The Left Hand of Darkness

One of life’s little pleasures is stumbling on classics long after the fact. This week it has been Ursula Le Guin’s sci-fi novel “The Left Hand of Darkness.” As someone who grew up on a diet of fantasy, but was disappointed to find many old favorites unsatisfying upon a re-read, the book has been the perfect reentry.

This passage exemplifies the care and depth of the book’s writing and ideas:

How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply? What is love of one’s country; is it hate of one’s uncountry? Then it’s not a good thing. Is it simply self-love? That’s a good thing, but one musn’t make a virtue of it, or a profession….Insofar as I love life, I love the hills of the Domain of Estre, but that sort of love does not have a boundary-line of hate.

Written in 1969, the influence of Communism stands out in the book’s world building. The unimportance of Communism in practice or thought today makes its presence feel a little anachronistic.

It made me wonder what cultural tropes and fixations will stand out when today’s literature is read two or three decades from now. I have not read enough novels recently to be able to answer, so if anyone has any thoughts I’d love to hear them.

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