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The Left Hand of Darkness Hardcover – 1 Jan 2004
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The story is strange, told from both Ai and Estraven’s points of view, giving us a strange duality on events. I ended up seeing Ai as an alien, as the society does; Winter was strange, yes, but Ai’s observing position and knowledge of his own strangeness gave it a reserve. The plot is interesting, and intricate; I loved the ice-field and their strange, eerie journey.
Some period gender references that have not aged well; describing something as “womanish” doesn’t sit well with me, considering I have no such construct in my head – and it’s something my father says, which doesn’t endear it. But it’s a minor point – just something that stuck out to me. I also found it interesting to consider how the same book would have been written in the modern era – and it would have been very, very different. It’s a book that’s made me think about my own writing, and my own method of storytelling; not that I am likely to change immediately, but…it’s something that will help me grow, I think.
So. Odd, eerie, intricate, detailed, political and alien. Definitely a book worth reading once in a lifetime.
Ursula Le Guin’s The Left Hand of Darkness is best known for its feminist theme, the inhabitants of Winter containing both female and male potential within one body. But Le Guin's fascinating meditations are not confined to the relationships of men and women. Gender politics are part of a wider duality informing religion and politics generally. So wide ranging is the story’s scope that within a few paragraphs, this book published in 1969 was making me think of news I had read that day about Brexit and American elections. In an age of resurgent nationalism, The Left Hand of Darkness has much to tell us.
The minister Estraven could be giving advice to nationalists everywhere when he says: “No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other.”
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