Ursula K. Le Guin (1929) was a ground-breaking novelist who specialized in fantasy and science-fiction, but also who authored children’s books, essays, poetry and short stories. Today we say our farewell to an author who in her work eloquently explored strong ideas about politics, environment, gender, religion, sexuality…
In 2016, The New York Times described her as “America’s greatest living science fiction writer”. She won the Hugo Award, Nebula Award, Locus Award, and World Fantasy Award, each more than once. In 2014, she was awarded the National Book Foundation Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. In 2003, she was made a Grandmaster of Science Fiction, one of a few women writers to take the top honor in the genre.
I also found Le Guin to be one of the most quotable authors, her courageous and eloquent approach to writing inspired generation of both readers and writers. As we mourn the loss of an incredible woman and a formidable mind, let’s remind ourselves of some of her most amazing quotes.
“Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone, it has to be made, like bread; remade all the time, made new.”
“A writer is a person who cares what words mean, what they say, how they say it. Writers know words are their way towards truth and freedom, and so they use them with care, with thought, with fear, with delight. By using words well they strengthen their souls. Story-tellers and poets spend their lives learning that skill and art of using words well. And their words make the souls of their readers stronger, brighter, deeper.”
“The creative adult is the child who has survived.”
“We read books to find out who we are. What other people, real or imaginary, do and think and feel… is an essential guide to our understanding of what we ourselves are and may become.”
“The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist; a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain.”
“The book itself is a curious artifact, not showy in its technology but complex and extremely efficient: a really neat little device, compact, often very pleasant to look at and handle, that can last decades, even centuries. It doesn’t have to be plugged in, activated, or performed by a machine; all it needs is light, a human eye, and a human mind. It is not one of a kind, and it is not ephemeral. It lasts. It is reliable. If a book told you something when you were fifteen, it will tell it to you again when you’re fifty, though you may understand it so differently that it seems you’re reading a whole new book.”
– Staying Awake: Notes on the alleged decline of reading, Harper’s Magazine, February 2008
“Children know perfectly well that unicorns aren’t real, but they also know that books about unicorns, if they are good books, are true books.”
“The law of evolution is that the strongest survives!’ ‘Yes, and the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. In human terms, most ethical…There is no strength to be gained from hurting one another. Only weakness.”
“While we read a novel, we are insane—bonkers. We believe in the existence of people who aren’t there, we hear their voices… Sanity returns (in most cases) when the book is closed.”
“What is a woman’s power then?” she asked.
“I don’t think we know.”
“When has a woman power because she’s a woman? With her children, I suppose. For a while…”
“In her house, maybe.”
She looked around the kitchen. “But the doors are shut,” she said, “the doors are locked.”
“Because you’re valuable.”
“Oh yes. We’re precious. So long as we’re powerless.”
On the meaning of life.
“We decided that it was no good asking what is the meaning of life because life isn’t an answer, life is the question, and you, yourself, are the answer.”
On the end…
“I think,” Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, “that when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn’t do. All that I might have been and couldn’t be. All the choices I didn’t make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven’t been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I loved, the breath I breathed.”