Author To Publish Unknown ‘Swift’ Text
Published: August 12, 2005 (Issue # 1095)
Previously unpublished erotic passages that where cut out of the first edition of “Gulliver’s Travels” in 1726 are being released in Russia this week, a St. Petersburg publisher says.
Neonilla Samukhina, head of the city’s Soitology Institute, has previously published illustrated works on sex in the office, outdoor sex and a prize-winning edition of the Decameron.
Her “The Erotic Adventures of Lemuel Gulliver,” will be released in Moscow bookstores over this weekend.
The book features the hero of 18th century Irish author Jonathan Swift’s famous satire in physical encounters with tiny Lilliputs — who are only 15 centimeters tall — and in Brobdingnag, which is inhabited by 20-meter giants.
Experts say the work is likely a fake.
Samukhina denies having commissioned the work herself, but admits to not being an expert and that she could be deceived.
The book launch has echoes of the fake Hitler diaries scandal and of the issuing of a new Harry Potter tome.
Samukhina says the work is a translation of original material written by Swift. Its foreword contains an angry complaint purportedly written by the satirist about the mayhem inflicted on his work by the removal of the erotic passages, which were an integral part of the original work.
Samukhina said she had bought the work at great expense, had gone to great lengths to ensure its veracity, and fears that it could be stolen. The manuscript on which the erotic adventures is based is locked in a Geneva bank vault and no copies exist, she said.
Copyright has expired on the work and if she were to print it in English, everyone could copy it to her financial loss, she added.
She intends to donate the manuscript to Britain’s Albert and Victoria Museum, which houses the first edition of “Gulliver’s Travels” of 1726 with Swift’s own corrections, in 20 years, after her expenses for buying the manuscript, paying for professional examinations and storage are recovered.
She is especially wary of showing it in Russia, which has a notorious reputation when it comes to intellectual property. Despite taking measures to maintain secrecy when it was published, news of the work and copies of some pages had leaked out before the launch, she said.
“There is no confidentiality in this country,” she added.
Samukhina said she obtained the manuscript from a descendant of the Karzhavin family, an old Russian merchant dynasty, who lives in Britain.
Under the terms of the purchase, Samukhina was unable to name the seller, she said.
The seller’s ancestor, Fyodor Karzhavin, polyglot and writer, bought the manuscript from the Ford family, whose ancestor was Swift’s friend and Swift’s archive keeper. The text had been obtained by Karzhavin in the 18th century and left with the family in 1917 after the Bolshevik Revolution, she added.
The seller had also had some concerns that the British or Irish governments could try to seize the work, Samukhina said.
“When we asked the young man why the manuscript had never been published, he said that we should first read the manuscript. After reading it we realized why the descendant of Karzhavin chose a publishing house that specializes in erotic literature,” Samukhina said. “The manuscript shocked us with its openness and freedom, which few authors in Swift’s time would have risked.”
The text did not bear Swift’s name, but the original “Gulliver’s Travels” was published in great secrecy and even the publisher was unaware who the author was, Samukhina said.
The text was poorly preserved and the text was saved only because in the first part of the 19th century it was carefully copied by one of Fyodor Karzhavin’s descendants. Only 49 pages, written in Swift’s hand, were saved, she said.
Experts on Swift, who she also declined to name on the grounds of wanting to protect them from harm, had examined the manuscript and confirmed it originality. Their inspection included an examination of the ink, the paper, the handwriting and literary allusions with Swift’s known works, she said.
The expert was very cautious, she added.
“He understood that he was risking his own reputation,” she added.
Unnamed publishers had also told Samukhina that the original paper was from the 18th century and that there were no stocks of such paper on which a modern forger could create a new work, she said.
The foreword to the book, supposedly written by Swift as Gulliver, contains the following passages: (translated from Russian into English)
“My reader does not know the real vicissitudes of my so-called escape from Lilliputia. The version, which the reader knows from the published falsification of my adventures, is as far from the truth, as England is far from Lilliputia.
“In reality this book became twice thinner by the will of its publishers, who threw out of it whole parts, dedicated as it will become clear further not to ‘rising tides and ebb tides.’
“Therefore I kept the parts, taken out by the publishers from my book, and placed them in reliable storage. Am I right doing so? I’m sure I am. I confess I’m warmed up by the thought that in another 100 years … ”
The first published version of “Gulliver’s Travels,” did include some erotic descriptions, for instance, describing how in Brobdingnag maids of honor took off all his clothes and “put him nude on their breasts.”
It also described how “the most beautiful of those maids of honor, a merry and naughty girl of 16 years old, put him on one of her nipples and made him make other excursions along her body.” (This quote was translated from Russian into English)
However, in that version of the book Gulliver expressed negative feelings about these experiences and how disgusted he was to go through all that.
Samukhina said that after reading the manuscript she bought that Gulliver’s supposed negative feelings were the work of the publisher.
In the newly published book Gulliver describes in detail the pleasant sides of his imprisonment in Lilliputia. He narrates how Lilliput women give him and themselves sexual pleasure.
It also says that a handicapped woman discovers that Gulliver’s semen has a medicinal effect. This discovery spreads like wildfire and some commercially minded Lilliputians open a pharmaceutical trade in the product.
The books describes how those “businessmen” collect the “product” and how Gulliver felt about it.
Samukhina said she had a feeling that after reading the new version of “Gulliver’s Travels,” readers will see Gulliver as “a man in the full sense,” and not “a canting hypocrite as he was shown in the first publication where he expressed disgust towards women’s intimate charms.”
However, the international Swift experts expressed doubts about the authenticity of the published manuscript.
Hermann Real, director of Ehrenpreis Center for Swift Studies based in Germany and one of the world’s leading experts on the subject, said he was pretty sure the manuscript obtained by the Soitology Institute was “a fake” and “an elaborate hoax mainly devised to promote sales.”
There were only a few “Swift scholars whose expertise in Swift’s hand is unquestionable,” he said.
“Other reasons which incline me to think that this text is a hoax are: Swift never is sexually explicit, what in modern parlance you would call ‘pornographic,’” Real said.
“Rather, Swift wrote scatology/obscenity, with this proviso, however, that scatology in Swift never is an end (like pornography) but a means to shock, to administer prophylactic shock therapy, to make people think again, etc,” he said.
“In fact, because of his reputation for scatological verse, the kind of material described would be most likely to be foisted on him,” he said.
At the same time Real said that “whoever is responsible for setting up the framework of the “hoax” was clearly knowledgeable,” because that person was well aware of Swift’s connections to Charles Ford, Karzhavin’s Swift connection and so on. However, he said some details given about those connections were wrong or questionable.
Joseph McMinn, professor of Anglo-Irish literature at the University of Ulster, who also specializes on Swift’s works, said in a telephone interview from Ireland on Wednesday that it was “very unlikely” that the manuscript was genuine.
“Every few years somebody comes up with news about unknown manuscripts of famous writers found but very often those things are not real. So, I’m a bit skeptical about this case,” McMinn said.
He said there was indeed lots of criticism on sexuality expressed in Swift’s “Gulliver’s Travel,” which was mostly about how “disgusted he was towards that part of his adventures.”
Another thing that made McMinn suspicious about the origin of the manuscript was that the new publishers refused to name the experts, who confirmed the authenticity of the text.
“In conclusion, I think this is a clever way of selling an erotic text, by giving it the appearance of ‘serious’ literature, and inventing a mystery story about its origins. None of this is to suggest that the Russian story is no good, it may be brilliant!
“But it is almost certainly not by Swift, I’m afraid,” McMinn said.
In his turn Peter Selley, senior director of the book and manuscript department at the Sotheby’s Auction House, said original manuscripts of Swift are very rare at the auction. He also said the Sotheby’s could not comment on the value of the manuscript without seeing it.