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The Dispossessed: A Novel (Hainish Cycle) Paperback – June 10, 2014
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“This novel, by a celebrated Hungarian poet, depicts the world of his childhood…The narrator, a young boy whose family is shunned-it was once wealthy and is suspected of being Jewish-endures beatings, hunger, and taunts with the fatalism of someone who has never known anything else.” (New Yorker)
From the Back Cover
Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. he will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planet of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe. To do this dangerous task will mean giving up his family and possibly his life. Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Anarres, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
This book chronicles the related people of twin planets, one previously colonized by settlers from the other. The narrative vividly contrasts various types of social organization and behavior, including freedom (and the lack of it), government (and the lack of it), mutual cooperation and competition, and so forth. While the differences seem stark at first, the subtleties become more apparent as more is revealed. It not only entertains but forces the reader to think about alternate ways of living that have been dismissed or not considered before.
The story is delivered mostly from the view of the protagonist, from two different periods in his life. The movement back and forth from his earlier life to his later life helps with a deeper understanding of the intricacies of the tale. The timelines come together eventually, of course, but the beauty of the book is in the wholeness of the telling.
The author occasionally creates words, or at least they appear to be created as they are new to me and not in dictionaries or wikipedia, but these created words have meanings that are obvious. They add to the beautiful fabric of the chronicle.
Even if you disagree with the political inclinations that is gradually releaved during the story, it is still a lovely work that deserves a place on the bookshelf of most fans of (political) sci-fi stories.
It starts with the idea of a fence, and what such a fence includes and what it excludes… and extends to what is power, and who has it and why… but that oversimplifies, since it is entirely done in story, and no pontificating (unlike most utopias/dystopias). It’s gentle, but makes one think- and every time i have re-read it over the decades, I’ve gotten more from it.
HIGHLY recommended, even (especially?) if you hate utopian/dystopian fiction- this is NOT that.
I love it.
It is important to note, however, that this story is much more complex than a simple ideological battle between two worldviews. For, while Le Guin seems to favor the Odonian vision of Anarres over the nations of Urras, both societies are critically flawed. Urras is seen as a hell by Shevek, who abhors the greed, exploitation, dishonesty, and selfish ambition he sees there. Yet, Anarres in many ways, is just as or more flawed; pressures to conform to societal norms and expectations, informal bureaucracies just as autocratic as authoritarian states, and a xenophobic fear and rejection of Other create a repression of the mind and of creativity almost as stifling as the more overtly oppressive states on Urras. Some see the introduction of Terran and Hainish actors toward the end as a bit of a deus ex machina, and it is to some degree from the perspective of the *action* in the plot; but from the all-important perspective of the *ideas* of the novel, they provide an interesting and important counterbalance to Shevek's perspective on the two worlds, and importantly provide the possibility at the end of a way forward, and a new, more wide-spread revolution and evolution of ideas.
This is a complicated, subtle novel; but the beauty of it is that its essence is captured entirely in the first two paragraphs. This is a novel about a wall and all it implies. Insider versus outcast. Belonging versus exclusion. Laughably trivial and yet the most important thing in the universe. Humanly-devised, given meaning only through the social constructions of the collective. Viewed, in our case, from the dispossessed traveler who journeys forth but always returns. A joy to read, and even more so to contemplate; a timeless classic of science fiction as powerful today as when it was first written.
It's very philosophical, looking at various governments (mainly anarchy and capitalism) through a somewhat unfiltered lens, asking the questions, "What is a utopia?" and "Can a society ever truly be utopian?" So, if you're not into political philosophy, this may not be your book. But if you enjoy being intellectual challenged while reading, I highly recommend it.