Happy Birthday to Ursula Le Guin!

Happy Birthday!  Along with Tolkien, you are one of the only two people to speak a language for which I require no dictionary and no translation: a language that seems to me to pass straight beyond words and go straight through to truth.  If I could live in a book, it would be a toss-up between whether I moved to Rivendell or to Karhide, and if I acquired magic in the process I’d much rather study at Roke than at Hogwarts.

I was going to quote that wonderful passage from The Left Hand of Darkness that ends with “if this was the royal music, no wonder the kings of Karhide were all mad,” but then I found this speech Bryn Mawr Commencement Address posted by altariel in her LJ and decided it was more topical:

Literature takes shape and life in the body, in the womb of the mother tongue: always: and the Fathers of Culture get anxious about paternity. They start talking about legitimacy. They steal the baby. They ensure by every means that the artist, the writer, is male. This involves intellectual abortion by centuries of women artists, infanticide of works by women writers, and a whole medical corps of sterilizing critics working to purify the Canon, to reduce the subject matter and style of literature to something Ernest Hemingway could have understood.

But this is our native tongue, this is our language they’re stealing: we can read it and we can write it, and what we bring to it is what it needs, the woman’s tongue, that earth and savor, that relatedness, which speaks dark in the mother tongue but clear as sunlight in women’s poetry, and in our novels and stories, our letters, our journals, our speeches. If Sojourner Truth, forty years a slave, knew she had the right to speak that speech, how about you? Will you let yourself be silenced?
But because it’s also the birthday of The Left Hand of Darkness, happy birthday to my joint favourite book of all time, and congratulations on the snazzy new edition with the first really gorgeous and appropriate cover for the last 20 years 🙂


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