I was deeply saddened today to hear of the death of Ursula K Le Guin. Despite being an avid reader as a kid, for some strange reason I never came across any of Le Guin’s books. I have no idea why but it’s something I still regret. It was actually my current partner who introduced me to LeGuin in my mid thirties. During a very wet holiday in Sleat on the Isle of Skye he read The Wizard of Earth Sea to me. I was entranced, and read all six books of the series back to back. Having grown up in the Western Isles, the archipelago of Earthsea, and the rocky island of Gont in particular, was instantly familiar. The Outer Hebrides with dragons! What’s not to like?
It’s hard to pick a favourite from the series, but if I had to, it would be Tehanu, because it is so rare to find a work of transformative fiction told from the perspective of a middle aged woman. And it’s not just the perspective of one single woman, women’s experience of the world, of child hood, adulthood, birth and death is absolutely central to the whole mythos of Earthsea.
It was only after reading the Earthsea series two or three times that I moved on to Le Guin’s science fiction. I never got much further than The Dispossessed and The Left Hand of Darkness, because they raised so many questions and gave me so much to think about and to process.
When I read the news of Le Guin’s death on twitter this morning, it was The Dispossessed I picked up to read in remembrance, but it’s this quote from the end of The Farthest Shore that’s been with me all day.
The Doorkeeper, smiling, said, “He is done with doing. He goes home.”