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Orsinian Tales (Orsinia)

3.67  ·  Rating Details ·  1,179 Ratings  ·  79 Reviews

Orsinia ... a land of medieval forests, stonewalled cities, and railways reaching into the mountains where the old gods dwell. A country where life is harsh, dreams are gentle, and people feel torn by powerful forces and fight to remain whole. In this enchanting collection, Ursula K. Le Guin brings to mainstream fiction the same compelling mastery of word and deed, of stor

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Paperback, 224 pages
Published June 4th 1991 by HarperTorch (first published 1976)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Sam
Apr 13, 2008 Sam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am going to be devastated on the day that I see Ursula K. Le Guin's obituary in the papers, and this book is one of many reasons why. This is some of the best prose that I've read recently. She writes like Batman fights: no jazzy wire-fu whirl and leap, no showy moulinette pirouette lunar gravity twirl--just the right phrase in the right place at exactly the right time.
John Nixon
Jul 02, 2013 John Nixon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
It takes a certain skill to write short stories. It takes a different skill to write novels. Some novelists are dreadful short story writers and some short story writers can’t write novels for toffee. Ursula K LeGuin falls into that slim category of writer who commands the skills of both the novelist and the short story writer – and much else besides

Although she is better known for her science-fiction, LeGuin has turned her hand to many different genres and forms over the years. In her stories f
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Amanda--A Scientist Reads
I never thought I'd find a Le Guin story I didn't care for and while some of the short stories in this collection are okay, the majority just didn't feel like her writing and left me disappointed. I'm unsure if this is strictly because the writing actually was different or because I enjoy her SFF writing so much and this more "real life" world left the characters seeming dull by comparison to others she's created. I'll always be a Le Guin fan, and name her as a favorite author of all time, but e ...more
Johnny
Before accepting any critical judgments in this review, the reader should be advised that the reviewer reads very few short stories and only rarely picks up an anthology of such. The very fact that Orsinian Tales is such an anthology should signal something special with regard to my previously indicated preference. I picked up Orsinian Tales simply because of my respect for the author. Her fantasy work is extremely valuable and I was curious as to this anthology of more realistic stories, even t ...more
Schmacko
Oct 14, 2011 Schmacko rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Ursula K. Le Guin writes in such a prosaic way here. She's such a good writer, but the disconnected stories, the several narrators within the same story, and the longish prose often makes these stories more difficult and poetic than jaunty and concise. Her Orsinia is a fictional rural world - middle European - but very much a part of our world; this isn't Le Guin's scifi at all. These disconnected stories skip around different time periods and families to tell of Orsinia's people. Many of the ch ...more
J. Aleksandr Wootton
Ursula has mastered me again.

This collection, set mostly in the troubled Eastern-European fictional country of Orsinia during the early-mid 1900s, is rife with the political philosophy that make Le Guin's work so thematically poignant, but told with such attention to characters, with such a sparse brush. It's like wandering an art gallery.

Almost entirely absent are elements of science fiction or fantasy, making this the perfect collection to introduce someone otherwise wary of those genres to Le
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Edward Rathke
Jul 05, 2015 Edward Rathke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though Ursula K Le Guin is undoubtedly one of my favorite writers of all time, this is only the second collection of hers I've read, which actually isn't super unusual, since I rarely read collections.

But this is a very atypical work for Le Guin, as it's essentially realism. It has the feel of a late 19th century writer, especially people like Turgenev. The only fantastic element to the collection is that these stories take place in an imaginary country.

It actually makes me understand why she en
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Craig
Mar 15, 2015 Craig rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I guess I have to give this one star, since I couldn't finish it, though it's not as bad as all that. Ursula LeGuin is one of my authors, because of the sociological and psychological realism of her works. What this book teaches me is that I like it best when her realism is balancing fantasy. Here, where the stories are more kitchen-sink realism, it was just too hard for me to care about the dreary characters, or the dreary worlds they inhabited.

Of the stories I read, the first was the strongest
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Kirsten
Mar 14, 2008 Kirsten rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: philosophically-minded escapists
Recommended to Kirsten by: Jenny
This collection is just what the doctor ordered: a seamless prose world of forests, shadows and light, great cities, young (and imperiled) love...in creating her fictionalized country, LeGuin goes further than presenting fantasy; rather, she uses the opportunity to explore states, subjugations of all sorts, insidious hopes, and the delicate power of art in an otherwise unsympathetic environment, among other things.

For the most part, I found myself very drawn in and read through these stories wit
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Evilynn
Aug 27, 2012 Evilynn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm not sure how to classify this. There are eleven stories taking place in an imaginary(?) Middle European country. A kind of Slovakia, or maybe Poland. I have no idea why people tag this with fantasy or SF though, speculative fiction, maybe, but if the stories had taken place in towns and cities with "real" names, there'd be no way this would ever qualify. In a way I suspect that is one of the points of the collection, what is SFF but different names? At least the way Le Guin writes it (no ray ...more
Tatiana
Jan 06, 2011 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
I just reread this and had to change my assessment. Each of the stories, set in the fantasy country of Orsinia, which is planted firmly in the history of our real world, was exceptional, brilliant, tender, personal, and delightful. My main complaint is that I wanted to know more about all the people and their stories. I wanted whole novels about every single one of the stories. Nevertheless, despite their too-short nature, each was long enough to give me enough information that I came to care ab ...more
Michael
Aug 08, 2011 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
My friend and I have had an ongoing discussion about Cloud Atlas and Years of Rice and Salt, both of which range through vast swaths of time but with very different agendas. This book, and series of mostly unconnected stories set in the same fictitious country located in the middle of the real central Europe, makes a fine addition to that conversation: from the medieval past to the present (the late 1960s, in this case), the events in the lives of a few mostly inconsequential people is set again ...more
Nikki
Just finished reading Le Guin's Orsinian Tales. I'm not sure what I think of it, actually. The stories in themselves are well written, interesting -- the first few, in my opinion, are better than the last few. Or maybe that's the warm day and my lack of focus speaking. Either way, I really liked Conversations at Night, one of the earlier ones. It's an interesting idea -- a series of stories about an imaginary European country. I think she also has a novel based on the country, which might've bee ...more
Chip Howell
Oct 19, 2014 Chip Howell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I absolutely adored this book/these stories for multiple reasons. I was not surprised to see LeGuin writing short stories that cannot conceivably be called fantasy or science fiction, nor was I surprised to see her creating a Central European country and then writing stories that fit well within the "genre" of international fiction. Many of the stories in this collection may seem a bit stiff and staid at times, I think this is the point in a few of them. Much of what LeGuin has written here is s ...more
Stephen Case
Apr 23, 2016 Stephen Case rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The cover of this one is a bit of a cheat. Orsinian Tales is a slender paperback I found lurking on one of my sister’s crowded bookshelves. The front features a tall, snug castle with a medieval town nestled at is base. It’s pretty clearly a stock image, though a case could be made that it illustrates the penultimate story in the collection. The author is Le Guin, and if you didn’t know who that is the cover helpfully points out she’s the author of the Earths Trilogy and the winner of the Hugo a ...more
Lesia Joukova
Nov 09, 2015 Lesia Joukova rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I feel like Orsinian Tales touched something very deep inside of me and added something to my life. It seems either people love it, or find it boring. It's not the first book by her that I've read and it's hard to compare to her Earthsea Cycle (the language is as captivating as ever though). However, I this book as an absolute must-read.
There are 12 stories about the people of Orsinia, from different time periods and places, but they're all facing the same hardships, making decisions, take their
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Elizabeth Wallace
I think the only reason I didn't care for this book is that it's not her typical sci-fi/fantasy mix. It takes place in an unfamiliar country, but other than that it's straight fiction. Stories of loss, war, disillusionment, that kind of thing. A lot of it seems to be about forgiveness, but that hard, realistic kind of forgiveness, where you're still hurt and angry, but you know you'll just have to slog through it and forgive them because it's better than the alternative.

Not really a cheerful boo
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Diana
Oct 21, 2015 Diana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Initially I expected the stories to move into the fantasy or science fiction genres, especially when the scientist breaks free from his watchers and enters the forest! Once over that and the next one, I adjusted to the realities portrayed. Somehow like a blues song, where the story may be depressing or sad yet the music of Ursula's prose adds a harmony that enriches each story. When odd discords annoyed me, the grim hard facts of reality, of the poor, or disabled and the straight jackets imposed ...more
Tracy
I read this long ago. I just picked up my old copy and started reading the stories contained within. The prose is gorgeous and haunting. I am glad to be reading this again.
Paul
Feb 28, 2010 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I would say that Ursula Le Guin is possibly the greatest living American author. Even when she is writing mainstream fiction :)
Beth
Feb 08, 2010 Beth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
what happened, ursula
Myles
Jan 21, 2010 Myles rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Le Guin is a national treasure whose name I shall constantly type with a Q until I edit it later, and Orsinian Tales might be one of her great forgotten classics. Despite the, in my edition, romantic cover art, meant to match the covers of her Earthsea novels and other fantasy output, these stories are not fantasy in the genre-sense.

Orsinian Tales covers the history of Orsinia, a small Eastern European country from a feudal holding of early medieval times to a part of the Eastern Bloc in the 196
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Dayna Ingram
Wellll....I chose to do a presentation on this collection of short stories because I was under the impression that Le Guin wrote science fiction/fantasy (she did write my favorite short story ever, "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas"). Even though there are elements of an alternative reality here, I am not convinced that Le Guin has total control of what she's going for. What is she going for? Sure, a few of these stories could be termed "Fables," and yes I see the parallels of war in this worl ...more
Denni
May 11, 2016 Denni rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Brilliant writing, but don't go for it if you're expecting something like the Earthsea trilogy or indeed any kind of fantasy or sci-fi as this is a very different kind of writing (though,as you would expect, the intelligence and thoughtfulness and humanity that characterise Le Guin's writing are very much in evidence). The closest I can get to describing the stories in this little book is if you were to cross late nineteenth/early twentieth century classic Russian short stories with some of thos ...more
S.M.M. Lindström
En av få böcker jag inte orkat läsa klart. Inte för att den är dåligt skriven, utan för att den verkligen inte var min sorts bok.

Jag tycker om att lära känna karaktärer och att uppleva riktig historia eller annorlunda nya världar - korta historier om ett påhittat land som ändå har plats i verkligheten är inte riktigt min sorts grej. Det är svårt att involvera sig i karaktärernas känslor och öden när en "träffar" dem en sån kort stund. Yttre och kulturella konflikter är svåra att dyka ner i och
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Stormy
May 23, 2015 Stormy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This set of short stories by Ursula Le Guin are set in the fictional East European country of Orsinia. Each story is set in a different age, from 1150 to 1965, and follow the small villages from pre-Christian time through World Wars to the Cold War. Some of the stories are just a slice of life -- others are more hard hitting. Excellent time spent reading them!
Adam R.
Jun 12, 2007 Adam R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Ursula K. Le Guin is one of our greatest living writers. My interest in sci-fi has decreased as I've gotten older, as most of it is just poorly written or hackneyed. Le Guin doesn't have that problem at all:a her prose is beautifully crisp, and her stories are always thought-provoking.

This collection of short stories is somewhat atypical of Le Guin, as it is not really fantasy or science fiction, though it takes place in the fictional country of Orsinia. However, Le Guin spins some truly intrig
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Emily
Oct 27, 2013 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book! I have to admit, it took me a while to get what was going on, that the collection of short stories were connected by place and across time. I think it helped that I'd already read Malafrena so knew something of the world she was writing.

There is a beautiful story near the end of the collection about a family staying at their summer house. The gentle touch of a families love for one another, and the magic and sadness of the end of summer. It was also the sadness of a world tha
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Heather Fryling
Oct 11, 2015 Heather Fryling rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Beautifully crafted, terribly human, these stories evoke the essence of the Cold War in a fictional Central European country.

My favorite was An die Musik, a meditation on the relationship between art and life.
Elijah
This collection represents a new side of Le Guin's writing for me. I have only read the first three of her Earthsea books before, and perhaps also a short story or two, so reading a collection of realistic stories from her seemed to be a bit odd. In truth, most of these stories are not as good as the Earthsea books, and the better stories are the ones that have some sort of magical tone or atmosphere to them, like "Imaginary Countries" or "The Lady of Moge." There were a lot of wonderful, well-c ...more
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As of 2013, Ursula K. Le Guin has published twenty-two novels, eleven volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, twelve books for children, six volumes of poetry and four of translation, and has received many awards: Hugo, Nebula, National Book Award, PEN-Malamud, etc. Her recent publications include the novel Lavinia, an essay collection, Cheek by Jowl, and The Wild Girls. Forthcoming ...more
More about Ursula K. Le Guin...

Other Books in the Series

Orsinia (3 books)
  • Malafrena
  • Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia: Malafrena / Stories and Songs

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“I think… most women marry to get their freedom."

"Then they want less than I do. There’s something inside me, in my heart, a brightness and a heaviness, how can I describe it? Something that exists and does not yet exist, which is mine to carry, and not mine to give up to any man.”
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“For heroes do not make history—that is the historian’s job—but, passive, let themselves be borne along, swept up to the crest of the tide of change, of chance, of war.” 3 likes
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