WHAT ARE YOU READING?
Ursula K. Le Guin
That’s right. Not a single book this month but a single author. The indisputably great Ursula Le Guin. Author of twenty novels, a dozen books of poetry, over one hundred short stories, collections of essays, thirteen books for children and five volumes of translation she is one of the most remarkable writers of her or anyone else’s generation.
Best known as an innovative, pioneering and original writer of “fantasy/science fiction”, she started writing at a time when male writers dominated the genre with their white men conquerors and their belief in force and in violence – and she did something different. All at once there was a feminist voice amongst the galaxies. Ursula Le Guin believed the job of writing was to draw readers into the “inner lands” of the imagination. In a Guardian interview in 2005 she put it this way: If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your action, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly.”
The worlds Ursula Le Quin created were about finding solutions through intelligence, compromise and sacrifice. They were about balance. About fairness. About equality. Her novels ask, What sort of world do you want? She knew the world that she wanted – and was very aware that that isn’t the world we have.
When she won The National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters the Foundation said this about her: “[For] more than 40 years, [she] has defied conventions of narrative, language, character, and genre, as well as transcended the boundaries between fantasy and realism, to forge new paths for literary fiction.” Which pretty much sums up her outstanding career and work.
Ursula K. Le Guin died on 22 January 2018. A real loss for both literature and humanity. But a gain for the stars.