A belated tribute to Ursula le Guin

le-guin“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly.”

When she died in January this year I did save the obituary published in the New York Times. I hadn’t read a lot of her work, but I have, over the years, read and re-read The Earthsea Trilogy – subsequently expanded, like Douglas Adams’s Galaxy Hitchhiker, into a quintology (I made that word up).

I’ve never been a big fan of science or fantasy fiction. I couldn’t progress past the second volume of “Lord of the Rings” – but Ursula le Guin had something else: a genuine belief that the world could be a better place. What’s more, she had definite ideas about how that could be brought about.

As the Turkish Lira plunges in the “money markets”, I’ve been increasingly forced to go hunting for free e-books online, and I’ve been delighted, if a little saddened, to find several of le Guin’s novels available.

earthseaSo, I’m reading “The Dispossessed”, according to the writer of the NY Times obituary “her most ambitious novel”, and I want to share a brief extract, on the subject of economics, banking and finance. Shevek, a theoretical physicist and the main character, from a planet colonised by socialist exiles from their home world where capitalism reigns supreme, has been brought to the latter by curious academics:

“[Shevek] tried to read an elementary economics text; it bored him past endurance, it was like listening to somebody interminably recounting a long and stupid dream. He could not force himself to understand how banks functioned and so forth, because all the operations of capitalism were as meaningless to him as the rites of a primitive religion, as barbaric, as elaborate, and as unnecessary. In a human sacrifice to a deity there might be at least a mistaken and terrible beauty; in the rites of the moneychangers, where greed, laziness and envy were assumed to move all men’s acts, even the terrible became banal. Shevek looked at this monstrous pettiness with contempt, and without interest.”

I can relate to that.

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