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Mørkets venstre hånd by Ursula…
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Mørkets venstre hånd (original 1972; edition 1974)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
12,006291351 (4.05)742
While on a mission to the planet Gethen, earthling Genly Ai is sent by leaders of the nation of Orgoreyn to a concentration camp from which the exiled prime minister of the nation of Karhide tries to rescue him.
Member:mskarbiniks
Title:Mørkets venstre hånd
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Notabene, 1974.
Collections:Your library
Rating:
Tags:scifi

Work details

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1972)

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» See also 742 mentions

English (282)  Spanish (2)  Catalan (1)  Romanian (1)  Italian (1)  French (1)  German (1)  All languages (289)
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
I tried. Really. I hate it when I don't get into a classic. I have been told for years that I should read Ursula K. Le Guin and how much I would like her and maybe I should just try something else. This book didn't make any sense to me. I kept reading words and going what in the world does this mean? And some of the sentences/paragraphs felt overly written. I just finally decided that I wasn't enjoying it and moved on to another book (that I also didn't like so jokes on me!) and that's that. I DNFed at 25 percent.

I am realizing that I don't think I even know the protagonist's name in this book. Oh well, well a human goes to a planet called Winter and goggles about the aliens that he meets. I seriously cannot tell you more than this. I started and stopped this book four times and just gave up. I did think that the human being was kind of an ass and seemed to spend most of the 25 percent that I read going on about the aliens and what so and so means.

"It starts on the 44th diurnal of the Year 1491, which on the planet Winter in the nation Karhide was Odharhahad Tuwa or the twenty-second day of the third month of spring in the Year One. It is always the Year One here. Only the dating of every past and future year changes each New Year’s Day, as one counts backwards or forwards from the unitary Now. So it was spring of the Year One in Erhenrang, capital city of Karhide, and I was in peril of my life, and did not know it."

You need to explain to me what half of those damn words even mean. I needed a prologue or something to be put in to explain the backstory. The world building that I have read so far is not there. We as readers are supposed to just go oh Karhide, yes, I totally know where this is.

"The snow still fell, a mild spring blizzard, much pleasanter than the relentless rain of the Thaw just past."

I assume that the word "thaw" being capitalized means that it's something else that I should care about. I don't know.

"Estraven’s house, sign of the king’s high favor, was the Corner Red Dwelling, built 440 years ago for Harmes, beloved kemmering of Emran III, whose beauty is still celebrated, and who was abducted, mutilated, and rendered imbecile by hirelings of the Innerland Faction."

I think at this point I started making myself a gin and tonic.

"Thus as I sipped my smoking sour beer I thought that at table Estraven’s performance had been womanly, all charm and tact and lack of substance, specious and adroit."

Just words thrown up on my Kindle screen that all together make very little sense.

I never felt connected to this story the entire time I was reading it. I need to feel a connection to what I am reading via the protagonist. Even if that connection is disgust/ire (see Gone Girl, earlier Prey books, etc.) I need to feel something as I am put in the head of the main character. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Probably my favorite LeGuin book. Simply poetic—I'm really not sure how to put it. I fell in love with the friendship between Ai and Estraven and her exploration of the androgyne is something I wish I could make everyone I know read. This book should really be required reading in school for how it discusses difference and communication. So so good. ( )
  nicolekillian | Jun 29, 2020 |
First read when published, just as powerful on reread. ( )
  JesseTheK | Jun 6, 2020 |
While this is a work of science fiction, in tone it is much more like a work of epic fantasy. It tells the story of Genly Ai, an emissary from a broader human alliance on a remote, wintry planet where the people and the culture are utterly alien to them. A strong cultural value of shifgrethor (which is, roughly, about keeping face) seems, to him, to impede honest communication and leads him into political trouble in two countries. Then there is Estraven, prime minister of Karhide at the story's beginning but quickly disgraced and exiled, who must save him from the dire situation he gets himself into.

Like most epic fantasy, the story unfolds at a glacial place. However, rapid-fire plot developments are not why anyone reads that genre. Where this book excels is the beautiful, intimate, and intricately detailed depiction of this world, which Ai's coalition simply refers to as Winter.

The book is famous, of course, for the fact that the people of this world are ambisexual: androgynous for much of the month, but for a few days they go into kemmer (i.e. into heat) and will adopt a sexed form, the opposite one of their partner. Genly Ai, hailing from a society of "normal" humans, finds this very disorienting: he wants to pigeonhole everyone he meets into filling "male" or "female" gender roles (and mostly, the former) but then feels a private disgust when people he's mentally classed as male engage in "womanly" behaviours. That in itself is a fascinating theme of this story, and yet what I hadn't expected going in is that it's also only one part of a much larger work.

Like in The Dispossessed, social structures and the development of societies over time make up another big theme of this novel. Given the harshness of Winter's climate, Le Guin presents a world in which technological progress has unfolded at a very slow rate, although it does unfold – societies expend so many resources keeping themselves alive that they have little "surplus" for scientific progress. The first country that the reader is introduced to, Karhide, is an absolute monarchy where hospitality is an enormous, integral part of the traditional culture. From there the action moves to Orgoreyn, which is a more modern, communalist country which has much in common with the states of the former Eastern Bloc. Genly Ai is impressed by Orgoreyn at first, with their more generous provision of heating and governmental structure that isn't totally beholden to a single, paranoid king, and yet in the end it proves not to live up to his expectations.

Aside from the world-building, the other main focus of this novel is the relationship between Genly Ai and Estraven, which builds slowly but is deeply compelling and heart-touching.

In line with Goodreads' description of 4 stars as "I really liked it", this is a book I'm giving four stars. It's a book that could easily deserve 5, but such dense, slow-paced books have trouble extracting 5 stars from me, so I'll leave it at four. Just know, though, that when I say I really liked it, I mean I really liked it. (May 2019) ( )
  Jayeless | May 27, 2020 |
one of the best books I've ever read. if it weren't for the "wintriness" of winter I should like nothing more than to be a Karhider learning and kemmering with the best of them. ( )
  me_librarian | May 15, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 282 (next | show all)
An instant classic
added by bgibbard | editMinneapolis Star-Tribune
 

» Add other authors (3 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Abelenda, FranciscoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Altuğ, ÜmitTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Anders, Charlie JaneAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Andrade, FátimaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aymerich i Lemos, SílviaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Živković, ZoranTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Bailhache, JeanTraductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Baranyi, GyulaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Chambers, BeckyIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebel, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Erőss, LászlóAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
芙佐, 小尾翻訳secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Franzén, TorkelTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, FrankIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Freas, Laura BrodianIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaiman, NeilIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Heinecke, JanCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Horne, MatildeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
서정록,secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jęczmyk, LechTł.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Jones, TobyNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Koubová, JanaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuczka, PéterAfterwordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Laretei, HeldurIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lemen, VanessaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lueg, Lena FongCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lupton, DavidIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malaguti, U.Traduttoresecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malaguti, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
McArdle, JamesNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miéville, ChinaIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mitchell, DavidForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palmiste, EndelIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reinsalu, TiinaIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stokesberry, RuthNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Stuyter, M.K.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Thole, C. A. M.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Vinge, Joan D.Prefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
WoodroffeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Тогоева, И.пер.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Цветаев, Ю.Аил.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Гаков, В.сост.secondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
For Charles,
sine qua non
For Charles, sine quo non
First words
I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination.
From the Archives of Hain. Transcript of Ansible Document 01-01101-934-2-Gethen: To the Stabile on Ollul: Report from Genly Ai, First Mobile on Gethen/Winter, Hainish Cycle 93, Ekumenical Year 1490-97.

I'll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.
Quotations
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.
Alone, I cannot change your world. But I can be changed by it. Alone, I must listen, as well as speak. Alone, the relationship I finally make, if I make one, is not impersonal and not only political: it is individual, it is personal, it is both more or less than political. Not We and They; not I and It; but I and Thou.
"Praise then darkness and Creation unfinished,"
A friend. What is a friend in a world where any friend may be a lover at a new phase of the moon? Not I, locked in my virility: no friend to Therem Harth or any other of his race. Neither man nor woman, neither and both, cyclic, lunar, metamorphosing under the hand's touch, changelings in the human cradle, they were no flesh of mine, no friends; no love between us.
The unknown, the unforetold, the unproven, that is what life is based on. Ignorance is the ground of thought. Unproof is the ground of action. If it were proven that there is no God there would be no religion. . . . But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion. . . . The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
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