January 21st, 2012
In 1786, the great Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote, “Oh wad some power the giftie gie us, To see ourselves as others see us! It wad frae monie a blunder free us, an’ foolish notion.” Someone did give us that gift, 60 years before Burns wrote “To A Louse” – Jonathan Swift in Gulliver’s Travels. Unless one has studied Gulliver’s Travels in school, it is just a fantasy tale of a voyage to strange lands. But in reality, it was a scathing indictment of contemporary British society, wrapped in a story that could, but did not necessarily, make people see the world they were living in.
Swift set the model for modern political exposé and satire. Before him it was a pretty straightforward field, exemplified by the Celtic bard and the court jester – make fun of the rich and powerful in a sufficiently public way that one didn’t get thrown in the dungeon. The subtlety of using non-humans to portray the foibles and failures of humanity has worked very well. Swift was the intellectual grandfather of Jules Verne, Rod Serling, Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Anne McCaffrey and the entire range of science fiction and fantasy writers of the past three centuries.
But few of those inheritors for Swift’s legacy have been as brilliant at it as British author Terry Pratchett.
Read the full article on the Letz Get Real website.