October 15th, 2006

self portrait


I read yesterday the novel Voices by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is the follow-up to Gifts, set in the same world and sharing a pair of characters. We learn a lot more about the world as the newer novel is set in a more cosmopolitan area and the first was in a hinterlands that seemed much like a magical Scotland. The key conflict framing the novel is between a culture of learning that has been subjugated by one that sees the written word as anathema. The story, however, is about a young woman learning her place in the world. The language of the book is often close to poetry in its beauty and poetry and poets play a part in the story.

One passage struck me particularly, not for its poetry, but for its reflection of current politics. What davidwilford posted about today also touched on this subject. The main character speaks regarding the future after the city she lives in has thrown of the yoke of its oppressors:
I've thought often since of what was said and the language they used. I wonder of men find it easier than women do to consider people not as bodies, as lives, but as numbers, figures, toys of the mind to be pushed about a battleground of the mind. This disembodiment gives pleasure, exciting them and freeing them to act for the sake of acting, for the sake of manipulating the figures, the games pieces. Love of country, or honor, or freedom, then, may be names they give that pleasure to justify it to the gods and to the people who suffer and kill and die in the game. So those words -- love, honor, freedom -- are degraded from their true sense. Then people may come to hold them in contempt as meaningless, and poets must struggle to give them back their truth.
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