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The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le…

The Left Hand of Darkness (original 1969; edition 1969)

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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8,688197349 (4.06)546
Title:The Left Hand of Darkness
Authors:Ursula K. Le Guin
Info:Barnes & Noble Books (2004), Hardcover with dustjacket
Collections:Your library, Favorites, Key books
Tags:SFF - series, 1960s, classics, other worlds, women writers, reread in 2004

Work details

The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin (1969)

  1. 50
    Ammonite by Nicola Griffith (mambo_taxi)
    mambo_taxi: Recommended if the whole "what if we think about gender differently" genre of science fiction appeals to you. Ammonite is much more interesting and better written as well.
  2. 72
    The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin (sturlington)
    sturlington: A less well-known entry in the Hainish cycle; more alien-human interactions.
  3. 40
    Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie (lquilter)
    lquilter: Fans of either Le Guin's Left Hand of Darkness or Leckie's Ancillary Justice should enjoy the other. In common, the pacing, character-centered perspective obscuring aspects of the universe, political machinations, far-future setting, and treatment of ethics; also interesting for its simultaneous foregrounding and backgrounding of gender.… (more)
  4. 30
    Shadow Man by Melissa Scott (sandstone78)
    sandstone78: Explorations of gender beyond the gender binary
  5. 30
    The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin (andomck)
  6. 31
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» See also 546 mentions

English (194)  Catalan (1)  Italian (1)  All languages (196)
Showing 1-5 of 194 (next | show all)
Joy's review: This is a book that I've wanted to read for probably 30 years. I'm sorry to say I was very disappointed. The premise and basic story is interesting enough, and there are many flashes of incredibly beautiful writing and interesting insights. However, it just felt 'flat' to me; I didn't connect with the principal characters. Too much info when I didn't care and not enough when I did. Check our the Kona Stories e-mail this week for a summary of what our book club thought. A great discussion! ( )
  konastories | Jul 17, 2015 |
DNF. Another classic I tried that I just couldn't get into. Gave it roughly 50 pages, and was just bored with it. I guess the classics just don't 'do it' for me. Moving on. ( )
  DaveLancaster | Jul 1, 2015 |
Despite how slowly I read this, I really liked it. Typically when I like a book, I devour it (sometimes staying up all night to do so!). For some reason, I couldn't do that with this novel.

Le Guin has created another world in vivid detail, as she has done in her other works. The world and people of Gethen (also known as Winter) struck me as more alien not due solely to the physical differences; perhaps because of the details such as the calendar.

"The Left Hand of Darkness" is about the reaction of a world to what is called First Contact in Star Trek terminology. Although the book deals with a world of aliens with a single Terran visiting as a envoy of the Ekumen (similar to the Federation to continue the Star Trek terms), the reactions described would not be surprising in the reverse situation of Earth being visited by an alien envoy. ( )
  leslie.98 | May 24, 2015 |
Das Buch hat den Hugo und den Nebula-Award gewonnen, deswegen habe ich es gelesen. Es wurde empfohlen als ein Roman, der vorallem wegen seiner Beschäftigung mit Geschlechterrollen (Gender und so..) bekannt ist.

Dieses Thema kommt in dem Buch zwar vor, aber dies ist nur ein Thema von mehreren. Weitere gleichrangige Themen des Buches: Einstehen für persönl. Überzeugungen, Abenteuer, Faschismus und Sozialismus, Heldentum.

Im gleichen Urlaub habe ich auch [b:Glasshouse|17866|Glasshouse|Charles Stross|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1404504297s/17866.jpg|930588] von Charles Stross gelesen und dieses beschäftigt sich ebenfalls mit Geschlechterrollen und der Möglichkeit diese zu wechseln. Dies wirkt bei Stross viel dynamischer und zum Nachdenken anregend.

Interessanterweise ist nicht der Ich-Erzähler die eigentliche Hauptfigur, wie man zunächst denken könnte, sonder nach meiner Meinung Estrevan. Der Haupterzähler Genly Ai bleibt seltsam eigenschaftslos. ( )
  volumed42 | May 12, 2015 |
I first read The Left Hand of Darkness as part of a science fiction honors course. It remains one of the most profound and memorable reading experiences of my life. In many cases concepts put together a half century past have been taken further by more recent authors. Le Guin's world remains un-copied and unsurpassed.

Winner of both the Hugo and Nebula awards, the novel primarily alternates between the perspectives of Genly Ai, first representative of the Ekumen on the planet Winter (Gethen) and Therem Harth rem ir Estraven, prime minister of Karhide. Other chapters tell myths and legends of Winter, or reports from earlier Ekumen observers. Le Gin creates a fully realized world. Her characters and societies are utterly human and form as poignant a backdrop for Genly's travels as does the ecological landscape of Gethen, a planet as beautifully described and utterly desolate as Frank Herbert's Arrakis. Genly, though he believes himself to be open-minded and accepting, cannot help but put the primarily gender neutral Gethenians into a dualistic paradigm that does not apply to their society, and he unconsciously reacts to them depending on how well they fit with it or in what ways they violate it. Only on the long trek across the ice is he finally able to see Estraven as he is-- simply as a human-- and by the final scene Genly's perspective has become so native to Gethen that his own shipmates seem wholly alien to him.

Estraven is the second voice of the novel and acts as Genly Ai's unwavering supporter. He is highly intelligent and very curious. He is protective and fond of Genly, who he sees as remarkably innocent and frail yet incredibly brave. Throughout the novel his love for Gethen prompts him to help Genly despite the personal cost of his actions. He is the one person on Gethen wholly willing to give of himself to help the Envoy and to open relations with the Ekumen.

The Left Hand of Darkness is a social statement. It is a political commentary, and it is a philosophical proposal. It questions everything from gender to history to mythology to religion through its creation of a world alien to our own-- a world that lacks the dualism inherent in Western thought and where 'manliness', 'beauty', and other gender attributes mean nothing. As one of the early Ekumen observers notes, "one is represented and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience." The novel has aged well and will continue to do so. It is utterly vibrant and achingly beautiful. Like The Dispossessed, it answers (and asks) enough without resorting to telling everything.

Le Guin has also published two short stories that take place on Gethen: "Winter's King" and "Coming of Age in Karhide". ( )
1 vote Ailinel | May 3, 2015 |
Showing 1-5 of 194 (next | show all)
An instant classic
added by bgibbard | editMinneapolis Star-Tribune

» Add other authors (34 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Le Guin, Ursula K.primary authorall editionsconfirmed
Dillon, DianeCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Dillon, LeoCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ebel, AlexCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Gaughan, JackCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kirby, JoshCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Malaguti, UgoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Nyytäjä, KaleviTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Pagetti, CarloForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
White, TimCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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For Charles,
sine qua 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.
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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Wikipedia in English (2)

Book description
The Left Hand of Darkness is the account of the efforts of a man named Genly Ai, a representative from a galactic federation of worlds (the Ekumen), who seeks to bring the world of Gethen into that society. The inhabitants of Gethen are sequentially hermaphroditic humans; for twenty-four days of each twenty-six day lunar cycle they are sexually latent androgynes, and for the remaining two days (kemmer) are male or female, as determined by pheromonal negotiation with an interested sex partner. Thus each individual can both sire and bear children.

A classic of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness is an imaginative masterpiece that poses challenging questions about human sexuality, sexism and the organisation of society.
Mr Ai has been sent to observe the inhabitants of the snowbound planet Winter. Like animals, its androgynous people enter phases of sexuality and can be both mother and father at different times in their lives. To Mr Ai, they seem alien, unsophisticated, confusing. A long, tortuous journey across the ice finds him losing at least some of his professional detachment, and he befriends one of their outcasts. But will he ever understand their true nature?
Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0441478123, Mass Market Paperback)

Genly Ai is an emissary from the human galaxy to Winter, a lost, stray world. His mission is to bring the planet back into the fold of an evolving galactic civilization, but to do so he must bridge the gulf between his own culture and prejudices and those that he encounters. On a planet where people are of no gender--or both--this is a broad gulf indeed. The inventiveness and delicacy with which Le Guin portrays her alien world are not only unusual and inspiring, they are fundamental to almost all decent science fiction that has been written since. In fact, reading Le Guin again may cause the eye to narrow somewhat disapprovingly at the younger generation: what new ground are they breaking that is not already explored here with greater skill and acumen? It cannot be said, however, that this is a rollicking good story. Le Guin takes a lot of time to explore her characters, the world of her creation, and the philosophical themes that arise.

If there were a canon of classic science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness would be included without debate. Certainly, no science fiction bookshelf may be said to be complete without it. But the real question: is it fun to read? It is science fiction of an earlier time, a time that has not worn particularly well in the genre. The Left Hand of Darkness was a groundbreaking book in 1969, a time when, like the rest of the arts, science fiction was awakening to new dimensions in both society and literature. But the first excursions out of the pulp tradition are sometimes difficult to reread with much enjoyment. Rereading The Left Hand of Darkness, decades after its publication, one feels that those who chose it for the Hugo and Nebula awards were right to do so, for it truly does stand out as one of the great books of that era. It is immensely rich in timeless wisdom and insight.

The Left Hand of Darkness is science fiction for the thinking reader, and should be read attentively in order to properly savor the depth of insight and the subtleties of plot and character. It is one of those pleasures that requires a little investment at the beginning, but pays back tenfold with the joy of raw imagination that resonates through the subsequent 30 years of science fiction storytelling. Not only is the bookshelf incomplete without owning it, so is the reader without having read it. --L. Blunt Jackson

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:02 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

A human emissary sent to the world of Winter to bring it into a galactic civilization must find a way to bridge the gulf between his outlook and that of the natives, who can change gender at will.

(summary from another edition)

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