: it turns out that these oases are all that remains of past normal life. And then some «projectors» appeared, who, having visited the island (that is, in our opinion, abroad) and «returned to the earth ... were imbued with contempt for all ... institutions and began to draw up projects to recreate science, art, laws, language and technology in a new way. " At first, the Academy of Projectors arose in the capital, and then in all any significant cities of the country. The description of Gulliver’s visit to the Academy, his conversations with pundits is unparalleled in the degree of sarcasm, combined with contempt, contempt primarily for those who allow themselves to be fooled and led by the nose ... And linguistic improvements! A school of political projectors!

Tired of all these miracles, Gulliver decided to sail to England, but for some reason, Glabbdobdrib Island, and then the Lagnegg kingdom, appeared on his way home. I must say that as Gulliver moves from one strange country to another, Swift's fantasy becomes more stormy, and his contemptuous poisonousness becomes more and more merciless. That is how he describes the manners at the court of King Laggnegg.

And in the fourth, final part of the novel, Gulliver falls into the country of the Huignings. The Guingnms are horses, but it is in them that Gulliver finally finds completely human features - that is, those features that I would like Swift to observe in people. And in the service of the Huigngnms, evil and vile creatures live - hell, like two drops of water similar to humans, only lacking a cover of civility (both figuratively and literally), and therefore appearing as disgusting creatures, real savages next to well-bred, highly moral, respectable horses-guignings, where honor and honor, and nobility, and dignity, and modesty, and the habit of abstinence are alive ...

Once again Gulliver tells about his country, about its customs, mores, political structure, traditions - and again, more precisely, more than ever before the story he is met by his listener-interlocutor at first distrust, then - bewilderment, then - indignation: how can one live so inconsistently with the laws of nature? So unnatural to human nature - this is the pathos of misunderstanding on the part of the guigngn horse. The structure of their community is that version of utopia that Swift allowed himself in the finale of his pamphlet novel: the old writer, who has been mistaken in human nature, with unexpected naivete almost praises primitive joys, a return to nature - something very reminiscent of Voltaire's "Simple-minded" . But Swift was not "simple-minded", and therefore his utopia looks utopian even for himself. And this is manifested primarily in the fact that it is these pretty and respectable guignnms who expel the "stranger" who has lurked into it from their "herd" - Gulliver. For he is too much like an exe, and they don’t care that Gulliver’s similarity with these creatures is only in the structure of the body and nothing more. No, they decide, since he is an exe, then he should live next to an exe, and not among «decent people,» that is, horses. Utopia did not work, and Gulliver in vain dreamed of spending the rest of his days among these good animals he liked. The idea of tolerance is alien even to them. And therefore, the general meeting of the Huigngnms, in Swift’s description reminiscent of his scholarship, almost like a Platonic Academy, accepts a «warning» - to expel Gulliver as belonging to the exe breed. And our hero completes his wanderings, once again returning home, "retiring to his kindergarten in Redriff to enjoy reflection, to put into practice excellent lessons of virtue ...".