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The Dispossessed (1974)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authors: See the other authors section.

Series: Hainish Cycle, Chronological (1), Hainish Cycle (5)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
8,126198712 (4.14)1 / 477
Shevek, a brilliant physicist from the anarchist moon Anarres, risks his life by traveling to the mother planet of Urras in the hope of offering wisdom to its inhabitants and to reunite the two long-alienated worlds.
  1. 61
    The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (Algybama)
  2. 20
    Island by Aldous Huxley (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two utopian books. The advantage of LeGuin's is that it doesn't have anything worth exploiting and it is a rocket flight away.
  3. 31
    His Master's Voice by Stanisław Lem (TMrozewski)
    TMrozewski: Both deal with the social and cultural roots of science.
  4. 20
    Rocannon's World by Ursula K. Le Guin (andomck)
    andomck: Both are books in the Hainish Cycle.
  5. 10
    New York 2140 by Kim Stanley Robinson (LamontCranston)
  6. 10
    Embassytown by China Miéville (sparemethecensor)
  7. 00
    The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks (themulhern)
    themulhern: Two opposing cultures collide in both works. Urras = The Empire but their opposites (Annares and The Culture) have very little in common. Annares is determined by scarcity, the Culture by its lack.
  8. 00
    Amatka by Karin Tidbeck (andomck)
  9. 00
    Gateway by Frederik Pohl (sturlington)
  10. 11
    Elric of Melniboné by Michael Moorcock (andomck)
    andomck: Brooding,introspective sci fi/fantasy
  11. 00
    Distress by Greg Egan (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: These books share isolated anarchist communities and discoveries in physics that change everything.
  12. 00
    Doctor Mirabilis by James Blish (jpers36)
    jpers36: Life story of a genius physicist destined to revolutionize a stagnant culture with his radical scientific insights.
  13. 56
    The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein (aulsmith)
    aulsmith: A different moon, a different anti-authoritarian community, but the same experience of thinking about other ways to run human societies
  14. 02
    The Necessary Beggar by Susan Palwick (MyriadBooks)
  15. 25
    The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood (LamontCranston)
  16. 318
    Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand (lauranav)
1970s (41)
Walls (2)
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English (189)  French (2)  Spanish (2)  German (2)  Turkish (1)  All languages (196)
Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)
Not as much of a challenge as Left Hand of Darkness, but super enjoyable and engaging nonetheless. The ideas that Le Guin is working with here were much more familiar to me - which isn't a bad thing, it means that the conversation about those ideas is still relevant 45 years after this was originally published. Many negative reviews of this novel revolve around it feeling like "leftist propaganda" and I can see why someone might think that's what this is, but that person would also be wrong. The reason why it feels that way is more likely attributable to the direct, concise, and accessible way in which Le Guin dissects concepts like prosperity and inequality. It feels like she is arguing for something simply because she is able to speak about it plainly.

The other piece worth commenting on is her use of timeline - I found her decision to write about one character from multiple points in time (alternating each chapter between present day and the character's past) to be very effective for telling the story of the novel as well as developing the novel's themes. ( )
  PhasicDA | Aug 3, 2020 |
Really cool ideas in this book.
I loved the comparison with the Terran ambassador at the end...how one world can be a hell for one person and a paradise for another. ( )
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
I read this for two reasons. Its my first Ursula Le Guin book and I've been meaning to read something of hers for a while. Second, it was recommended highly by Jamie on the Majority Report (majority.fm) as an excellent exposition of the relative merits and drawbacks of capitalism and socialism.

While I agree that it does provide a good exposition, the author took her sweet time about it. The vast majority of the book focuses on the personal issues of the main character, which I found pretty dull. In fact, most of the characters were either dull or predictable. Its possible this is really a very intellectual book and needs to be read multiple times to get the essence of it. I may try reading the other books in the series, just to see if I find something that puts this in a different context. ( )
  grandpahobo | Jul 14, 2020 |
“It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, and turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have had to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.”

What a great, multi-layer book, what a masterpiece. I started reading it for the insight on different ideologies without a direct comparison. I stayed for the revelation about Suffering, as a part of our life. ( )
  nasko7 | Jul 13, 2020 |
Loved this one.

For the first time in years it was like reading a book written by an adult who has thoughts worth writing down, not just entertaining stylings by someone who knows how to spin me a good story of little consequence. For example:
There are souls...whose umbilicus has never been cut. They ever got weaned from the universe. They do not understand death as an enemy; they look forward to rotting and turning into humus.
A scientist can pretend that his work isn't himself, it's merely the impersonal truth. An artist can't hide behind the truth. He can't hide anywhere.

Perhaps it's dubious praise coming from me, since I neither read nor understand most books labeled True Literature (tm), but this sure felt like the real deal. The book felt meaty even though it's quite short, especially for this genre.

I found myself lingering over the simplicity and clarity of the writing, which was sometimes almost poetry. For example, the opening lines:
There was a wall. It did not look important. It was built of uncut rocks roughly mortared. An adult could look right over it, and even a child could climb, it. Where it crossed the roadway, instead of having a gate it degenerated into mere geometry, a line, an, idea of boundary. But the idea was real. It was important. For seven generations there had been nothing in the world more important than that wall.

Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on.

and later in the book -

Gvarab was old enough that she often wandered and maundered. Attendance at her lectures was small and uneven. She soon picked out the thin boy with big ears as her one constant auditor. She began to lecture for him. The light, steady, intelligent eyes met hers, steadied her, woke her, she flashed to brilliance, regained the vision lost. She soared, and the other students in the room looked up confused or startled, even scared if they had the wits to be scared. Gvarab saw a much larger universe than most people were capable of seeing, and it made them blink. The light-eyed boy watched her steadily. In his face she saw her joy. What she offered, what she had offered for a whole lifetime, what no one had ever shared with her, he shared. He was her brother, across the gulf of fifty years, and her redemption.

For the first time ever I want to ANALYSE a book in a very textbooky fashion after I've read it - I'm going off in daydreams pondering questions like (WARNING: MINOR SPOILER) "Why does Shevek reject his mother? Is this significant in terms of the Odonian belief in gender equality?" (END OF MINOR SPOILER) and "Is LeGuin saying an anarchist society can only exist in a desert, not a land of plenty?" When I was at school, they made us ask and answer such questions on whatever we were supposed to read for Lit class, it used to ruin the book for me.

Another first is that even though I obviously loved this book, and found LeGuin very convincing and very impressive, I'm not a convert to Odonism/anarchism. That's a minor miracle, you know. I'm very convertible. Ask anyone. But LeGuin has a faith in the goodness of human nature that I don't share - in her anarchist Anarres it takes seven generations for even a semblance of a power structure to form; I don't think real human beings would "be good" for a seventh as long. Le Guin's argument is that a strong-enough culture of constant revolution is capable of achieving that. Maybe she's right, who knows? I was brough up in the opposite sort of culture, the capitalist one, which so frequently reminds me that man's basic nature is greed/power-seeking that it probably is self-perpetuating. I probably cannot begin to imagine what it would be like to have the other half of human nature - goodwill, sociality, pure love of work/play that is its own reward - reinforced a hundred times a day by the world around me...

There I go on another daydream.

Interesting side note: I read this book in half-hour installments because that's how long my commute to work is, and since I have to walk a little to/from the bus stop, I spent about 10 minutes before and after the half hour reading session thinking about what I had read. That really added to my experience of this book. I think it would have been quite different if I had inhaled it whole in three hours on the couch, as is my usual fashion. Hmm... Something to be said there for patience with one's reading material, but of course it's very rare to find a book that deserves it as much as this one does.

(Immediately, Odo admonishes: "For we each of us deserve everything, every luxury that was ever piled in the tombs of the dead kings, and we each of us deserve nothing, not a mouthful of bread in hunger. Have we not eaten while another starved? Will you punish us for that? Will you reward us for the virtue of starving while others ate? No man earns punishment, no man earns reward. Free your mind of the idea of deserving, the idea of earning, and you will begin to be able to think."
But I disagree: discrimination is important and valuable when it comes to ideas. We cannot go through life treating each as if it were exactly as deserving of our time as the next.)

Well, I can never find a good way to end reviews of this sort. I loved it, I think you should read it, it's an awesome book. That is all. ( )
  nandiniseshadri | Jul 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 189 (next | show all)

» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bontrup, HiltrudTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Burns, JimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Craft, KinukoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ducak, DaniloCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebel, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ewyck, Annemarie vanTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Körber, JoachimTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Leslie, DonNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nölle, KarenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Roberts, AnthonyCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sârbulescu, EmilTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Valla, RiccardoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Winkowski, FredCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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There was a wall.
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You shall not go down twice to the same river, nor can you go home again. That he knew; indeed it was the basis of his view of the world. Yet from that acceptance of transience he evolved his vast theory, wherein what is most changeable is shown to be fullest of eternity, and your relationship to the river, and the river's relationship to you and to itself, turns out to be at once more complex and more reassuring than a mere lack of identity. You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.
Like all power seekers, Pae was amazingly shortsighted. There was a trivial, abortive quality to his mind; it lacked depth, affect, imagination. It was, in fact, a primitive instrument.
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The protagonist Shevek is a physicist attempting to develop a General Temporal Theory. Anarres is in theory a society without government or coercive authoritarian institutions. Yet in pursuing research that deviates from his society's current consensus understanding, Shevek begins to come up against very real obstacles. Shevek gradually develops an understanding that the revolution which brought his world into being is stagnating, and power structures are beginning to exist where there were none before. He therefore embarks on the risky journey to the original planet, Urras, seeking to open dialog between the worlds and to spread his theories freely outside of Anarres. The novel details his struggles on both Urras and his homeworld of Anarres.
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