Gulliver's Travels Jonathan Swift (Penguin) Gulliver's Travels begins sedately. Cambridge-educated apprentice surgeon Lemuel Gulliver dreams of going to sea. So, along with surgery, Gulliver studies navigation and he duly winds up aboard the Antelope. The Antelope sails from Bristol on May 4, 1699, writes the Irish Anglican priest, historian, and political commentator Jonathan Swift, in a touch of the exactitude that bolsters his batty yet biting yarn. 'And our Voyage at first was very prosperous', Gulliver recounts. But, en route to the East Indies, the Antelope is wrecked. Gulliver washes up on the shore of a miniature land destined to enter the language as a figure of speech for dinkiness, Lilliput. A tiny bowman walks up his leg towards his chin. Ganging up with other imps, the bowman ties Gulliver down. When he resists, they pepper his body with arrows that sting like needles before wheeling him away. After promising to kowtow to their king, Gulliver wins acceptance in Lilliput society. Swift's towering, out-of-his-depth hero blossoms into a court favourite privy to the hilariously niggling nomenclature of regional politics. On one side, the Big-endians believe that eggs should be broken at the large end. On the other, the Little-endians argue the contrary. The quarrel has spawned six rebellions 'wherein one Emperor lost his life, and another his crown', writes Swift, who witnessed corruption, waste, and infighting while temping for the British government. Because Gulliver limits his support for an egg issue-inspired war with Lilliput's neighbour, Blefuscu, he falls out with the king and flees. He arrives at the kingdom of Brobdingnag, which is populated by giants. Again, Gulliver charms and falls out with the natives. Airlifted out of the country, he has a brush with giant wasps, before stumbling on Laputa: an airborne haven for absent-minded intellectuals devoted to the arts of music and mathematics, but unable to apply them. Just when it seems that the plot can grow no weirder, Gulliver blunders on Houyhnhnms - a country ruled by horses of that name, who lord it over low-life human Yahoos. The highly intelligent horses impress Gulliver, but they dismiss him as a glorified Yahoo. Deported, after more escapades, he retires to England. There he becomes a recluse prone to talking to horses. On one level, the story of the wayward surgeon is just a cracked Alice in Wonderland fairy tale capable of weaving a spell over readers of any age. On another, it is a definitive lampoon of pettiness, bigotry and spite.