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Just Some of Ursula K. Le Guin's Greatest Quotes

By Petr Knava | Books | January 24, 2018 |

By Petr Knava | Books | January 24, 2018 |


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Ursula Kroeber Le Guin, acclaimed author and quite astonishing human being, died on Monday. She was 88 years old. Throughout her literary career Ms. Le Guin repeatedly injected a depth of thought and a leftist/feminist perspective into the world of fantasy and science fiction, but she was by no means bound to that genre alone. Admired by her peers and by millions of her readers, she brought a unique and powerful light into the world. She was a woman with an ineffable gift with words, and her legacy will last for untold years.

Let’s take a moment to remember Ursula K Le Guin through some of her finest quotes.

Rest in Peace, Ms. Le Guin, and thank you.

——-

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.

——-

We’re each of us alone, to be sure. What can you do but hold your hand out in the dark?

——-

My world, my Earth is a ruin. A planet spoiled by the human species. We multiplied and fought and gobbled until there was nothing left, and then we died. We controlled neither appetite nor violence; we did not adapt. We destroyed ourselves. But we destroyed the world first.

——-

What sane person could live in this world and not be crazy

——-

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.

——-

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.

——-

You cannot take what you have not given, and you must give yourself. You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere.

——-

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.

——-

There’s a point, around the age of twenty, when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.

——-

The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.

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And I speak of spiritual suffering! Of people seeing their talent, their work, their lives wasted. Of good minds submitting to stupid ones. Of strength and courage strangled by envy, greed for power, fear of change. Change is freedom, change is life

——-

If you want your writing to be taken seriously, don’t marry and have kids, and above all, don’t die. But if you have to die, commit suicide. They approve of that.
- Prospects for Women in Writing, speech given in Portland, Oregon, 1986.

——-

When women speak truly they speak subversively — they can’t help it: if you’re underneath, if you’re kept down, you break out, you subvert. We are volcanoes. When we women offer our experience as our truth, as human truth, all the maps change. There are new mountains. That’s what I want - to hear you erupting. You young Mount St Helenses who don’t know the power in you - I want to hear you.
- Bryn Mawr College commencement speech, 1986, published in the essay collection Dancing At The Edge of the World: Thoughts on Words, Women, Places, 1989.

——-

Books aren’t just commodities; the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism, its power seems inescapable - but then, so did the divine right of kings. Any human power can be resisted and changed by human beings. Resistance and change often begin in art. Very often in our art, the art of words. I’ve had a long career as a writer, and a good one, in good company. Here at the end of it, I don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. We who live by writing and publishing want and should demand our fair share of the proceeds; but the name of our beautiful reward isn’t profit. Its name is freedom.

——-

Petr Knava lives in London and plays music



Petr is a staff contributor. You can follow him on Twitter.


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