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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Ursula K. Le Guin on the centrality of uncertainty

"The unknown," said Faxe's soft voice in the forest, "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. No Handdara, no Yomesh, no hearthgods, nothing. But also if it were proven that there is a God, there would be no religion. . . . Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable -- the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?" "That we shall die." "Yes. There's really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer . . . the only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty; not knowing what comes next." The Left Hand of Darkness (New York: Ace, 1969) p. 72. Ellipses in original. Faxe, the Weaver of Otherhord Fastness, to Genly Ai, the envoy of the Ekumen to Gethen.


Arevanye said...

I go back to this book often, Martin. I think it is one of Le Guin's best and it always gives me something new to ponder. Thanks for posting your thoughts- I've gone back and read your earlier posts.

Something about Le Guin's writing has always appealed to me. There seems to be such a sure-footedness about her prose. Not a thought or word is wasted, and her books have a quiet power about them without having to resort to extreme violence or sexuality.

I've been reading her new series, The Annals of the Western Shores. They are Young Adult in classification, but again, very thoughtful, well-written stories.

Martin LaBar said...

Thanks. Yes, Le Guin is one of the great writers, not just of fantastic literature, but of literature.