Ursula Le Guin at the National Book Awards

Hari Kunzru wrote a lovely piece about Ursula Le Guin in the Guardian last week. It was in anticipation of the medal she was about to be presented with at the National Book Awards and he prefaced the interview with the comment that he had ‘rarely gone to visit a writer bearing so many messages of love and admiration. ‘

She’s in her eighties now, and has been writing since the 1960s – in this reader’s mind it’s seems that her voice and the worlds that she has inhabited have been around forever: wise and uncompromising; fantasy and imagination grounded in a truthfulness.

I went on to read the report of her speech at the ceremony. You can read her here. It’s wise, charming and fierce, full of things that need to be said and there were parts that had the weight of, well, if not prophecy, then hard, shrewd, advice that we’d do well to heed:

‘I think hard times are coming, when we will be wanting the voices of writers who can see alternatives to how we live now, and can see through our fear-stricken society and its obsessive technologies, to other ways of being. And even imagine some real grounds for hope. We will need writers who can remember freedom: poets, visionaries—the realists of a larger reality. Right now, I think we need writers who know the difference between production of a market commodity and the practice of an art. The profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art. We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable; so did the divine right of kings. … Power can be resisted and changed by human beings; resistance and change often begin in art, and very often in our art—the art of words. I’ve had a long career and a good one, in good company, and here, at the end of it, I really don’t want to watch American literature get sold down the river. … The name of our beautiful reward is not profit. Its name is freedom.’

The best thing about all this publicity, apart from being inspired and heartened? I found at least two books of hers that I’d missed somehow. Such treats.

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Ursula Le Guin at the National Book Awards

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