The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia

Book Cover for The Dispossesed Books where authors work through big moral and political ideas are my favorite. Ever.

I think back to when I first stumbled upon Nancy Kress’ Beggars in Spain trilogy, where she worked through her issues with Ayn Rand and our obligations to each other. Or Brave New World and the idea of whether happiness (be it drug-induced) is really enough. Or Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and questions of humanity. These are truly some of the best books I’ve ever been lucky enough to read, and they’ve had a huge impact on my thinking. The Dispossessed is up there. In fact, it might just be one of my new favorites.

After finishing the book last week, I knew I needed to read more about it. That’s when I found The New Utopian Politics of Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed, a collection of essays on it. Here’s one review of the collection from Kenneth M. Roemer, a professor at the University of Texas at Arlington:

“For three decades Le Guin’s The Dispossessed has inspired debates about competing ideologies, about notions of gender, about space-time continuums, about forms of utopian expression-indeed about topics as broad as human communication and as intensely personal as the emotional epiphanies of the novel’s hero Shevek. So, to say that this lively first collection of essays about the book is welcome and long overdue is to make a grand understatement. Like Le Guin’s novel the collection is wide-ranging, open-ended, and provocative. It offers analyses of expected topics and images—anarchism, ecology, and walls, for instance— from multiple viewpoints, as well as discussions of important less-expected issues, notably consumerism. Contributors examine rich networks of connections and parallels between Le Guin’s thought and art and the works of Lao Tzu, Kropotkin, Paul Goodman, Marcuse, Hegel, Hannah Arendt, and French and Italian architects and designers. Le Guin’s essay, which concludes the collection, is a frank and feisty response to critics who reduce her novel to treatise status, and a complex advocacy of art that teaches. This fine collection will invigorate discussion of The Dispossessed and of Le Guin’s other works, especially Always Coming Home, and engage any serious reader of utopian and science fiction and political and social theory.”

I’ve read one essay so far and most certainly agree.


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