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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
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really liked it
bookshelves: scifi, read-2016, stars-4, favorites

“The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
Is Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness only a science fiction story? Far from it, and that is why I enjoyed it so much. Oh, I like reading science-fiction, sometimes just for the entertainment of it. But this goes much beyond that. Different from some reviews, for me it did not seem a feminist advocacy. I would venture and say it is an anti-prejudice assertion. It is just a brilliant, endearing novel about people, relationships, and desires; that leads to insight and questionings on plenty of topics. While we are reading Le Guin's novel, we wonder about the impact of gender on human cultures and dualism versus unity. Even more, the difficulty of being isolated in a foreign land, and how people can survive and interact in such harsh climates. Le Guin discusses sentiments so close to us, such as fear, deception, and misunderstanding; patriotism and power struggles; and last, but not less important, facts versus truth.
No, I don't mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear. It grows in us year by year.

Le Guin’s narrator is Ekumen’s envoy Genly Ai, a young man from Earth, that is in Gethern, on Winter, to bring the planet to his multi-world federation. The most striking characteristics of Winter is that the whole population are hermaphrodites. And only when in kemmer are either one or the other sex and feel desire. So, the peculiarity is that Genly is always male among people who are each in themselves neither and both female and male.
Light is the left hand of darkness and darkness the right hand of light. Two are one, life and death, lying together like lovers in kemmer, like hands joined together, like the end and the way.

But at the beginning, Genly is too different and alien for that. He might repulse some of the local population, but there is no closer relationship until later. And enters the main Gethenian character, Estraven, Karhide’s Prime Minister. He is labeled a traitor and has to flee to the entirely different culture of Orgoreyn, where behind every man is the inspector.

Genly and Estraven’s relationship grows from mutual suspicion to a deep friendship, and I found captivating to be along with them as their bond evolves. Much happens, but I loved to read about how Estraven and Genly escape through the freezing environment of icy mountains as they flee Orgoreyn on foot.
And I saw then again, and for good, what I had always been afraid to see, and had pretended not to see in him: that he was a woman as well as a man. Any need to explain the sources of that fear vanished with the fear; what I was left with was, at last, acceptance of him as he was.

Differences usually lead to prejudiced, but we are free to act on it or to accept and understand. Le Guin’s creativity and originality coupled with its significance make The Left Hand of Darkness great literature and should not be missed. Highly recommended.
“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”
___
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Quotes Lizzy Liked

Ursula K. Le Guin
“How does one hate a country, or love one?... I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is the love of one's country; is it hate of one's uncountry? Then it's not a good thing.”
Ursula K. Le Guin, The Left Hand of Darkness


Reading Progress

Started Reading
November 14, 2016 – Shelved
November 14, 2016 – Shelved as: scifi
November 14, 2016 – Shelved as: read-2016
November 14, 2016 – Finished Reading
December 18, 2016 – Shelved as: stars-4
December 18, 2016 – Shelved as: favorites

Comments Showing 1-12 of 12 (12 new)

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Candi Excellent review, Lizzy. I read this book a year or two ago and found it to be a delightful surprise. I agree - so much more than science fiction. I found both the relationship between Genly and Estraven and their journey to be extremely affecting.


Cecily I like your take of anti-prejudice, rather than feminist. I really wanted to like the book on that account (but unfortunately, I didn't).


message 3: by Cheryl (new)

Cheryl I usually enjoy reading how you tackle thematics in the books you read, Lizzy.


message 4: by Seemita (new)

Seemita How wonderful to see a book defying its genre and covering much larger scope without betraying its reader! Wonderful encapsulation of Le Guin's vision, Lizzy.


Lizzy Candi wrote: "Excellent review, Lizzy. I read this book a year or two ago and found it to be a delightful surprise. I agree - so much more than science fiction. I found both the relationship between Genly and Es..."

Thanks Candi for your kind words. I'm glad we agreed in our enjoyment of Le Guin's book. I have to read more of her work. L.


Lizzy Cecily wrote: "I like your take of anti-prejudice, rather than feminist. I really wanted to like the book on that account (but unfortunately, I didn't)."

That's a reality we have to face each time we start reading something, Cecily. Not all books are for everybody, otherwise, it would be so boring. Don't you think? Anyway, a pity you didn't enjoy it. Thanks. L.


Lizzy Cheryl wrote: "I usually enjoy reading how you tackle thematics in the books you read, Lizzy."

Thanks, Cheryl. L.


Lizzy Seemita wrote: "How wonderful to see a book defying its genre and covering much larger scope without betraying its reader! Wonderful encapsulation of Le Guin's vision, Lizzy."

Indeed, Seemita, this is a book that goes beyond genres and speaks against prejudice. Thanks. L.


message 9: by Sam (new) - added it

Sam What a brilliant review, Lizzy! I must read this!!!


message 10: by Lizzy (last edited Feb 26, 2017 05:14PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lizzy Sam wrote: "What a brilliant review, Lizzy! I must read this!!!"

Oh, Sam, I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for your kind words. Yes, read it and enjoy. L.


Geoff Boxell One of my favourite SF books: it raised so many questions in my mind, and still does.


Lizzy Geoff wrote: "One of my favourite SF books: it raised so many questions in my mind, and still does."

Indeed, Geof. Thanks for your comment. L.


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