Ursula K. Le Guin

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The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words.

Ursula K. Le Guin (born 21 October 1929) is a US-based author, known mostly for writing science fiction and fantasy.


Quotes[edit]

When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.
Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain't no free rides, baby.
All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don't, our lives get made up for us by other people.
I know that to clinch a point is to close it. To leave the reader free to decide what your work means, that’s the real art; it makes the work inexhaustible.
  • True myth may serve for thousands of years as an inexhaustible source of intellectual speculation, religious joy, ethical inquiry, and artistic renewal. The real mystery is not destroyed by reason. The fake one is. You look at it and it vanishes. You look at the Blond Hero — really look — and he turns into a gerbil. But you look at Apollo, and he looks back at you. The poet Rilke looked at a statue of Apollo about fifty years ago, and Apollo spoke to him. “You must change your life,” he said. When true myth rises into consciousness, that is always its message. You must change your life.
    • "Myth and Archetype in Science Fiction" (1976)
  • The artist deals in what cannot be said in words. The artist whose medium is fiction does this in words. The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.
    • Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)
  • I talk about the gods, I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
    • Introduction to The Left Hand of Darkness (1976)
  • I have never found anywhere, in the domain of art, that you don't have to walk to. (There is quite an array of jets, buses and hacks which you can ride to Success; but that is a different destination.) It is a pretty wild country. There are, of course, roads. Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain't no free rides, baby. No hitchhiking. And if you want to strike out in any new direction — you go alone. With a machete in your hand and the fear of God in your heart.
    • The Language of the Night (1979)
  • My imagination makes me human and makes me a fool; it gives me all the world, and exiles me from it.
    • "The Creatures on My Mind" in Unlocking the Air and Other Stories (1996), p. 65
  • All of us have to learn how to invent our lives, make them up, imagine them. We need to be taught these skills; we need guides to show us how. If we don't, our lives get made up for us by other people.
    • The Operating Instructions in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)
  • To think that realistic fiction is by definition superior to imaginative fiction is to think imitation is superior to invention.
    • The Question I Get Asked Most Often in The Wave in the Mind: Talks and Essays on the Writer, the Reader, and the Imagination (2004)
  • What's to gain by silence?
    • Cannoc, in Gifts (2004)
  • Whenever they tell me children want this sort of book and children need this sort of writing, I am going to smile politely and shut my earlids. I am a writer, not a caterer. There are plenty of caterers. But what children most want and need is what we and they don't know they want and don't think they need, and only writers can offer it to them.
  • The notion that a story has a message assumes that it can be reduced to a few abstract words, neatly summarized in a school or college examination paper or a brisk critical review.
    • "A Message About Messages" in CBC Magazine

Rocannon’s World (1966)[edit]

You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
  • “Long ago we parted,” said the slight, still man of the Fiia. “Longer ago we were one. What we are not, they are. What we are, they are not. Think of the sunlight and the grass and the trees that bear fruit, Semley; think that not all roads that lead down lead up as well.”
    • Prologue
  • The High-Intelligence Life Forms of the planet, of which there were at least three species, all of low technological achievement, they would ignore or enslave or extirpate, whichever was most convenient. For to an aggressive people only technology mattered.
    • Chapter 2
  • It did not matter, after all. He was only one man. One man’s fate is not important.
    “If it is not, what is?”
    He could not endure those remembered words.
    • Chapter 9

Planet of Exile (1966)[edit]

  • All men were alien one to another, at times, not only aliens.
    • Chapter 4 (The Tall Young Men)
  • Men who fight wars in Winter don’t live till Spring.
    • Chapter 4 (The Tall Young Men)
  • He detested them for forcing helplessness upon him.
    • Chapter 9 (The Guerillas)

City of Illusions (1967)[edit]

  • Truth, as ever, avoids the stranger.
    • Chapter 1
  • We live well in the houses—well enough. But we are ruled utterly by fear. There was a time we sailed in ships between the stars, and now we dare not go a hundred miles from home. We keep a little knowledge, and do nothing with it. But once we used that knowledge to weave the pattern of life like a tapestry across night and chaos. We enlarged the chances of life. We did man’s work.
    • Chapter 1
  • Between thought and spoken word is a gap where intention can enter, the symbol twisted aside, and the lie come to be.
    • Chapter 2
  • He liked the vast openness of sky and prairie, and found loneliness a pleasure with so immense a domain to be alone in.
    • Chapter 3
  • The more defensive a society, the more conformist.
    • Chapter 4
  • The juniper-scented liquor had volatilized his thoughts; he should be thinking that madness caused this man to call himself a king, but was thinking rather that kingship had driven this man mad.
    • Chapter 5
  • The game must be played, and played their way, though they made all the rules and had all the skill. His ineptitude did not matter. His honesty did. He was staked now totally on one belief: that an honest man cannot be cheated, that truth, if the game be played through right to the end, will lead to truth.
    • Chapter 7
  • We of Es Toch tell a little myth, which says that in the beginning the Creator told a great lie. For there was nothing at all, but the Creator spoke, saying, It exists. And behold, in order that the lie of God might be God’s truth, the universe at once began to exist.
    • Chapter 7
  • It seemed, at least, that they had not taught the boy to lie. But they had not taught him to know truth from lies.
    • Chapter 8
  • Planets were very large places, on any scale but that of the spaces in between them.
    • Chapter 9
  • They prevented men from doing anything. But they did nothing themselves. They did not rule, they only blighted.
    • Chapter 9

Earthsea Books[edit]

A Wizard of Earthsea (1968)[edit]

  • To hear, one must be silent.
    • Chapter 2 (Ogion)
  • Have you never thought how danger must surround power as shadow does light?
    • Chapter 2 (Ogion)
  • You must not change one thing, one pebble, one grain of sand, until you know what good and evil will follow on that act. The world is in balance, in Equilibrium. A wizard's power of Changing and Summoning can shake the balance of the world. It is dangerous, that power. It is most perilous. It must follow knowledge, and serve need. To light a candle is to cast a shadow.
    • Chapter 3 (Master Hand)
  • Go to bed; tired is stupid.
    • Chapter 4 (Kurremkarmerruk)
  • You thought, as a boy, that a mage is one who can do anything. So I thought, once. So did we all. And the truth is that as a man’s real power grows and his knowledge widens, ever the way he can follow grows narrower: until at last he chooses nothing, but does only and wholly what he must do...
    • Chapter 4 (The Master Summoner)
  • The hunger of a dragon is slow to wake, but hard to sate.
    • Chapter 5
  • “Heal the Wound, Cure the illness, but let the Dying spirit go”
    • Chapter 5
  • From that time forth he believed that the wise man is one who never sets himself apart from other living things, whether they have speech or not, and in later years he strove long to learn what can be learned, in silence, from the eyes of animals, the flight of birds, the great slow gestures of trees.
    • Chapter 5
  • It is light that defeats the dark.
    • Chapter 7 (Ged)
  • He had almost yielded, but not quite. He had not consented. It is very hard for evil to take hold of the unconsenting soul.
    • Chapter 7
  • “For a word to be spoken,” Ged answered slowly, “there must be silence. Before, and after.” Then all at once he got up, saying, “I have no right to speak of these things. The word that was mine to say I said wrong. It is better that I keep still; I will not speak again. Maybe there is no true power but the dark.”
    • Chapter 9
  • I was in too much haste, and now have no time left. I traded all the sunlight and the cities and the distant lands for a handful of power, for a shadow, for the dark.
    • Chapter 10 (Ged)

The Tombs of Atuan (1971)[edit]

  • All I know is the dark, the night underground. And that’s all there really is. That’s all there is to know, in the end. The silence, and the dark. You know everything, wizard. But I know one thing—the one true thing!
    • Chapter 7, "The Great Treasure" (Arha)
  • As she stumbled forward she cried out in her mind, which was as dark, as shaken as the subterranean vault, “Forgive me. O my Masters, O unnamed ones, most ancient ones, forgive me, forgive me!”
    There was no answer. There had never been an answer.
    • Chapter 10, "The Anger of the Dark"
  • Living, being in the world, was a much greater and stranger thing than she had ever dreamed.
    • Chapter 11, "The Western Mountains"
  • “Summon up a supper,” he said. “Oh, I could. On golden plates, if you like. But that’s illusion, and when you eat illusions you end up hungrier than before.”
    • Chapter 11, "The Western Mountains"
  • A dark hand had let go its lifelong hold upon her heart. But she did not feel joy, as she had in the mountains. She put her head down in her arms and cried, and her cheeks were salt and wet. She cried for the waste of her years in bondage to a useless evil. She wept in pain, because she was free.
    What she had begun to learn was the weight of liberty. Freedom is a heavy load, a great and strange burden for the spirit to undertake. It is not easy. It is not a gift given, but a choice made, and the choice may be a hard one. The road goes upward towards the light; but the laden traveler may never reach the end of it.
    • Chapter 12, "Voyage"

The Farthest Shore (1972)[edit]

To refuse death is to refuse life.
  • So the first step out of childhood is made all at once, without looking before or behind, without caution, and nothing held in reserve.
    • Chapter 1, "The Rowan Tree"
  • Young he was not, so that one had to call him old, but the word did not suit him.
    • Chapter 1, "The Rowan Tree"
  • When I was young, I had to choose between the life of being and the life of doing. And I leapt at the latter like a trout to a fly. But each deed you do, each act, binds you to itself and to its consequences, and makes you act again and yet again. Then very seldom do you come upon a space, a time like this, between act and act, when you may stop and simply be. or wonder who, after all, you are.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Ged)
  • “We may suffer for it when the balance of things rights itself, but we do not lose hope and forego art and forget the words of the Making. Nature is not unnatural. This is not a righting of the balance, but an upsetting of it. There is only one creature who can do that.”
    “A man?” Arren said, tentative.
    “We men.”
    “How?”
    “By an unmeasured desire for life.”
    “For life? But it isn’t wrong to want to live?”
    “No. But when we crave power over life—endless wealth, unassailable safety, immortality—then desire becomes greed. And if knowledge allies itself to that greed, then comes evil. Then the balance of the world is swayed, and ruin weighs heavy in the scale.”
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Ged and Arren)
  • Those were men in whom great strength and knowledge served the will to evil and fed upon it. Whether the wizardry that serves a better end may always prove the stronger, we do not know. We hope.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Ged)
  • There is a certain bleakness in finding hope where one expected certainty. Arren found himself unwilling to stay on these cold summits. He said after a little while, “I see why you say that only men do evil, I think. Even sharks are innocent; they kill because they must.”
    "That is why nothing else can resist us. Only one thing in the world can resist an evil-hearted man. And that is another man. In our shame is our glory. Only our spirit, which is capable of evil, is capable of overcoming it.”
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town" (Arren and Ged)
  • No, I don’t understand him, but he is worth listening to.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town"
  • He resolved not to speak again until he had controlled his temper.
    • Chapter 3, "Hort Town"
  • “But you knew them to be evil men—”
    “Was I to join them therefore? To let their acts rule my own? I will not make their choices for them, nor will I let them make mine for me!”
    • Chapter 4, "Magelight" (Arren and Ged)
  • But we, insofar as we have power over the world and over one another, we must learn to do what the leaf and the whale and the wind do of their own nature. We must learn to keep the balance. Having intelligence, we must not act in ignorance. Having choice, we must not act without responsibility. Who am I—though I have the power to do it—to punish and reward, playing with men’s destinies?”
    • Chapter 4, "Magelight" (Ged)
  • The counsel of the dead is not profitable to the living.
    • Chapter 5, "Sea Dreams"
  • “Is it a wicked thing, then?”
    “I should call it a misunderstanding, rather. A misunderstanding of life. Death and life are the same thing—like the two sides of my hand, the palm and the back. And still the palm and the back are not the same...They can be neither separated, nor mixed.”
    • Chapter 5, "Sea Dreams" (Arren and Ged)
  • To claim power over what you do not understand is not wise, nor is the end of it likely to be good.
    • Chapter 5, "Sea Dreams" (Ged)
  • The Dyer backed away from him another step and stood watching him, the exaltation in his face clouding slowly over until it was replaced by a strange, heavy look; it was as if reasoning thought were laboring to break through the storm of words and feelings and visions that confused him. Finally he turned around without a word and began to run back down the road, into the haze of dust that had not yet settled on his tracks.
    • Chapter 6, "Lorbanery"
  • “Well,” he said. “Strange roads have strange guides. Let’s go on.”
    • Chapter 6, "Lorbanery" (Ged)
  • The word must be heard in silence; there must be darkness to see the stars.
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea" (Ged)
  • What you love, you will love. What you undertake you will complete. You are a fulfiller of hope; you are to be relied on. But seventeen years give little armor against despair...Consider, Arren. To refuse death is to refuse life.
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea" (Ged)
  • I know what they think they seek. But I know it to be a lie. Listen to me, Arren. You will die. You will not live forever. Nor will any man nor any thing. Nothing is immortal. But only to us is it given to know that we must die. And that is a great gift: the gift of selfhood. For we have only what we know we must lose, what we are willing to lose....That selfhood which is our torment, and our treasure, and our humanity, does not endure. It changes; it is gone, a wave on the sea. Would you have the sea grow still and the tides cease, to save one wave, to save yourself? Would you give up the craft of your hands, and the passion of your heart, and the light of sunrise and sunset, to buy safety for yourself—safety forever? That is what they seek to do on Wathort and Lorbanery and elsewhere. That is the message that those who know how to hear have heard: By denying life you may deny death and live forever!—And this message I do not hear, Arren, for I will not hear it. I will not take the counsel of despair.
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea" (Ged)
  • “In innocence there is no strength against evil,” said Sparrowhawk, a little wryly. “But there is strength in it for good.”
    • Chapter 8, "The Children of the Open Sea"
  • “The first lesson on Roke, and the last is, Do what is needful! And no more.”
    “The lessons in between, then, must consist in learning what is needful.”
    “They do.”
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Ged and Arren)
  • “What harm have the trees done them?” he said. “Must they punish the grass for their own faults? Men are savages, who would set a land afire because they have a quarrel with other men.”
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Arren)
  • One man may as easily destroy, as govern: be King or Anti-King.
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Ged)
  • “A king has soldiers, servants, messengers, lieutenants. He governs through his servants. Where are the servants of this—Anti-king?”
    “In our minds, lad. In our minds. The traitor, the self; the self that cries I want to live; let the world burn so long as I can live! The little traitor soul in us, in the dark, like the worm in the apple.”
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Arren and Ged)
  • To see a candle’s light, one must take it into a dark place.
    • Chapter 9, "Orm Embar" (Sparrowhawk)
  • “There’s nothing to fear, Lebannen,” he said gently, mockingly. “They were only the dead.”
    • Chapter 11, "Selidor"
  • “You exist: without name, without form. You cannot see the light of day; you cannot see the dark. You sold the green earth and the sun and stars to save yourself. But you have no self. All that which you sold, that is yourself. You have given everything for nothing. And so now you seek to draw the world to you, all that light and life you lost, to fill up your nothingness. But it cannot be filled. Not all the songs of earth, not all the stars of heaven, could fill your emptiness.”
    • Chapter 12, "The Dry Land"

The Dispossessed (1974)[edit]

  • Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on. Looked at from one side, the wall enclosed a barren sixty-acre field called the Port of Anarres. [...] It was in fact a quarantine. The wall shut in not only the landing field but also the ships that came down out of space, and the men that came on the ships, and the worlds they came from, and the rest of the universe. It enclosed the universe, leaving Anarres outside, free. Looked at from the other side, the wall enclosed Anarres: the whole planet was inside it, a great prison camp, cut off from other worlds and other men, in quarantine.
    • Chapter 1 (pp. 1–2)
  • You can go home again, the General Temporal Theory asserts, so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 55)
  • Uninfluenced by others, he never knew he influenced them; he had no idea they liked him.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 58)
  • Suffering is dysfunctional, except as a bodily warning against danger. Psychologically and socially it’s merely destructive.
    • Chapter 2 (p. 61)
  • It is of the nature of idea to be communicated: written, spoken, done. The idea is like grass. It craves light, likes crowds, thrives on crossbreeding, grows better for being stepped on.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 72)
  • He had assumed that if you removed a human being’s natural incentive to work—his initiative, his spontaneous creative energy—and replaced it with external motivation and coercion, he would become a lazy and careless worker. But no careless workers kept those lovely farmlands, or made the superb cars and comfortable trains. The lure and compulsion of profit was evidently a much more effective replacement of the natural initiative than he had been led to believe.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 82)
  • To be whole is to be part;
    true voyage is return.
    • Chapter 3 (p. 84)
  • Excess is excrement.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 98)
  • No doors were locked, few shut. There were no disguises and no advertisements. It was all there, all the work, all the life of the city, open to the eye and to the hand.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 99)
  • Grow up. Grow up. Time to grow up. You’re here now. We’re working on physics here, not religion. Drop the mysticism and grow up.
    • Chapter 4 (p. 104)
  • He was appalled by the examination system, when it was explained to him; he could not imagine a greater deterrent to the natural wish to learn than this pattern of cramming in information and disgorging it at demand.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 127)
  • He 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 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.
    • Chapter 5 (pp. 130-131)
  • Coercion is the least efficient means of obtaining order.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 149)
  • People like to do things. They like to do them well. People take the dangerous, hard jobs because they take pride in doing them, they can—egoize, we call it—show off?—to the weaker ones. Hey, look, little boys, see how strong I am! You know? A person likes to do what he is good at doing.... But really, it is the question of ends and means. After all, work is done for the work’s sake. It is the lasting pleasure of life. The private conscience knows that. And also the social conscience, the opinion of one’s neighbors. There is no other reward, on Anarres, no other law. One’s own pleasure, and the respect of one’s fellows. That is all. When that is so, then you see the opinion of the neighbors becomes a very mighty force.
    • Chapter 5 (p. 150)
  • You can’t crush ideas by suppressing them. You can only crush them by ignoring them. By refusing to think, refusing to change. And that’s precisely what our society is doing!
    • Chapter 6 (p. 165)
  • She saw time naïvely as a road laid out. You walked ahead, and you got somewhere. If you were lucky, you got somewhere worth getting to.
    • Chapter 6 (p. 183)
  • “If you can see a thing whole,” he said, “it seems that it’s always beautiful. Planets, lives.... But close up, a world’s all dirt and rocks. And day to day, life’s a hard job, you get tired, you lose the pattern. You need distance, interval. The way to see how beautiful the earth is, is to see it as the moon. The way to see how beautiful life is, is from the vantage point of death.”
    “That’s all right for Urras. Let it stay off there and be the moon—I don’t want it! But I’m not going to stand up on a gravestone and look down on life and say, ‘O lovely!’ I want to see it whole right in the middle of it, here, now. I don’t give a hoot for eternity.”
    • Chapter 6 (p. 190)
  • The news had stirred him strangely. He listened for bulletins on the radio, which he had seldom turned on after finding that its basic function was advertising things for sale.
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 201-202)
  • “The politics of reality,” Shevek repeated. He looked at Oiie and said, “That is a curious phrase for a physicist to use.”
    “Not at all. The politician and the physicist both deal with things as they are, with real forces, the basic laws of the world.”
    “You put your petty miserable ‘laws’ to protect wealth, your ‘forces’ of guns and bombs, in the same sentence with the law of entropy and the force of gravity? I had thought better of your mind, Demaere!”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 203)
  • [Shevek] came at last to the long array of doors through which crowds of people came and went constantly, all purposeful, all separate. They all looked, to him, anxious. He had often seen that anxiety before in the faces of Urrasti, and wondered about it. Was it because, no matter how much money they had, they always had to worry about making more, lest they die poor? Was it guilt, because no matter how little money they had, there was always somebody who had less? Whatever the cause, it gave all the faces a certain sameness, and he felt very much alone among them.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 207)
  • “The law of evolution is that the strongest survives.”
    “Yes, and the strongest, in the existence of any social species, are those who are most social. In human terms, most ethical.”
    • Chapter 7 (p. 220)
  • “But what’s the good of this sort of ‘understanding,’” Dearri said, “if it doesn’t result in practical, technological applications? Just word juggling, isn’t it?”
    “You ask questions like a true profiteer,” Shevek said, and not a soul there knew he had insulted Dearri with the most contemptuous word in his vocabulary; indeed Dearri nodded a bit, accepting the compliment with satisfaction.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 224)
  • Our model of the cosmos must be as inexhaustible as the cosmos. A complexity that includes not only duration but creation, not only being but becoming, not only geometry but ethics. It is not the answer we are after, but only how to ask the question.
    • Chapter 7 (p. 226)
  • No. It is not wonderful. It is an ugly world. Not like this one. Anarres is all dusty and dry hills. All meager, all dry. And the people aren’t beautiful. They have big hands and feet, like me and the waiter there. But not big bellies. They get very dirty, and take baths together, nobody here does that. The towns are very small and dull, they are dreary. No palaces. Life is dull, and hard work. You can’t always have what you want, or even what you need, because there isn’t enough. You Urrasti have enough. Enough air, enough rain, grass, oceans, food, music, buildings, factories, machines, books, clothes, history. You are rich, you own. We are poor, we lack. You have, we do not have. Everything is beautiful here. Only not the faces. On Anarres nothing is beautiful, nothing but the faces. The other faces, the men and women. We have nothing but that, nothing but each other. Here you see the jewels, there you see the eyes. And in the eyes you see the splendor, the splendor of the human spirit. Because our men and women are free—possessing nothing, they are free. And you the possessors are possessed. You are all in jail. Each alone, solitary, with a heap of what he owns. You live in prison, die in prison. It is all I can see in your eyes—the wall, the wall!
    • Chapter 7 (pp. 228-229)
  • A child free from the guilt of ownership and the burden of economic competition will grow up with the will to do what needs doing and the capacity for joy in doing it. It is useless work that darkens the heart. The delight of the nursing mother, of the scholar, of the successful hunter, of the good cook, of the skillful maker, of anyone doing needed work and doing it well—this durable joy is perhaps the deepest source of human affection, and of sociality as a whole.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 247)
  • He felt that sense of being necessary which is the burden and reward of parenthood.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 248)
  • “There’s a point, around age twenty,” Bedap said, “when you have to choose whether to be like everybody else the rest of your life, or to make a virtue of your peculiarities.”
    • Chapter 8 (p. 249)
  • It was easy to share when there was enough, even barely enough, to go round. But when there was not enough? Then force entered in; might making right; power, and its tool, violence, and its most devoted ally, the averted eye.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 256)
  • Existence is its own justification, need is right.
    • Chapter 8 (p. 261)
  • The individual cannot bargain with the State. The State recognizes no coinage but power: and it issues the coins itself.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 272)
  • Like all power seekers, Pae was amazingly shortsighted. There was a trivial, abortive quality to his mind, it lacked depth, affect, imagination. It was, in fact, a primitive instrument.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 278)
  • He did not know their songs, and only listened and was borne along on the music, until from up front there came sweeping back wave by wave down the great slow-moving river of people a tune he knew. He lifted his head high and sang it with them, in his own language as he had learned it: the Hymn of the Insurrection. It had been sung in these streets, in this same street, two hundred years ago, by these people, his people.
O' eastern light, awaken
those who have slept!
The darkness will be broken,
The promise kept.
They fell silent in the ranks around Shevek to hear him, and he sang aloud, smiling walking forward with them.
  • Ch. 9 (pp. 298-9)
  • It is our suffering that brings us together. It is not love. Love does not obey the mind, it turns to hate when forced. The bond that binds us is beyond choice. We are brothers. We are brothers in what we share. In pain, which each of us must suffer alone, in hunger, in poverty, in hope, we know our brotherhood. We know it, because we have been forced to learn it. We know that there is no help for us but from one another, that no hand will save us if we do not reach out our hand. And the hand that you reach out is empty, as mine is. You have nothing. You possess nothing. You own nothing. You are free. All you have is what you are, and what you give.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 300) — from the protagonist’s major speech.
  • You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit or, it is nowhere.
    • Chapter 9 (p. 301)
  • A scientist can pretend that his work isn’t himself, it’s merely the impersonal truth. An artist can’t hide behind the truth. He can’t hide anywhere.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 331)
  • With the myth of the State out of the way, the real mutuality and reciprocity of society and individual became clear. Sacrifice might be demanded of the individual, but never compromise: for though only the society could give security and stability, only the individual, the person, had the power of moral choice—the power of change, the essential function of life. The Odonian society was conceived as a permanent revolution, and revolution begins in the thinking mind.
    • Chapter 10 (p. 333)
  • “Do you not understand that I want to give this to you—and to Hain and the other worlds—and to the countries of Urras? But to you all! So that one of you cannot use it, as A-Io wants to do, to get power over the others, to get richer or to win more wars. So that you cannot use the truth for your private profit, but only for the common good.”
    “In the end, the truth usually insists upon serving only the common good,” Keng said.
    “In the end, yes, but I am not willing to wait for the end. I have one lifetime, and I will not spend it for greed and profiteering and lies. I will not serve any master.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 345-346)
  • There is nothing, nothing on Urras that we Anarresti need! We left with empty hands, a hundred and seventy years ago, and we were right. We took nothing. Because there is nothing here but States and their weapons, the rich and their lies, and the poor and their misery. There is no way to act rightly, with a clear heart, on Urras. There is nothing you can do that profit does not enter into, and fear of loss, and the wish for power. You cannot say good morning without knowing which of you is ‘superior’ to the other, or trying to prove it. You cannot act like a brother to other people, you must manipulate them, or command them, or obey them, or trick them. You cannot touch another person, yet they will not leave you alone. There is no freedom. It is a box—Urras is a box, a package, with all the beautiful wrapping of blue sky and meadows and forests and great cities. And you open the box, and what is inside it? A black cellar full of dust, and a dead man. A man whose hand was shot off because he held it out to others. I have been in Hell at last. Desar was right; it is Urras; Hell is Urras.
    • Chapter 11 (pp. 346-347)
  • What we’re after is to remind ourselves that we didn’t come to Anarres for safety, but for freedom. If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right. We have been denying people that right. We’ve been saying, more and more often, you must work with the others, you must accept the rule of the majority. But any rule is tyranny. The duty of the individual is to accept no rule, to be the initiator of his own acts, to be responsible. Only if he does so will the society live, and change, and adapt, and survive. We are not subjects of a State founded upon law, but members of a society founded upon revolution. Revolution is our obligation: our hope of evolution.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 359)
  • The Revolution is in the individual spirit, or it is nowhere. It is for all, or it is nothing. If it is seen as having any end, it will never truly begin. We can’t stop here. We must go on. We must take the risks.
    • Chapter 12 (p. 359)
  • We have been civilized for a thousand millennia. We have histories of hundreds of those millennia. We have tried everything, Anarchism, with the rest. But I have not tried it. They say there is nothing new under any sun. But if each life is not new, each single life, then why are we born?
    • Chapter 13 (p. 385)

Tehanu (1990)[edit]

  • Her left hand reminded her of its existence, and she looked round to see what was scratching the heel of her hand. It was a tiny thistle, crouched in a crack in the sandstone, barely lifting its colorless spikes into the light and wind. It nodded stiffly as the wind blew, resisting the wind, rooted in rock. She gazed at it for a long time.
    • Chapter 4, "Kalessin"
  • A great deal of her obscurity and cant, Tenar had begun to realize, was mere ineptness with words and ideas. Nobody had ever taught her to think consecutively. Nobody had ever listened to what she said. All that was expected, all that was wanted of her was muddle, mystery, mumbling. She was a witchwoman. She had nothing to do with clear meaning.
    • Chapter 5, "Bettering"
  • Despair speaks evenly, in a quiet voice.
    • Chapter 6, "Worsening"
  • If they come prying they can leave curious.
    • Chapter 7, "Mice"
  • And I know that all I understand about living is having your work to do, and being able to do it. That’s the pleasure, and the glory, and all. And if you can’t do the work, or it’s taken from you, then what’s any good? You have to have something....
    • Chapter 8, "Hawks"
  • “Is it different, then, for men and for women?”
    “What isn’t, dearie?”
    • Chapter 8, "Hawks"
  • A wrong that cannot be repaired must be transcended.
    • Chapter 8, "Hawks"
  • “But now you've come too far, and I warn you, woman! I will not have you set foot on this domain. And if you cross my will or dare so much as speak to me again, I will have you driven from Re Albi, and off the Overfell, with the dogs at your heels. Have you understood me?”
    “No,” Tenar said, “I have never understood men like you.”
    • Chapter 9, "Finding Words"
  • Is power that—an emptiness?
    • Chapter 10, "The Dolphin"
  • “She obeys me, but only because she wants to.”
    “It’s the only justification for obedience,” Ged observed.
    • Chapter 12, "Winter"
  • It’s not a weapon or a woman can make a man, or magery either, or any power, anything but himself.
    • Chapter 12, "Winter"

Tales from Earthsea (2001)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition published by Ace Books
  • O foolish writer. Now moves. Even in storytime, dreamtime, once-upon-a-time, now isn’t then.
    • Foreward (p. xiii)
  • All times are changing times, but ours is one of massive, rapid moral and mental transformation. Archetypes turn into millstones, large simplicities get complicated, chaos becomes elegant, and what everybody knows is true turns out to be what some people used to think.
    • Foreward (p. xv)
  • There’s no way to use power for good.
    • “The Finder” (p. 42)
  • There’s people all over these parts, and maybe beyond, who think, as you said, that nobody can be wise alone. So these people try to hold to each other.
    • “The Finder” (p. 43)
  • It was men’s ambitions, they said, that had perverted all the arts to ends of gain.
    • “The Finder” (p. 56)
  • Highdrake said that to make love is to unmake power.
    • “The Finder” (p. 59)
  • “The solution lies in secrecy,” said Medra. “But so does the problem.”
    • “The Finder” (p. 64)
  • Ignorant power is a bane!
    • “The Finder” (p. 66)
  • How can people be anything but ignorant when knowledge isn’t saved, isn’t taught?
    • “The Finder” (p. 67)
  • The desire for power feeds off itself, growing as it devours.
    • “The Finder” (p. 80)
  • The danger in trying to do good is that the mind comes to confuse the intent of goodness with the act of doing things well.
    • “The Finder” (p. 85)
  • “It always seemed to me they’re sort of alike,” he said, “magic and music. Spells and tunes. For one thing, you have to get them just exactly right.”
    • “Darkrose and Diamond” (p. 110)
  • “What’s that all about?” Golden said to his wife, a rhetorical question. She looked at him and said nothing, a non-rhetorical answer.
    • “Darkrose and Diamond” (p. 125)
  • To which Silence of course made no reply, letting him hear what he had said and feel its foolishness thoroughly.
    • “The Bones of the Earth” (p. 134)
  • It’s a rare gift, to know where you need to be, before you’ve been to all the places you don’t need to be.
    • “The Bones of the Earth” (p. 138)
  • You’ll know what to say when the time comes. That’s the art, eh? What to say, and when to say it. And the rest is silence.
    • “The Bones of the Earth” (p. 139)
  • All the mystery and wisdom of the Masters, when it’s out in the daylight, doesn’t amount to so much, you know. Tricks of the trade—wonderful illusions. But people don’t want to know that. They want the illusions, the mysteries. Who can blame them? There’s so little in life that’s beautiful or worthy.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 199)
  • Maybe that’s what the Masters are afraid of. Maybe celibacy isn’t as necessary as the Rule of Roke teaches. Maybe it’s not a way of keeping the power pure, but of keeping the power to themselves.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 200)
  • Injustice makes the rules, and courage breaks them.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 201)
  • Obsessed with tricking the girl, he had fallen into the trap he laid for her. Bitterly he recognised that he was always believing his own lies, caught in nets he had elaborately woven.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 211)
  • Before the gods and after, always, are the streams. Caves, stones, hills. Trees. The earth. The darkness of the earth.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 227)
  • She knew it, but she did not want to know it.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 233)
  • What goes too long unchanged destroys itself.
    • “Dragonfly” (p. 236)

The Telling (2000)[edit]

Unless otherwise indicated, page numbers refer to the October 2001 Ace trade edition.

  • Most civilisations, perhaps, look shinier in general terms and from several light-years away.
    • Ch. 2, §2 (p. 32)
  • Where my guides lead me in kindness
    I follow, follow lightly,
    and there are no footprints
    in the dust behind us.
    • Ch. 3, §2 (p. 72)
  • One of the historians of Darranda said: To learn a belief without belief is to sing a song without the tune.
    A yielding, an obedience, a willingness to accept these notes as the right notes, this pattern as the true pattern, is the essential gesture of performance, translation, and understanding. The gesture need not be permanent, a lasting posture of the mind or heart, yet it is not false. It is more than the suspension of disbelief needed to watch a play, yet less than the conversion. It is a position, a posture in the dance.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (pp. 90–91)
  • She had come to Aka to learn how to sing this world's tune, to dance its dance; and at last, she thought, away from the city's endless noise, she was beginning to hear the music and to learn how to move to it.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (p. 91)
  • On Aka, god is a word without referent. No capital letters. No creator, only creation. No eternal father to reward and punish, justify injustice, ordain cruelty, offer salvation. Eternity not an endpoint but a continuity. Primal division of being into material and spiritual only as two-as-one, or one in two aspects. [...] The Akan system is a spiritual discipline with spiritual goals, but they're exactly the same goals it seeks for bodily and ethical well-being. Right action is its own reward. Dharma without karma.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (p. 94)
  • She was not so naive as to think there was any necessary relation between religion and morality, or that if there was a relation it was likely to be a benevolent one.
    • Ch. 4, §3 (p. 109)
  • By such literalism, fundamentalism, religions betrayed the best intentions of their founders. Reducing thought to formula, replacing choice by obedience, these preachers turned the living word into dead law.
    • Ch. 5 (p. 123)
  • "We're not outside the world, yoz. You know? We are the world. We're its language. So we live and it lives. You see?"
    • Ch. 5 (p. 133)

The Other Wind (2001)[edit]

All page numbers from the mass market paperback edition (2012 printing) published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • There’s seldom as much hurry as I used to think there was.
    • Chapter 1 “Mending the Green Pitcher” (p. 8)
  • All or nothing at all, the true lover says, and that’s the truth of it. My love will never die, he says. He claims eternity. And rightly. How can it die when it’s life itself? What do we know of eternity but the glimpse we get of it when we enter in that bond?
    • Chapter 1 “Mending the Green Pitcher” (pp. 47-48)
  • The world’s vast and strange, Hara, but no vaster and no stranger than our minds are. Think of that sometimes.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 72)
  • I’d rather get bad news from an honest man than lies from a flatterer.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 79)
  • Manipulated, one manipulates others.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 92)
  • Statesmen remember things selectively.
    • Chapter 2 “Palaces” (p. 102)
  • The bond between true lovers is as close as we come to what endures forever.
    • Chapter 4 “Dolphin” (p. 231)
  • Greed puts out the sun.
    • Chapter 5 “Rejoining” (p. 281)
  • “It is not right to want to die,” the Summoner said....“For the very old, the very ill, it may be. But life is given us. Surely it’s wrong not to hold and treasure that great gift!”
    “Death also is given us,” said the king.
    • Chapter 5 “Rejoining” (p. 284)
  • "I think," Tehanu said in her soft, strange voice, "that I when I die, I can breathe back the breath that made me live. I can give back to the world all that I didn't do. All that I might have been and couldn't be. All the choices I didn't make. All the things I lost and spent and wasted. I can give them back to the world. To the lives that haven't been lived yet. That will be my gift back to the world that gave me the life I did live, the love I lived, the breath I breathed."
    • Chapter 5, “Rejoining” (p. 286)

The Left Hand of Darkness (1969)[edit]

All page numbers from the Trade paperback edition published in 2000 by Ace Books
To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
  • Predictions are uttered by prophets (free of charge); by clairvoyants (who usually charge a fee, and are therefore more honored in their day than prophets); and by futurologists (salaried). Prediction is the business of prophets, clairvoyants, and futurologists. It is not the business of novelists. A novelist’s business is lying.
    • Introduction (p. xii)
  • I talk about the gods; I am an atheist. But I am an artist too, and therefore a liar. Distrust everything I say. I am telling the truth.
    • Introduction (p. xv)
  • I’ll make my report as if I told a story, for I was taught as a child on my homeworld that Truth is a matter of the imagination. The soundest fact may fail or prevail in the style of its telling: like that singular organic jewel of our seas, which grows brighter as one woman wears it and, worn by another, dulls and goes to dust. Facts are no more solid, coherent, round, and real than pearls are. But both are sensitive.
    • Chapter 1 “A Parade in Ehrenrang” (p. 1; opening paragraph)
  • I forgot, being too interested myself, that he’s a king, and does not see things rationally, but as a king.
    • Chapter 1 “A Parade in Ehrenrang” (p. 17)
  • No, I don’t mean love, when I say patriotism. I mean fear. The fear of the other. And its expressions are political, not poetical: hate, rivalry, aggression. It grows in us, that fear. It grows in us year by year.
    • Chapter 1 “A Parade in Ehrenrang” (p. 18)
  • One voice, speaking truth is a greater force than fleets and armies, given time; plenty of time.
    • Chapter 3 “The Mad King” (p. 27)
  • When action grows unprofitable, gather information; when information grows unprofitable, sleep.
    • Chapter 3 “The Mad King” (p. 42)
  • I thought, shivering, that there are things that outweigh comfort, unless one is an old woman or a cat.
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (p. 51)
  • Legends of prediction are common throughout the whole Household of Man. God speaks, spirits speak, computers speak. Oracular ambiguity or statistical probability provides loopholes, and discrepancies are expunged by Faith.
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (p. 55)
  • “We in the Handdara don’t want answers. It’s hard to avoid them, but we try to.”
    “Faxe, I don’t think I understand.”
    “Well, we come here to the Fastnesses mostly to learn what questions not to ask.”
    “But you’re the Answerers!”
    “You don’t see, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?”
    “No—”
    “To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.”
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (pp. 69-70)
  • The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.
    • Chapter 5 “The Domestication of Hunch” (p. 70)
  • A man wants his virility regarded, a woman wants her femininity appreciated, however indirect and subtle the indications of regard and appreciation. On Winter they will not exist. One is respected and judged only as a human being. It is an appalling experience.
    • Chapter 7 “The Question of Sex” (p. 95)
  • A man can trust his luck, but a society can’t; and cultural change, like random mutation, may make things chancier. So they have gone very slowly. At any one point in their history a hasty observer would say that all technological progress and diffusion had ceased. Yet it never has. Compare the torrent and the glacier. Both get where they are going.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 98)
  • If civilization has an opposite, it is war.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 101)
  • “The mission I am on overrides all personal debts and loyalties.”
    “If so,” said the stranger with fierce certainty, “it is an immoral mission.”
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 104)
  • He was a hard shrewd jovial politician, whose acts of kindness served his interest and whose interest was himself. His type is panhuman. I had met him on Earth, and on Hain, and on Ollul. I expect to meet him in Hell.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 116)
  • Elegance is a small price to pay for enlightenment, and I was glad to pay it.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 118)
  • This, at least, is the accepted explanation, though like most economic explanations it seems, under certain lights, to omit the main point.
    • Chapter 8 “Another Way into Orgoreyn” (p. 118)
  • It is not altogether a bad thing to have criminal ancestors. An arsonist grandfather may bequeath one a nose for smelling smoke.
    • Chapter 10 “Conversations in Mishnory” (p. 143)
  • To oppose something is to maintain it.
    They say here “all roads lead to Mishnory.” To be sure, if you turn your back on Mishnory and walk away from it, you are still on the Mishnory road. To oppose vulgarity is inevitably to be vulgar. You must go somewhere else; you must have another goal; then you walk a different road.
    • Chapter 11 “Soliloquies in Mishnory” (p. 151)
  • To be an atheist is to maintain God. His existence or his nonexistence, it amounts to much the same, on the plane of proof. Thus proof is a word not often used among the Handdarata, who have chosen not to treat God as a fact, subject either to proof or to belief: and they have broken the circle, and go free.
    To learn which questions are unanswerable, and not to answer them: this skill is most needful in times of stress and darkness.
    • Chapter 11 “Soliloquies in Mishnory” (p. 151)
  • It is not human to be without shame and without desire.
    • Chapter 13 “Down on the Farm” (p. 177)
  • Mr. Ai, we’ve seen the same events with different eyes; I wrongly thought they’d seem the same to us.
    • Chapter 14 “The Escape” (p. 197)
  • The First Envoy to a world always comes alone. One alien is a curiosity, two are an invasion.
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 209)
  • A man who doesn’t detest a bad government is a fool. And if there were such a thing as a good government on earth, it would be a great joy to serve it.
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 213)
  • What is more arrogant than honesty?
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 213)
  • It is good to have an end to journey towards; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.
    • Chapter 15 “To the Ice” (p. 220)
  • Light is the left hand of darkness
    and darkness the right hand of light.
    Two are one, life and death, lying
    together like lovers in kemmer,
    like hands joined together,
    like the end and the way.
    • Chapter 16 “Between Drumner and Dremegole” (p. 233)
  • A profound love between two people involves, after all, the power and chance of doing profound hurt.
    • Chapter 18 “On the Ice” (p. 249)
  • The experience was disagreeable. I began to feel like an atheist praying.
    • Chapter 18 “On the Ice” (p. 252)
  • And I wondered, not for the first time, what patriotism is, what the love of country truly consists of, how that yearning loyalty that had shaken my friend’s voice arises, and how so real a love can become, too often, so foolish and vile a bigotry. Where does it go wrong?
    • Chapter 19 “Homecoming” (p. 279)

The Lathe of Heaven (1971)[edit]

Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy?
The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.
  • There is nothing important except people. A person is defined solely by the extent of his influence over other people, by the sphere of his interrelationships; and morality is an utterly meaningless term unless defined as the good one does to others, the fulfilling of one’s function in the sociopolitical whole.
    • Chapter 5 (Haber)
  • Things don't have purposes, as if the universe were a machine, where every part has a useful function. What's the function of a galaxy? I don't know if our life has a purpose and I don't see that it matters. What does matter is that we're a part. Like a thread in a cloth or a grass-blade in a field. It is and we are. What we do is like wind blowing on the grass.
    • Chapter 6 (Orr)
  • The end justifies the means. But what if there never is an end? All we have is means.
    • Chapter 6
  • I guess I can't, or my subconscious can't, even imagine a warless world. The best it can do is substitute one kind of war for another. You said, no killing of humans by other humans. So I dreamed up the Aliens. Your own ideas are sane and rational, but this is my unconscious you're trying to use, not my rational mind. Maybe rationally I could conceive of the human species not trying to kill each other off by nations, in fact rationally it's easier to conceive of than the motives of war. But you're handling something outside reason. You're trying to reach progressive, humanitarian goals with a tool that isn't suited to the job. Who has humanitarian dreams?
    • Chapter 6 (Orr)
  • He never spoke with any bitterness at all, no matter how awful the things he said. Are there really people without resentment, without hate, she wondered. People who never go cross-grained to the universe? Who recognize evil, and resist evil, and yet are utterly unaffected by it?
    Of course there are. Countless, the living and the dead. Those who have returned in pure compassion to the wheel, those who follow the way that cannot be followed without knowing they follow it, the sharecroppers’s wife in Alabama and the lama in Tibet and the entomologist in Peru and the millworker in Odessa and the greengrocer in London and the goatherd in Nigeria and the old, old man sharpening a stick by a dry streambed somewhere in Australia, and all the others. There is not one of us who has not known them. There are enough of them, enough to keep us going. Perhaps.
    • Chapter 7 (Heather)
  • A person who believes, as she did, that things fit: that there is a whole of which one is a part, and that in being a part one is whole: such a person has no desire whatever, at any time, to play God. Only those who have denied their being yearn to play at it.
    • Chapter 7 (Heather)
  • Great self-destruction follows upon unfounded fear.
    • Chapter 8 (alien)
  • What's wrong with changing things? Now, I wonder if this self-canceling, centerpoised personality of yours leads you to look at things defensively. I want you to try to detach yourself from yourself and try to see your own viewpoint from the outside, objectively. You are afraid of losing your balance. But change need not unbalance you; life's not a static object, after all. It's a process. There's no holding still. Intellectually you know that, but emotionally you refuse it. Nothing remains the same from one moment to the next, you can't step into the same river twice. Life-evolution-the whole universe of space/time, matter/energy—existence itself—is essentially change.
    • Chapter 9 (Haber)
  • When things don't change any longer, that's the end result of entropy, the heat-death of the universe. The more things go on moving, interrelating, conflicting, changing, the less balance there is—and the more life. I'm pro-life, George. Life itself is a huge gamble against the odds, against all odds! You can't try to live safely, there's no such thing as safety. Stick your neck out of your shell, then, and live fully! It's not how you get there, but where you get to that counts. What you're afraid to accept, here, is that we're engaged in a really great experiment, you and I. We're on the brink of discovering and controlling, for the good of all mankind, a whole new force, an entire new field of antientropic energy, of the life-force, of the will to act, to do, to change!
    • Chapter 9 (Haber)
  • He knew that in so far as one denies what is, one is possessed by what is not, the compulsions, the fantasies, the terrors that flock to fill the void.
    • Chapter 10 (Orr)
  • You have to help another person. But it’s not right to play God with masses of people. To be God you have to know what you’re doing. And to do any good at all, just believing you're right and your motives are good isn’t enough. You have to...be in touch. He isn’t in touch. No one else, no thing even, has an existence of its own for him; he sees the world only as a means to his end. It doesn’t make any difference if his end is good; means are all we’ve got.
    • Chapter 10 (Orr)
  • How could anybody think this man was sick? All right, so he had funny dreams. That was better than being plain mean and hateful, like about one quarter of the people she had ever met.
    • Chapter 10 (Heather)
  • But maybe you're just as glad he’s not a shrink, eh? Awful to have your spouse analyzing your unconscious desires across the dinner table, eh?
    • Chapter 10 (Haber)
  • He looked at the machine, its cabinets all standing open; it should be destroyed, he thought. But he had no idea how to do it, nor any will to try. Destruction was not his line; and a machine is more blameless, more sinless even than any animal. It has no intentions whatsoever but our own.
    • Chapter 10 (Orr)
  • There is a bird in a poem by T. S. Eliot who says that mankind cannot bear very much reality; but the bird is mistaken. A man can endure the entire weight of the universe for eighty years. It is unreality that he cannot bear.
    • Chapter 11 (Orr)
  • I haven't any strength, I haven't any character, I'm a born tool. I haven't any destiny. All I have is dreams. And now other people run them.
    • Orr

The Word for World Is Forest (1972)[edit]

Nebula Award for Best Novella in 1972
  • Wrongs done could not be righted, but at least they were not still being done.
    • Section 5
  • Character and training disposed him not to interfere in other mens’s business. His job was to find out what they did, and his inclination was to let them go on doing it. He preferred to be enlightened, rather than to enlighten; to seek facts rather than the Truth. But even the most unmissionary soul, unless he pretend he has no emotions, is sometimes faced with a choice between commission and omission. “What are they doing?” abruptly becomes, “What are we doing?” and then, “What must I do?”
    • Section 5
  • “Sometimes a god comes,” Selver said. “He brings a new way to do a thing, or a new thing to be done. A new kind of singing, or a new kind of death. He brings this across the bridge between the dream-time and the world-time. When he has done this, it is done. You cannot take things that exist in the world and try to drive them back into the dream, to hold them inside the dream with walls and pretenses. That is insanity. What is, is. There is no use pretending, now, that we do not know how to kill one another.”
    • Section 8

The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas (1973)[edit]

Hugo Award for Best Short Story in 1974
  • The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual, only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else.
  • As we did without clergy, let us do without soldiers. The joy built upon successful slaughter is not the right kind of joy; it will not do; it is fearful and it is trivial. A boundless and generous contentment, a magnanimous triumph felt not against some outer enemy but in communion with the finest and fairest in the souls of all men everywhere and the splendor of the world’s summer: this is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas, and the victory they celebrate is that of life.

Four Ways to Forgiveness (1995)[edit]

  • What would that be, a world without war? It would be the real world. Peace was the true life, the life of working and learning and bringing up children to work and learn. War, which devoured work, learning, and children, was the denial of reality.
    • "Betrayals", p. 1; first published in Blue Motel (1994)
  • To know there is a choice is to have to make the choice: change or stay: river or rock.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 104; first published in Asimov's (1995)
  • He always asked, why thus? why this way, not another way? I answered: Because in what we do daily and in the way we do it, we enact the gods. He said: Then the gods are only what we do. I said: In what we do rightly, the gods are.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 106
  • The old knowledge had been difficult but not distressing. It had been all paradox and myth, and it had made sense. The new knowledge was all fact and reason, and it made no sense.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 107
  • What is the use trying to describe the flowing of a river at any one moment, and then at the next moment, and then at the next, and the next, and the next? You wear out. You say: There is a great river, and it flows through this land, and we have named it History.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 108
  • All knowledge is local, all truth is partial. [...] No truth can make another truth untrue. All knowledge is part of the whole knowledge. A true line, a true color. Once you have seen the larger pattern, you cannot get back to seeing the part as the whole.
    • "A Man of the People", p. 140
  • It may be in our sexuality that we are most easily enslaved, both men and women. It may be there, even as free men and women, that we find freedom hardest to keep. The politics of the flesh are the roots of power.
    • "A Woman's Liberation", p. 158; first published in Asimov's (1995)
  • I was utterly miserable, and yet fearless as I had never been. I was carefree. It was like dying. It would be foolish to worry about anything while one died.
    • "A Woman's Liberation", p. 184
  • What is one man's and one woman's love and desire, against the history of two worlds, the greatest revolution of our lifetimes, the hope, the unending cruelty of our species? A little thing. But a key is a little thing, next to the door it opens.
    • "A Woman's Liberation", p. 208

Lavinia (2008)[edit]

  • "There was a pretty prince of Troy named Paris. He and a Greek queen ran off together. Her husband called the other kings of Greece together, and they went to Troy, a great army in a thousand beaked ships, to get the woman back. Helen was her name."
    "What did they want her back for?"
    "Her husband's honor demanded it."
    "I should think his honor demanded that he divorce her and find himself a decent wife."
    "Lavinia, these people were Greeks."
    • (The spirit of Virgil explains the Trojan war to Lavinia.) p. 44
  • I can never get used to the fact, though I know it, that women are born cynics. Men have to learn cynicism. Infant girls could teach it to them.
    • (Virgil, to Lavinia) p. 45
  • Is it the gods who set this fire in our hearts, or do we each make our fierce desire into a god?
    • p. 66
  • "Why must there be war?" "Oh Lavinia, what a woman's question that is! Because men are men."
    • p. 87
  • They say Mars absolves the warrior from the crimes of war, but those who were not the warriors, those for whom the war was said to be fought, even though they never wanted it to be fought, who absolves them?
    • p. 177
  • Men call women faithless, changeable, and though they say it in jealousy of their own ever-threatened sexual honor, there is some truth in it. We can change our life, our being; no matter what our will is, we are changed. As the moon changes yet is one, so we are virgin, wife, mother, grandmother. For all their restlessness, men are who they are; once they put on the man's toga they will not change again; so they make a virtue of that rigidity and resist whatever might soften it and set them free.
    • p. 184

Quotes about Le Guin[edit]

  • Like one or two other SF figures of unassailable stature, Le Guin is deeply courteous. She seems to meet people in the expectation, or maybe simply the hope that she will learn from the encounter. She is like the novelist Doris Lessing; they do not reflect the world; they absorb it.
    • John Clute, Science Fiction : A Visual Encyclopedia. Dorling Kindersley, 1995 (p. 178)
  • For Margaret Atwood, Le Guin is a "quintessentially American writer", of undoubted literary quality, "for whom the quest for the Peaceable Kingdom is ongoing". Her worlds, Le Guin says, are not so much invented as discovered. "I stare and see something, maybe a person in a landscape, and have to find out what it is." But whether charting inner lands or outer space, her eye remains on the here and now. At 76, Le Guin counts among her affiliations the peace and women's movements ("I take a perverse pleasure in calling myself a feminist"), and Taoism ("profoundly subversive").

External links[edit]

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