Thursday, January 17, 2013

George Orwell;"If I Were To Make A list Of 6 Books To Be Preserved When All Others Were Destroyed I Would Include This One"

All human life is in Jonathan Swift's immortal 'Gulliver's Travels'. Not the abridged, illustrated version for children of course but the final, full version, without the omissions and changes done to avoid the censors (and jail) when first published in 1726

Like Orwell I have read and reread, and read the book again and again, and each time I read it, I find something new in the satire, wisdom, uncanny predictions (Swift could fairly be said to have invented science fiction), rank misogyny, and the multitudinous other wonderful aspects of this glorious work.

I prefer the Oxford University Press 1971 edition edited by Paul Turner. This is substantially annotated and includes the original introductions which in themselves a clever satires.

Swift flays and thrashes all aspects of human foibles, vanities, expediences, and political shenanigans. He satirizes travellers tales with his biggest whopper of travellers tales. Kings and commoners all get a roasting, but the flames are gently applied, and what could have simply been an harsh polemic is, in the end, a wry ribbing of humankind.

The satirizing of the Royal Society (thinly disguised as "The Grand Academy of Lagado") is beyond marvellous and, and here is the beyond genius of Swift on display, amongst the slapstick satire a comment of incredible prescience is made, which makes one wonder if Swift had available the golden prophecy bowl prophecy of Nostradamus.

Look at this comment made around two hundred years before Einstein did indeed supersede the Newtonian view of the universe; 

"[he] predicted the same fate (i.e. it being superseded) to Attraction ( i.e. Newton's theory of gravitation) whereof the present learned are such zealous asserters. 
He (Aristotle) said that new systems of nature
were but new fashions which would vary in every age; and even those who pretend to demonstrate them from mathematical principles ( i.e. Newton's 'principia mathematica' ) would flourish but a short period of time and be out of vogue when that was determined"

It takes only a little imagination to clearly see Swift envisaging a computer, and "flying Island" space flight in another passage in the Royal Society satire section, in the "A Voyage to Laputa" chapter.

The Travels are one of those great joys of life, which not only reward in the reading of it, but gives one a special pleasure in having the honor of having shared the planet with someone of such astonishing and transcendent genius.

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