Simanaitis Says

On cars, old, new and future; science & technology; vintage airplanes, computer flight simulation of them; Sherlockiana; our English language; travel; and other stuff

A VOYAGE TO LAPUTA, BALNIBARBI, LUGGNAGG, GLUBBDUBDRIB, AND JAPAN PART 1

THE ITINERARY ABOVE is actually the title of Part Three in Gulliver’s Travels, published anonymously in London in 1726. Why, I wondered, did Jonathan Swift include Japan with these outlandish, made-up destinations? And why do it anonymously?

The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift, edited with a biographical introduction and notes by Isaac Asimov, Clarkson N. Potter, 1980.

Fortunately, I have a fine authority to consult in Isaac Asimov, who annotated Jonathan Swift’s early eighteenth-century satire. Being both a clergyman and an Irishman, Swift was well-positioned to identify human foibles, particularly of Englishmen.

Above, Jonathan Swift, 1667–1745, Anglo-Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer, poet, and cleric. Below, Isaac Asimov, 1920–1992, American writer and professor of biochemistry at Boston University, author of more than 500 books. These and the following images from The Annotated Gulliver’s Travels.


Isaac Asimov, the polymath futurist he was, serves as a perfect guide in my twenty-first century analysis of Swift’s strange lands. Here, in Parts 1 and 2 today and tomorrow, are tidbits gleaned from Swift’s tales, Asimov’s annotations, and my usual Internet sleuthing.

Gulliver’s Map of Laputa, Balnibarbi, Luggnagg, Glubbdubdrib, and Japan.

A Fanciful Japan. Asimov notes, “Japan was … so little known to Europeans of Swift’s time that it seemed almost as fanciful as the rest. The chief island of Japan, Honshu, is shown in recognizable shape on the map, but the land to the north is an unrecognizable distortion of Siberia and the islands to the east are, of course, imaginary.”

A first edition of Gulliver’s Travels identifies its author: “Lemuel Gulliver, firft a Surgeon, and then a Captain of feveral SHIPS.” Swift acknowleged authorship only later.

Reason for Anonymity. Swift wisely chose the protection of anonymous authorship. Asimov observes, “A satire that drew blood could well place the author in prison.”

Tomorrow in Part 2, we’ll learn more of Gulliver’s occupations, his Japanese adventure, and Swift’s opportunity to diss the Dutch.

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2020

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