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➷ [Reading] ➹ The Dispossessed By Ursula K. Le Guin ➬ –

You cannot buy the revolution You cannot make the revolution You can only be the revolutionUrsula K Le Guin, The Dispossessed Ursula K Le Guin s The Dispossessed represents the high orbit of what SF can do Science Fiction is best, most lasting, most literate, when it is using its conventional form s to explore not space but us When the vehicle of SF is used to ask big questions that are easier bent with binary planets, with grand theories of time and space, etc., we are able to better understand both the limits and the horizons of our species The great SF writers Asimov, Vonnegut, Heinlein, Dick, Bradbury, etc have been able to explore political, economic, social, and cultural questions possibilities using the future, time, and the wide openness of space Ursula K Le Guin belongs firmly in the pantheon of great social SF writers She will be read far into the future not because her writing reflects the future, but because it captures the now so perfectly. When I started this novel I was a little worried because the prose seemed clunky and I was having a hard time settling into the novel After a few pages that all changed, either I adjusted to her writing style or the writing smoothed out If you experience this, hang in there, it is well worth sticking with this book I see some reviewers think of The Dispossessed as an anti Ayn Rand book I didn t come away with that impression at all I thought LeGuin did an excellent job of showing the fallacies of capitalism and socialism The reason that any system does not work is always because humans are all too human Bureaucracy, consolidation of power, judgment, and inequality always start to wiggle their way into the social matrix regardless of the intent of the society Shevek, the main character, talking about his home planet Anarres, a socialist framework societyYou see, he said, what we re after is to remind ourselves that we didn t come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom If we must all agree, all work together, we re no better than a machine If an individual can t work in solidarity with his fellows, it s his duty to work alone His duty and his right, We have been denying people that right We ve been saying,andoften, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority But any rule is tyranny The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution Revolution is our obligation our hope of evolutionPretty heady stuff Actually Ayn Rand could have wrote that statement People find themselves on what seems to be polar opposites of politics, Republican, Democrat, Socialist, Capitalist, but in actuality all of them havein common than they would ever admit We all want the same things that is, in my opinion, the most freedom possible and still sustain a safe society The difference is what system do we use to achieve those ends Whatever system that the majority chooses to follow will eventually start to devolve into a facsimile of the original intent Sometimes revolution, as abhorrent as it is, can be the only solution to wipe away the weight of centuries of rules and regulations that continue to build a box around the individual with each passing generation I am not an anarchist, but I understand how people become an anarchist The book certainly made me think about my place in the universe and about the aspects of my culture that I accept as necessary truths that on further evaluations prove to be a product of our own brainwashing Too many of the governing parts of our lives that we accept as necessary truths have never really been questioned and weighed in our own minds Why do so many of us work for other people now when a generation ago so many of us owned our own businesses Walmart, though not the only culprit, has had a huge negative impact on communities destroying what was once vibrant downtown areas and forcing so many small businesses to close that it actually changed the identity of small towns We were complicit in this destruction We valued cheap goods and convenience over service and diversity The capitalist swing currently is towards big corporations and I can only hope that eventually the very things we lost will eventually be the things we most want again So okay, I have to apologize for pontificating about subjects seemingly unrelated to The Dispossessed This novel is about ideas and regardless of how shallow a dive you want to take on this novel you will find yourself thinking, invariably, about things you haven t given much thought to before. Shevek, A Brilliant Physicist, Decides To Take Action He Will Seek Answers, Question The Unquestionable, And Attempt To Tear Down The Walls Of Hatred That Have Isolated His Planet Of Anarchists From The Rest Of The Civilized Universe To Do This Dangerous Task Will Mean Giving Up His Family And Possibly His Life Shevek Must Make The Unprecedented Journey To The Utopian Mother Planet, Urras, To Challenge The Complex Structures Of Life And Living, And Ignite The Fires Of Change Why America Is Full of Toxic Bullshit and Why Ambiguous Utopias Need to Check Themselves Before They Wreck Themselves Going Down the Same Fucked Up Path by Ursula K Le Guin.this excellent novel cum political treatise cum extended metaphor for the States lays its thesis out in parallel narratives in the present day far, far, far in the future , heroically thoughtful protagonist Shevek visits the thinly veiled States of the nation A Io on the planet Urras in order to both work on his Theory of Simultaneity and to pave the way for change on his homeworld in chapters that alternate with this trip to Urras, we watch Shevek grow from boy to man on the anarcho communist Anarres the Ambiguous Utopia of the novel s subtitle Urras and Anarres form a double planet system within the Tau Ceti star system The planets have a difficult relationship 150 years prior, revolutionaries from Urras were given the mining planet of Anarres in order to halt their various revolutionary activities throughout the Urran nations Upon establishment of their colony, Anarres cut off all but the most basic contact and trade with the despised propertarians of Urras.The Dispossessed is a fiercely intelligent, passionate, intensely critical novel yet it is also a gentle, warm and very carefully constructed novel as well ideas do not burn off the page with their fiery rhetoric everything is deliberately paced concepts and actions and even characterization are parsed out slowly its parallel narratives are perfectly executed, with different plot themes and character backgrounds brought up, expanded upon, and often reflecting upon each other ideas are unspooled in multiple directions and serve to continually challenge reader preconceptions overall this is not a novel that quickens the pulse although there is some of that but is instead a Novel of Ideas if you are not in a contemplative mood, if you have no interest in systems of government or human potential or theoretical physics, then this is probably not the novel for you it is a book for the patient reader one who actually enjoys sitting back and thinking about things Le Guin s prose does not jump up at you nonetheless, she is a beautiful writer equally skilled with the little details that make a scene real and and with making the Big Concepts understandable to dummies like myself and Le Guin is a sophisticated writer she seems constitutionally unable to write in black white everything is multi leveled, nothing is all bad, nothing is perfect humans are fallible ideas are fallible everything must change and yet the past is ever a living part of the present.America as A Io is where much of Le Guin s passion is displayed however, the time spent in A Io roughly half the novel due to the alternating chapters did not exactly challenge me perhaps because i am already critical of the good ole U.S of A., and have engaged in plenty of political shenanigans throughout my life, i wasn t reading anything new i am the choir to whom the novel preached still, i m not sure i would say that this is Le Guin s fault it s probably my fault, being an unpatriotic asshole who both loves and hates this crazy place, and who is in agreement regarding all the negative points and the positive ones too introduced fairly late in the novel by a Terran envoy i am automatically sympathetic to all the points made about the ivory tower of education, hypocritical politicians, unncessary wars, the poisonous yet hidden class system, the demeaning of women, etc still, despite my lack of enthusiasm about A Io, this is also where some of the most wonderful writing occurs, and where some of the most mind expanding concepts are described.where the novel really shines is in the depiction of the Ambiguous Utopia, Anarres everything is not peachy keen on this arid, sadly animal and grass free desert world the ideals that created Anarres are indeed admirable it was awesome to see my own and countless others anarcho socialist jerkoff fantasies about how perfect it would be if we were all truly able to share, all able to chip in to help each other, if materialism was seen as an abomination, if we were able to give up on ridiculous hierarchical structures, etc, etc, et al enacted in a fairly realistic way and in a very positive light but of course this is an Ambiguous Utopia, so Le Guin also shows how basic, power craving, territorial human nature will always surface how cooperative, communal living can also stamp down the individual, how it can make being different seem like a threat how other hatin tribalism is ultimately toxic, no matter the tribe, no matter the utopia, no matter if the tribe is an entire nation or world Le Guin makes a utopia, then she nearly unmakes it by unmasking all of its issues and ugliness but she does not denounce it i loved that Le Guin and Shevek still see the beauty in this culture, in a place that is anti materialist, anti capitalist their goal is to explore how such a system can truly be maintained in a way that is genuine and that respects the invididual, a society that is continuously revolutionary and the true enemies of revolution are complacency and stasis.a closing word and quick circle back to the sophistication of Le Guin s writing i loved how Shevek s Theory of Simultaneity was reflected within the book s structure and by the political and moral themes as well an exampleBut it s true, chronosophy does involve ethics Because our sense of time involves our ability to separate cause and effect, means and end The baby, agan, the animal, they don t see the difference between what they do now and what will happen because of it They can t make a pulley, or promise We can Seeking the difference between now and not now , we can make the connection And there morality enters in Responsibility To say that a good end will follow from a bad means is just like saying that if I pull a rope on this pulley it will lift the weight on that one To break a promise is to deny the reality of the past therefore it is to deny the hope of a real future If time and reason are functions of each other, if we are creatures of time, then we had better know it, and try to make the best of it To act responsibly , , , , , ,,, , ,, ,, , , ,, , , , , . More than two months have passed since I ve closed this book While my traditional reviewing habit was one of immediately rushing to the closest laptop after reading the last line and sharing my excitement or the lack thereof in some hopefully original way, I felt a need to really let Le Guin s words sink fully into my mind and make them my own Actually, I ve mostly just been very lazy in the reviewing department lately, but letting words sink in just sounds a little better But when it comes to making words my own, as this dear author evoked so well in this book, longing for possession is mostly futile, and so it is with ideas, impressions and most of all, inspiration At least in my case good ideas tend to go and come as they please and if I m lucky they can be grasped when there s something close at hand to write them down, just as the motivation and energy to write has chosen to quickly pass through my hands Currently, the energy is there, but apart from some sparse notes that I now have to re interpret myself, I only have a few central take aways that I would like to share This review can thus be considered as a barrel of some of the reflections I managed to retain before they too evaporated into untranslatable little figments of thought The first take away is that this is one of my favorite books It is engaging, it is exciting, it teaches and it entertains Le Guin s prose is nothing short of wonderful While the plot is not exactly extraordinary, it provides the perfect mobile in which to transport some important messages on life and civilization that this author has chosen to share The second take away is that this is the best dissection of our society that I ve read I ve read great books on the nature of human individuals on the one hand, and abstract philosophical meanderings on time and infinity, but never felt warm to the idea of reading about one of the levels that are in between, namely society and civilisation The reason why I never did is that there often seems so muchstuff wrong with society than right, so that it s hard to know where to begin complaining, and even harder to know where to stop complaining and inspire change The building is showing so many signs of decay it s hard to dispel the idea to just throw it down and start all over Ursula Le Guin found a great starting spot in this book with which to make a nice filet out of our civilisation the idea of possession The need of people to own stands central in our way of life, and the illusion of ownership pervades much of our thinking and doing I myself am not immune To give just one example, I prefer to buy books rather than to go borrow them at libraries To give another example I just bought an apartment Now it would be unfair to point the finger just at people here Animals do it too, on a certain level They want to own territory, but instead of throwing money around, they urinate all over the place or emit certain smells For all the faults our society has, I m glad we evolved away out of that particular habit, if only for the sake of still readable books Do I own these books because I gave money for them and they will soon by surrounded by MY walls I guess so Until a fire or a flood consumes them, until the hand of time consumes me Yet, even though the banality of ownership during our short lives is inescapable, our ways of living are so much focused on exactly that futility it s no surprise so many people feel unhappy and wronged when they see their mission to that end either obstructed or sabotaged by those around them, or recognise their endeavors as futile once the mission seems largely fulfilled.This is just a personal take away of course, because if Ursuala Le Guin is doing one thing exceptionally well, it is the convincing way in which she gives each perspective on the matter a stage in this book I can easily see the staunchest proponents op capitalism and as someone who profits of that system s fruits it would be hypocritical and outright dishonest of me to claim that I dislike it myself like this book as much as a dirty hippy or clean shaven commie Possession isn t just about capitalism and material goods It spervasive than that Just think about how people refer to each other My son My girlfriend My mother Or how Jason Mraz chose to sing of his undying love by proclaiming I m yours It s innocent most of the time, but when there s problems in relationships of any kind, quite often it is a question of a certain dominance, where one is under the other, where one is partly of the other We like to own but we don t like to be owned Except for Jason Mraz, that is While writing this review I was faced with another example of the futility of possession I had made notes while reading this book that I intended to use to inspire this review There are some interesting one liners, some runaway thoughts, some links to real life experiences I would call them my notes But what the two month span between writing them and reading them has shown is that even my thoughts are not entirely my own Some lines I wrote down there are now perfectly incomprehensible to me Others I can give an interpretation, but without the guarantee it will be the same as intended back in the day How are these alien words still my notes The Dispossessed touches on manythemes than the one I evoked here, and Le Guin shows her genius on basically every page with throwaway wisdoms that pack a punch on prisons, on the education system, on laws, on the press, on the world of art, the army, the list goes on She can seem cold and pessimistic sometimes Life is a fight, and the strongest wins All civilization does is hide the blood and cover up the hate with pretty words. or when she states that suffering, unlike love, is real because the former ALWAYS hits the mark Despite this recurring pessimism, I found this book to be widely uplifting by looking through that veil of coldness and finding there the beauty of life, of all the things that transcend possession Her criticism has an inherent warmth and is not above criticism itself It s a criticism that has channeled my own apathy towards many of society s ways into something that seemshelpful an understanding and even a renewed love Yes, you read that right I love society There s nothing I d rather live right next to. You question a lot of things when you read this book Loyalty, freedom, desire to own, work, family concept I think the author has written a great book. 4, maybe 4.5 stars This classic SF novel kept me glued to my chair the whole time I was reading it Granted, I was on a cross country airplane flight from Washington DC to Utah, but still It s very thought provoking SF, set in the same universe as Le Guin s The Left Hand of Darkness, but evenpolitically inclined Almost 200 years earlier, a group of rebels left a highly capitalistic society on the planet Urras, to form theirutopian government on the moon Annares Now a man named Shevek, a physicist from this voluntary communistic society, leaves his barren world, where life is difficult but mostly fair, to go to the neighboring planet to work with the physicists there Life on Urras is muchpleasant and luxurious, but gradually Shevek comes to realize the dark underside of that capitalistic society The question is, can he escape the bind he s gotten himself into The Dispossessed is one of the earlier examples of dual timeline storytelling in the SF genre, the chapters alternate between flashbacks of Shevek s life on his home world of Annares and his current experiences on Urras with the propertarians heh The Dispossessed thoughtfully examines the best and worst in these two political systems Though Le Guin s choice of the better society is clear, it s laudable that she realistically handles how even good intentions can go awry because of human weaknesses like selfishness, fear and pride Some might find this novel slow going, but if you re interested in contrasting political and social systems, I d highly recommend it Even though this novel is 4th in the Hainish Cycle, it s actually first chronologically, for reasons that become apparent late in the novel and are somewhat spoilerish, so I won t get into them here. Oh, Ursula No longer will I love you in a vaguely ashamed manner, skulking through chesty women blow shit up also monster book covers in the sci fi fantasy aisles with a moderate velocity as though I am actually trying to find Civil War biographies but am amusingly lost amongst all these shelves, that s so like me, need a GPS for Borders Today, I will begin loving you publicly, proudly, for you are the Anti Ayn Rand You do not skullf k Ayn Rand and make her your bitch, no, too easy You take her gently by the hand, lay down beside her pruned, mummified body and have entirely consensual, non hierarchical, process centered sexual intercourse like a paragon of second wave lesbian feminism.Ursula, you make me want to be a straighter man. There are some books that even with my untrained, unskilled and inexperienced eye can detect and confirm are true works of art, mastery in literature Other works, perhaps less skillfully written or not as masterfully created, still strike a chord within me and I can grasp the vision and voice of the author as if we were friends, as if we shared a thought It is truly rare when I can see that a book is both a work of art and that also touches me in a way that leaves a mark on my soul, perhaps even changing my life, that I can look back and see that my path changed after reading The Dispossessed by Ursula Le Guin is such a work, a true masterpiece of literature, science fiction or not, that truly touched me I cannot say that it has changed my life, though, but rather affirmed some deep set values and ideals that I hold This really transcends the genre and stands alone as a work of art Science fiction may be best as a vehicle for allegory, for a way in which an artist can attach to an imagination or fantasy an idea or observation about our world that can only be grasped in the peripheral, can only be explained in metaphor and parable Le Guin has here accomplished the creation of a minimalistic, austere voice of one crying out in the wilderness Beautifully written, this can be subtlety brilliant and painfully clear, some scenes left me unable to go on, yet I was compelled, entranced and beckoned to continue Yet all the same, I was saddened to come to its conclusion 2017 Reread Freedom is never very safe I ve read over 1200 books in my life and have designated 6 as my all time favorites This is one.The great thing about revisiting a work of literature is to notice greater detail the second time around I was again struck by Le Guin s beautiful writing and her carefully expressive style, but this time I paidattention to the radical, revolutionary themes upon which she focused And this is not a dystopian novel as we have become accustomed in the last few years, but an examination of a utopian model.Anarres and Urras, twin planets in the Tau Ceti system, Urras having been colonized with humans by the Hain ages ago Then Odo, a visionary who is imprisoned for her world shattering ideas Odo rejected the tenants of aristocracy, of capitalism, of property altogether She espoused an anarchistic ideology, a utopian society without laws, money, or property rights Those following Odo left the paradise of Urras with its fertile valleys and rich natural resources, for the harsh, dry mining colony on Anarres, sort of a moon to Urras.Le Guin s story begins about 160 later, with generations of the Odo revolution having grown up in this closed society They ve developed their own language which has no concept of property rights, or money, or many of the elements of our society has that we take for granted The planetary truce is maintained as a fragile economic alliance The Anarres citizens produce mineral wealth in exchange for imported goods from Urras There is one space port, outlined by a simple low wall, the Anaresans don t leave and the people from Urras don t stay The Anarres anarchist society is closed and fragile The anarchists work together and toil for the common good, avoiding actions that would be considered propertarian or egoist It is a primitive collectivism without central authority.Shevek, a brilliant physicist and I think one of the great SF characters risks everything to travel to Urras and share with them his theories on temporal physics This theory will lead to the development of the ansible Shevek experiences the vast differences between the two societies.The socio economic dialogue that fills much of this novel is provocative and solicitous Le Guin, very much affected by the turmoil of the Vietnam war, has crafted a brilliant story of revolution and practical utopia The themes of revolution and idealism contrasted against an established power structure also made me think of Boris Pasternak s Doctor Zhivago as well as the 1965 David Lean film starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie Le Guin has the Anaresans portrayed as a peaceful people, with only the barest of defense against the powerful Urras governments, truculent and power hungry The scene where Shevek marches with a crowd of disaffected Urras citizens was brutally reminiscent of a similar scene from Lean s Zhivago.Finally, and this is a superficial and trivial thought, but if I were to film this and pick a cast, I would have Viggo Mortenson as Shevek I would also have interuldes of thoughtful quotes from Odo and I would have Ursula K Le Guin herself fill that role.Simply brilliant His hands were empty as they had always been