Ursula K. Le Guin never wanted to be a writer. It was, without more. “I don’t remember doing anything other than writing,” he responded to everyone who was interested in the moment he took the final step. As a child, I wrote. He sent his first story to a magazine when he turned 11. He received a rejection letter. It took another ten years to resend anything else to anywhere. And what did he get? Another rejection letter. “You write well,” the letter said, “but we don’t know exactly what it does.” The time? In the mid-50s, when there was not yet a science fiction and fantasy literature that was considered as such. In science fiction, the call reigned hard sci-fiThat is, the one that tended to give technical details, to justify, in some sense, the role of science at a time when no one still relied heavily on it, popularly speaking. As far as Literature with capital letters was concerned, it was done by “realism and men.”
The quote is from her own Le Guin (1929-2018), who sovereignly abhorred Ernest Hemingway and all who pretended to be like him because they believed that being a writer was that. When, in the late 60s, his literature began to turn out understandable for the world, to fit into a new niche, that of the so-called speculative literature, he did not cut a hair and tended to charge against it, or rather, to make it clear how much he did not care what that other world thought of his, in any talk in which he participated. Almost always, puffing on his pipe, fun. The world of fiction had suffered an earthquake and she, in large part, was to blame. He had given birth to the missing link between that man pulp which laid the foundations for the existence of alternative worlds and Literature with capital letters. And it was one, finally, not necessarily realistic. One that was not limited to reflecting, that put it, from the outside, everything in question.
His push and his powerful and honest ambition, because all lor what she did all the time was to try to find herself, to give an explanation to why we did what we did and if there was another way of being human, they forced Puritan criticism, so safe from everything that did not talk about the world as it was, the world in which they all lived , comfortably, to recognize that it had immeasurable value. First they did it shyly. Then, with the passage of time, and the unstoppable and always on the rise, trajectory of Le Guin, they had no choice but to open floodgates and let everything that had grown around them, sneak into a canon that is today, for fortune, and thanks also to her, more open than ever. And that victory is at the center of his work, in which light and darkness do not contrast, they are part of a whole.
“If we decide that a story has to be based on conflict, we greatly limit our worldview. And unintentionally, we make a political statement: everything in life is conflict, so the conflict in a narrative is what really matters. And frankly, that is not true. To see life as a battle is to have a very limited, social-Darwinist and very masculine vision of the world, and stories can deal with endless different things, ”said the writer, in one of the conversations about her work, but above all, to the wicker of writing, which he kept with David Naimon, writer at the head of the literary podcast Between the Covers. The result of these talks has just been edited by Alpha Decay under the title Conversations about writing, and although they allow to know the Le Guin lover of language – “words create things” -, they leave out their genesis and their contradictions.
In that sense, the documentary produced by the BBC and directed by Arwen Curry entitled Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin (Filmin). In it, in addition to seeing the day to day of the writer at the Napa Valley ranch where he spent his childhood summers, his paradise on Earth, which he moved to in 1980 when his mother died “and my children had already left home,” is witnessing a reconstruction of his life that not only evidences why his work could never be another but also how an author grows when he stops to think about what he could have done better, when, in short, he does not close to continue learning. Lets start by the beginning. What could the only daughter – she had three brothers – of a famous anthropologist who had traveled throughout California collecting the testimonies of the communities that white America was destroying but create worlds in which we were all still, or could we be, different? “It was hard for me to see the injustice and cruelty of all that. When I saw her, it caused a strong impact. My way of dealing with it was to put it in a novel, ”he said.
A novel that were actually many of his novels. The possibility that the human being relates to nature in a different way to how the human being of the West does is in the DNA of his work, and in particular, the figure of his father and that of Ishi, the last known member of the Yahi tribe, who lived with them for years, appear in some of his works – Planet of exile, The name of the world is Forest – and in moments like the one that David Mitchell tells of The left hand of the darkness, in which the protagonist, the intellectual of the Ekumen galactic federation, has to make a trip in a cold and hostile terrain, with one of the androgynous inhabitants of the planet to which he has been sent and, little by little, as he they move away from any civilization, “they are more alike” because there are no features of any collective in them. “It’s a trip to the heart of human cooperation,” says the writer in the documentary.
Published in 1971 – just six years after the world of literature opened its doors; his first novel came out in 1966 -, The left hand of the darkness it is, in the words of Neil Gaiman, “something never seen before”. That year, he took over the Nebula and Hugo, and brought to feminism the literature that was already on the street. Although criticized for the use of the masculine when referring to the neutral gender of the androgynous beings of the novel – who were neither men nor women, who were randomly and only for a certain time – by feminists themselves – “I could not do it that to the language, and there was no way of naming it in a way that was understandable, ”said Le Guin -, the novel marked a before and after as far as fluid genre literature is concerned, and also, in the work of Le Guin, always looking for alternatives to our oppressive and seemingly unique civilization.
“Difficult times are approaching and we will need the voices of those who see alternatives to the way we live. To the realists of a broader reality
Ursula K. Le Guin
He showed, however, how masculine his literature had been until then, and the writer’s reaction was commendable. “The heroes of the fantasy that I wanted to write had always been men, and I didn’t feel the need for them to be anything else, until I realized that even in the Terramar saga, aimed at a youth audience, there were no women, and those that appeared, the civilization that lives in the desert in the second part, depended on men. It took me 17 years to be able to give it an end in which the female protagonist did not marry. Things were happening in the 70s, but I was not an ideal feminist. There was talk of freeing ourselves from men and children, and I had a husband and three children. I got defensive, ”he recalls, at one point in the documentary. The push of the Nebula and Hugo, and their growing popularity and, above all, respect, made him realize that none of it was incompatible.
The respect that The left hand of the darkness began to earn him shot with the publication of The dispossessed (1974), the most ambitious utopia ever written, almost a philosophical text that looks like a space novel, in which anarchism makes its way to make clear, once again, “that the twisted beam of humanity” will not leave of being so no matter how hard we try. “It was my way of telling the world that no human society can achieve perfection and stay that way,” said Le Guin herself about it, and it sounded to the fullest that, despite everything, she tried, as a scientist, to try one and another time, hoping that some of those times would not be fulfilled.
The author of the first school of magicians in the history of literature – the novels and stories set in Terramar are much more than the clearest predecessor of Harry PotterTo begin with, they are a love letter to the language and the writer’s trade Wizard – said goodbye to the literary world by sharing the Medal of the National Book Foundation – something like the Nobel Prize for the American literary – with “all those writers who were excluded from literature for so long; with my colleagues, the authors of fantasy and science fiction, who in the last 50 years have seen this award fall into the hands of the so-called realistic”, And in doing so he was showing that his victory was that of everyone, and at the same time, sending a warning message to those who had undervalued them and were about to need them more than ever. “Difficult times are approaching,” he said, “and we will need the voices of those who see alternatives to the way we live.” “To the realists,” he concluded, “of a broader reality.”