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Malafrena Mass Market Paperback


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Product Details

  • Mass Market Paperback
  • Publisher: Berkley (September 1, 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0425046478
  • ISBN-13: 978-0425046470
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 4.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,907,297 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin was born in Berkeley, California, in 1929. Her novels include Rocannon's World, Planet of Exile, City of Illusions, and The Left Hand of Darkness. With the awarding of the 1975 Hugo and Nebula Awards to The Dispossessed, she became the first author to win both awards twice for novels. Le Guin lives in Portland, Oregon.

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Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 16 people found the following review helpful By "romanciere" on September 13, 2000
Format: Mass Market Paperback
It's too bad that most booksellers automatically, and mistakenly, placed this lovely "mainstream" historical novel in the science fiction section with the rest of Le Guin's work. It deserved a wider audience than it probably received.
However...I wonder how many other Le Guin fans have noticed that MALAFRENA (written five years later) is essentially the same novel as THE DISPOSSESSED, its setting moved from a distant planet in the distant future, to an imaginary (but oh so real) country in early-19th-century Eastern Europe? In both cases the story is of an idealistic young man who leaves his home because he burns for action and his secure but flawed home seems unbearable to him; goes to the decadent home planet/decadent big city that he believes is where he truly belongs, in order to chase his dreams and shake things up; finds himself in over his head in events he can't control; and eventually returns home chastened, more mature, and (rather like Dorothy) willing to admit that his heart's desire had never really been farther than his own back yard.
But it's an absorbing tale, written with Le Guin's usual beautiful prose and perceptive characterization; and a fine portrayal of post-Napoleonic Europe and the revolutionary stirrings of the 1820s and 1830s--a good history lesson even though the country of Orsinia never existed except in our imaginations.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By atimberl@indiana.edu on June 18, 1998
Format: Mass Market Paperback
Malafrena, by Ursula K. Le Guin, is about freedom, and discovering freedom, whatever shape it may take. Itale Sorde, raised in mountainous Malafrena in the imaginary land of Orsinia, becomes absorbed in the legacy and promise of the French Revolution. Abandoning his ancestral home, he sets off for the capital city and becomes involved in the increasingly radical politics of the day. His efforts culminate in insurrection; Orsinia, like the rest of Europe in the early 1830s, is brewing with revolution. As the citizens barricade streets of Krasnoy in the name of freedom, Itale faces a crisis of conscience, beginning to question the very definition of the liberty he is fighting for. Malafrena is irritatingly out of print at present; this is unfortunate, as the novel provides a lot of background on Le Guin's Orsinia. For Le Guin fans, it is a must read as a sort of compass, a means of feeling out the lay of the land. Also interesting is the debt Le Guin pays herein to both European history and Victor Hugo; the Orsinian emeute is sparked by, and reflects those immortalized in Hugo's Les Miserables. Of course, Malafrena is a good read in its own right: the story, sprawling through several years and as many peoples' lives, is curiously focused; the events, beautifully rendered in Le Guin's luminous prose, never fail to circle back in towards the simple questions that lie at the novel's center. Sometimes, as Itale discovers, one finds true freedom in returing home.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Maya Walsh on January 24, 2003
Format: Hardcover
When this book was first published there was considerable hoopla to the effect that Le Guin had ceased to be "just" a "genre" writer of science fiction and fantasy but was now a "mainstream" writer appealing to a broader audience. I don't get it! Where is the line drawn between a so-called "historical novel" about an imaginary country (Malafrena)and a "fantasy" novel (like "The Dispossessed") about imaginary planets? Is the distinction so significant that solely on this basis it creates an appeal to a broader, mainstream audience? As a previous reviewer here pointed out, those two novels are very similar in their plotting and echo Le Guin's themes and story lines: the nature and meanings of freedom or other idealistic obsessions; depth of anthropological detail; cultural shock or clashes; coming of age; the changes, understandings and growth that come through noble efforts, love or loss; and the compromises the characters make as a result of their various vicissitudes. Her conclusions are always bittersweet: the characters make peace with their lot and find strength to continue and an indication of some kind of future.
LeGuin's prose is beautifully crafted, evocative, fraught with meanings, dense, wide-angled, many sided. Her works need to be read and reread to grasp some of what they hold. Le Guin is our George Eliot, and Malafrena is another Middlemarch. It would be more meaningful, however, if it were based on the actual history of an actual country. Her fascinating details, plotting and descriptions would gain significance as interpretations of, and insights on, real events.
Since the work was imaginary, I wish her female characters had been made stronger; that they had prevailed more.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Clarke on August 30, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ursula le Guin is my favorite writer, so I don't pretend to be unbiased. She uses words beautifully, but that isn't what I like best about her writing. I like the way she uses fiction to explore society and how it is shaped by geography, climate, science, technology - so many things. This is the best book I have ever read about revolution. Using an imaginary country on an imaginary world (picture Italy in the 1600's), she follows an idealistic young man from the time he leaves his father's home and goes to University. There he becomes part of the movement for social change. He grows up as the revolution unfolds. It is the timeless story of idealistic youth and the struggle to find a form of governance that works, and is just and compassionate.
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