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Romping through Gulliver’s Travels with At it Again!

Writing.ie | Magazine | Interviews | Literary Fiction

By Maite López

At it Again! love bringing Irish literature to life. For our most recent literary adventure, we have been distilling the essence of Jonathan Swift’s mad trip Gulliver’s Travels. Find out how we took Lemuel Gulliver’s travel log and turned it into Romping through Gulliver’s Travels…

Romping through Gulliver’s Travels

“A most astonishing object, worthy to have the description of it transmitted for future ages” – Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.

We chose Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels for our latest pocket guide because this year celebrates the author’s 350th birthday and because it is another world-famous piece of Irish literature. But like with Bram Stoker, author of Dracula, most people don’t know that Jonathan Swift was the author of Gulliver’s Travels and that he too was Irish. Like Dracula, most people only know Swift’s tale through the many film and television adaptations and the children’s version of the book. So as with our other pocket guides, part of our mission is to promote the treasure that is Irish literature.

The Creative Process

“Proper words in proper places” – Gulliver’s Travels, Jonathan Swift.

Creating Romping through Gulliver’s Travels proved to be as difficult as doing our first title Romping through Ulysses. Both original books are equally dense in content, themes and allusions to contemporary political and social developments of Swift’s time. Fresh challenges with Gulliver’s Travels were the third-person narrative which made it difficult to find witty and short quotes for our readers to bandy about and that the book changes tone and complexity depending on the land that Lemuel Gulliver finds himself in. This made it hard to decide what to keep in to satisfy the Swiftians and what to leave out to make it accessible for our first-time readers. We hope that we found the right balance.

The complexity of Gulliver’s Travels meant reading lots of biographical and literary reference books including speed reading the latest 700-page biography of Jonathan Swift published just before last Christmas. Also invaluable was the support of Andrew Smith from St Patrick’s Cathedral who took us on a tour of this beautiful church and shared his extensive knowledge with us. We are also in close contact the neighbouring Marsh’s Library as they sell our pocket guides.

The changing tone of the book also had an impact on the illustrations. We normally try to pick scenes for the illustrations that bring out the humour of the original book and make it fun for our readers to engage with the material. This was easy for the first two parts in Lilliput and the land of the giants as they are familiar places associated with the children’s versions of the book. But for the later chapters it proved more challenging as it meant putting political and social concepts into illustrations that have universal appeal.

Our favourite things about Gulliver’s Travels

What we love about Gulliver’s Travels is that its density and complexity make it a treasure trove of inspiration especially for illustrations just like Joyce’s Ulysses. Lilliputians, giants and Yahoos make great characters to draw and bring to life. Some of us who are only familiar with the children’s versions of the book may be delighted to discover that the original Gulliver’s Travels has some naughty bits and meant for an adult readership. No wonder James Joyce named Jonathan Swift’s work as one of his sources of inspiration!

It was also amazing to discover how a book that was written almost 300 years ago can still feel so contemporary today with many of the issues that Swift exposed in his time using satire still with us today.

About Romping through Irish Literature:

At it Again!’s series of pocket guides to Irish literature started out by making Ulysses by James Joyce more fun and accessible to a wider audience. Our Ulysses in 25 minutes version is still our best-selling book and it opened our eyes to the opportunity of bringing more classic Irish literature to a global audience in a playful way. We also wanted to promote the rich literary heritage that Ireland and especially Dublin has to offer visitors to the city.

The illustrated pocket guides work as both an introduction or companion to the original work of literature and as interactive city guides. We give the reader – or shall we say literary explorer – insider knowledge on the author and the original book, a breakdown of the story, things to do and see, juicy titbits, best quotes and maps to explore the places that inspired the author.

Our illustrations are inspired by mid-century illustration and include a quote from the original book. They try to capture the essence of each chapter or episode in either a fun or poignant way. We use the illustrations from each book to create a series of related goodies, greeting cards, prints and notebooks.

So far we have romped through Ulysses and Dubliners by James Joyce, Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray and now Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. Romping through Gulliver’s Travels (RRP €8) as well as our other books and goodies all available in gift and book shops across Ireland and on our website www.atitagain.ie/shop.

(c) Maite López

Pick up your copy online here.

If you would like to celebrate our new book with us, please join us for our Romping through Gulliver’s Travels launch at the Books Upstairs Cafe, 17 D’Olier Street, Dublin 2 on Thursday, 2nd of March at 6.30pm.

About the author

Maite López is a part of At it Again!

Irish illustrator Niall Laverty and German-Spanish writer Maite López use their love of books, design and illustration to inspire you to go on your own literary adventure and re-discover Irish classics in a fun way. All their goodies are created and printed in Dublin on sustainable materials.

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