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Four Ways to Forgiveness Hardcover – September, 1995

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Editorial Reviews Review

Ursula K. Le Guin revisits her popular Hainish universe with four interconnected stories that together weave a tapestry of revolution and political turmoil. Le Guin tells the tale of two worlds where decades of slavery and class distinction are about to come to an end. She begins at the end with the story of a woman who survived the perilous times and now must face what comes after. Then in turn come tales of a naive envoy, an aloof observer forced to choose sides, and a young slave who wins freedom, only to confront the bonds of her own mind. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Most of Le Guin's recent fiction divides into collections of stories bound by theme, such as Searoad, or novels such as the Nebula Award-winning Tehanu, in which the author has revisited worlds she created decades before. This volume is a hybrid: a theme collection featuring the Hainish culture that informed, among other works, Le Guin's celebrated The Left Hand of Darkness. The four interrelated novellas presented here deal with the quest to achieve true liberation on the planets Werel and Yeowe (which are detailed in extensive endnotes). Le Guin focuses on the situation of women, who remain in a subservient position even after civil and interplanetary wars have provided "freedom for all men." Both sexes are treated with more balance here than in Searoad: the women are occasionally ignoble, while the men are shown in complex, but generally positive, lights. Each of these stories is mindful that achieving "the one noble thing" requires a mutual respect between the sexes. In contrast to the stridency of Searoad, Le Guin has muted her tone here, achieving both greater resonance and power as she offers an accessible, educational and ecumenical look at the interrelationship among love, freedom and forgiveness.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Prism (September 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0061052345
  • ISBN-13: 978-0061052347
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.5 x 10 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #849,727 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Saskia Van Uylenburgh on April 16, 2005
Format: Paperback
Four Ways to Forgiveness is what sf writer LeGuin calls a "story suite"--four interconnected short stories, one of which takes up nearly half the book. All four stories are set on the planet Werel and its colony of Yeowe, where a dominant black-skinned race holds a primarily white-skinned population in slavery. Werel and Yeowe have both been contacted by the Ekumen, the interplanetary federation of LeGuin's future history, but neither can join until the problems of slavery and gender imbalance have been solved. In "Betrayals", two old people find tenderness together after long and difficult lives; in "Forgiveness Day", the brash young Envoy of the Ekumen is kidnapped, together with the stiff-necked bodyguard she despises, and falls in love with him. "A Man of the People" is the story of Havzhiva, born to the pueblo culture of Hain, the parent world of all human races and cultures. Feeling out of place, he goes off to become a historian and winds up as the Envoy to Yeowe, the colony world where the slaves have successfully revolted and become free. It is mirrored by "A Woman's Liberation," the memoir of Rakam, born a slave, used sexually by her mistress as a child, used by men at another plantation in her adolescence, who escapes to Yeowe with the help of another Hainish envoy, the mysterious Esdardon Aya (whose name means Old Music) and becomes a teacher and, eventually, the lover of Havzhiva.

I love this book and have read it repeatedly. While I don't like all of LeGuin's work equally well, some of her books I have re-read many times and been deeply influenced by--the Earthsea books, The Dispossessed, this one, and A Fisherman of the Inland Sea, which I am now reading yet again.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Neal J. Pollock VINE VOICE on December 17, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Fine SF explores the nature of the human condition under special circumstances--with observations of lasting import. LeGuin does that in her works. While this one, a collection of 4 interrelated novellas, is not her best work (see The Left Hand of Darkness or The Dispossessed), it is very fine work nonetheless. I like it much better than her short story collections (e.g. Orsinian Tales). This book is about the relationships between politics and people. It also speaks of the differences and similarities between the internal and the external such that changing external circumstances may not have much lasting effect if the internal circumstances (within the people) don't change. There is an interrelationship here too. There are several pithy quotes for my collection in it as well:

Love of God and country is like fire, a wonderful friend, a terrible enemy; only children play with fire. p.57

To live simply is most complicated. p. 90

The right use of knowledge is fulfillment. p.117

Loquacity is half of diplomacy ... The other half is silence. p.127

Ignorance defends itself savagely. p.197
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By M. Haque on September 7, 2002
Format: Hardcover
A marvellous book, the four stories of Yeowe & Werel intertwined subtly and beautifully.
The issues of slavery and female subjugation, so central to any moral history of real humankind on real planet earth, are treated with Ursula's characteristic compassion and humanity, in the context of an imaginary planet and its colony-satellite.
The characters of these stories, their acts of bravery cowardice revolt submission, are so familiar from earth's own history of colonizations and exploitations! As always I marvel at how LeGuin, White American and presumably priviledged, knows so well the hearts of the enslaved and the colonized.
How familiar to see the lives of slaves who go on century after century without thinking to revolt!
How familiar to see the slave who, at the moment of choice, remains on the side of the master and sticks to the familiar, instead of striding into the unknown world of freedom!
And how familiar to see oppression and war and famine continuing, in different form, after freedom from the external oppressors.
(Former colonies of the European oppressors will remember sorely how brown/black bosses promptly took over the former_roles of the white masters after liberation.)
And how familiar to see, the lonely and driven activist, the former slave who wants all enslavements to end, the few moral beings in an often immoral world.
The cry of slave peoples on Werel -- "Oh, Oh, Ye-o-we" -- so mournful, so similar to the bittersad poetry of colonized peoples everywhere.
Actually, the four ways have now become five ways, as LeGuin has written one more story set in Werel, in the collection "The Birthday of the World".
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By C. ANZIULEWICZ on April 26, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Ursula LeGuin has always been one of my favorite writers, and I particularly enjoy the many books and short stories of hers that take place amongst the worlds of the Ekumen. Of course, a book with a title like "Four Ways to Forgiveness" might be somewhat off-putting to lovers of hard science fiction, but this book is a must-have for fans of Ms. LeGuin. When we read of worlds that are gradually being welcomed into the Ekumen, we read of cultures and traditions in much the same way as we might read of foreign nations in "National Geographic." LeGuin writes humane, anthropological science fiction, and this book is an excellent example. When I came to the last page and read the last few words, I breathed a deep sigh of warmth and satisfaction. Ursula LeGuine writes that beautifully. The real tragedy is that this book is out of print and almost impossible to find. Get this book back in print!
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