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January 24, 2018


RIP Ursula Le Guin

by N@ncy

  • Author: Ursula Le Guin
  • Title:  The Left Hand of Darkness
  • Published: 1969
  • Genre:  SF novel
  • Trivia: List of Challenges 2018


Place:  planet Gethen is also called ‘Winter” (experiencing an ice age.)…in country of Karhide.

Main Characters:  

  1. Genly Ai:
  2. Young man from Terra, or Earth who has been in Karhide for 2 years.
  3. He is an envoy from the Ekumen organization of more than eighty worlds.
  4. He must convince the Gethenias to join
  5. …the alliance to improve trade and communication.
  6. King Argavan XV: 
  7. King in the country of  Karhide (planet Gethen) who is
  8. reluctant to acknowledge Genly Ai.
  9. Argavan does not want to discuss his diplomatic mission because
  10. admitting the existence of beings who have mastered travel and communications
  11. would diminish the king’s importance.
  12. Estraven:
  13. Ai is indebted to Estraven (PM in Karhide)  for having arranged an audience with the king.
  14. Estraven as being cold and aloof, and Ai   feels that, as Prime Minister, he should
  15. have done more to make the audience go more smoothly.


Important part of the narrative:

  1. The citizens of Karhide are  androgynes.
  2. People are neither “he” nor “she” until they enter kemmer, a state of fertility,
  3. lasting a few days a month, analogous to a woman’s cycle.
  4. Then, depending on the chemistry between partners….
  5. one will develop as a male, the other as a female.
  6. The same person can be a child-bearing mother to some children
  7. …and a father to others.
  8. No wonder Ai is confused…as I was.



  1. This book is considered a SF classic
  2. Le Guin was one of the first female writers who
  3. questioned gender roles in SF.
  4. The book combines political complexity and
  5. …groundbreaking approach to gender:
  6. people in society had no gender
  7. ….or  both genders!
  8. The book was good.
  9. …but I found  Le Guin’s The Lathe of Heaven and
  10. her novella Vaster Than Empires and More Slow.…better.
  11. It’s just my personal preference.
  12. The Left had of Darkness  is well worth your reading time.
  13. It was awarded the Nebula Award AND the Hugo Award in 1970


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3 Comments Post a comment
  1. tracybham
    Jan 24 2018

    I have only read one book by Le Guin, A Wizard of Earthsea. I definitely want to read more.


    • Jan 24 2018

      Coincidence…I was just about to end my day after reading French….and a book about Ireland.
      I thought it would be a lovely way to pay triibute to Ursula Le Guin…..and start the Earthsea series tonight as bedtime reading! I really ‘gasped’ when I read of her death this morning, like I was losing someone close. I so wanted her to win the Nobel Prize one day. Thanks for you comments, Tracy.



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