Yesterday I savored the end of The Dispossesed by Ursula K Le Guin. Le Guin, after reading just two of her books, is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. She critiques so much about our society so well through the building of her worlds and characters. And reading The Dispossessed with the backdrop of the US Election and growing tensions over growth in Portland has been amazing.
In the book, we follow Shevek as he goes from his home world, a desolate moon settled hundreds of years before from its neighboring planet, Urras. Urras gave the moon to the settlers years prior to appease them as they weren’t content with the Urrasti form of governance. Le Guin definitely favors the communist society on Anarres, the moon, but she critiques both the Anarres’ system as well as Urras’, neither is perfect.
And as I read the book, moving along with Shevek back and forth through the time of his adulthood on Anarres and then his journey to Urras, I couldn’t help but start to critique the current US election process or think about the tensions in Portland. I don’t believe there is a perfect system, as we see Shevek is often frustrated by the communist system on Anarres. But Urras’ with its capitalist society isn’t any better as far as he can tell.
Le Guin favors the settlers on Anarres and I see why. They rise and fall together and throughout the book that is made evident. But there is still ego, still human imperfection. As I look at what is currently happening, not just in my country, but many western nations struggling with the way the world is now, I wonder if maybe a bit more of the rise and fall together wouldn’t be a good thing. The book left me thinking about that a lot, which is a good thing. Lately it has been fiction that has me questioning and thinking the most about how my city, country, and the world work.