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Fredric Jameson on Ursula K. Le Guin


To mark the passing of the mighty Ursula K. Le Guin earlier this week, the Verso blog has posted a 1975 article by Fredric Jameson on Le Guin’s classic novel The Left Hand of Darkness. Here’s an excerpt:

Such structural discontinuities, while accounting for the effectiveness of LHD by comparison with books that can do only one or two of these things, at once raise the basic question of the novel’s ultimate unity. In what follows, I want to make a case for a thematic coherence which has little enough to do with plot as such, but which would seem to shed some light on the process of world construction in fictional narratives in general. Thematically, we may distinguish four different types of material in the novel, the most striking and obvious being that of the hermaphroditic sexuality of the inhabitants of Gethen. The “official” message of the book, however, would seem to be rather different than this, involving a social and historical meditation on the institutions of Karhide and the capacity of that or any other society to mount full-scale organized warfare. After this, we would surely want to mention the peculiar ecology, which, along with the way of life it imposes, makes of LHD something like an anti-Dune; and, finally, the myths and religious practices of the planet, which give the book its title.

Image via NY Times.