The Left Hand of Darkness

planted: 15/08/2021last tended: 27/11/2021
Ursula K. Le Guin

1. Log

1.1. [2021-08-05 Thu]

Finished. It was great. The journey across the glacier did go on for a fair while, but still. Really enjoyable all the way through. I feel like I should give it a proper, considered, review, but I don't have so much time for that. Maybe I'll read a few other existing reviews and build off them.

1.2. [2021-08-01 Sun]

Nearly finished now I think. Very enjoyable. The musings on gender are really interesting. I've read it quite quickly when I've been reading, I think perhaps missing quite some depth (perhaps how the sections with mythology link to the present day, for example). And some of the ideas within the Handdara religion.

I like Estraven.

1.3. [2021-07-22 Thu]

Continuing to enjoy muchly. Lots of great observations about how societies work, but not in a heavy-handed way, fits nicely in to the narrative. I like the quote from Le Guin, that she "eliminated gender, to find out what was left".

1.4. [2021-07-14 Wed]

Enjoying this muchly so far. There's something melliflous about the way Le Guin writes.

It feels similar to The Dispossessed so far in that it's about a stranger in a strange land. The strange land seems to be one involving monarchy. With another interesting characteristic being the absence of gender.


…Tell me, Genry, what is known? What is sure, predictable, inevitable—the one certain thing you know concerning your future, and mine?”

“That we shall die.”

“Yes. There’s really only one question that can be answered, Genry, and we already know the answer… The only thing that makes life possible is permanent, intolerable uncertainty: not knowing what comes next.

"[…]But 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 yet, Genry, why we perfected and practice Foretelling?”


“*To exhibit the perfect uselessness of knowing the answer to the wrong question.*”

There is no division of humanity into strong and weak halves, protected/protective. One is respected and judged only as a human being. You cannot cast a Gethenian in the role of Man or Woman, while adopting towards “him” a corresponding role dependent on your expectations of the interactions between persons of the same or opposite sex. It is an appalling experience for a Terran…

Winter is an inimical world; its punishment for doing things wrong is sure and prompt: death from cold or death from hunger. No margin, no reprieve. 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.

How does one hate a country, or love one? Tibe talks about it; I lack the trick of it. I know people, I know towns, farms, hills and rivers and rocks, I know how the sun at sunset in autumn falls on the side of a certain plowland in the hills; but what is the sense of giving a boundary to all that, of giving it a name and ceasing to love where the name ceases to apply?

3. Elsewhere

3.3. Mentions

Recent changes. Source. Peer Production License.