An Ambiguous Utopia
Illustrated by David Lupton
Introduced by Brian Attebery
Le Guin’s Hugo Award-winning The Dispossessed explodes with the possibilities of science and human endeavour. This edition features 14 illustrations by David Lupton, and an introduction by Brian Attebery.
‘One of the greats … Not just a science-fiction writer; a literary icon’
- Stephen King
Wise, complex and thrilling, The Dispossessed is the sort of science fiction only Le Guin could have written; her abiding interest in anthropology and human nature summons worlds that inspire total belief from her readers, and she gives no easy answers to the many questions that the book poses. Within the timeline of Le Guin’ celebrated series the Hainish Cycle, The Dispossessed is chronologically the first volume. For this unique illustrated edition, artist David Lupton worked closely with the author’s son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, to recreate the twin worlds of Le Guin’s imagination, Urras and Anarres, and her revolutionary scientist, Shevek, while the endpapers feature maps of the two planets. In his introduction, Professor Brian Attebery discusses the multiple meanings that can be gleaned from The Dispossessed, and its continuing relevance, observing that, ‘whatever we think it is saying, it might well say something new tomorrow’.
You cannot buy the Revolution. You cannot make the Revolution. You can only be the Revolution. It is in your spirit, or it is nowhere
Bound in printed and blocked cloth
Set in Poliphilus
14 integrated illustrations (8 of which are duotone, 6 greyscale), including 1 full-page illustration and 2 double-page spreads
Ursula Le Guin’s original maps re-drawn by Andreas Skyman
9½˝ x 6¼˝
Twin worlds in turmoil
Shevek is a gifted physicist whose theories on time could revolutionise interstellar communications – perhaps even change how people travel between planets. But his home is Anarres, a bleak desert planet settled generations ago by a group of revolutionary anarchists determined to carve out their own perfect society in the wilderness. Anarres has been cut off from its mother planet, Urras – and the rest of the planetary system – for generations, leaving them isolated from the cutting edge of scientific progress. For Shevek it is a situation that cannot stand. To see his work finished, he must do what he can to break down the walls and unite the planets, even if that sees him torn from everything he values, and branded a traitor.
Resplendent with stars
‘A deeply imagined work of art’
- Encyclopedia of Science Fiction
Artist David Lupton first worked with Ursula K. Le Guin on The Folio Society edition of A Wizard of Earthsea, ensuring that her vision of the fantasy classic was captured on the page. For The Dispossessed, Lupton has kept in close contact with Le Guin’s son, Theo Downes-Le Guin, and the result is a series of beautiful, sensitive illustrations which reflect the complexities of the book’s characters and the tensions between them. Ursula K. Le Guin was famously passionate about the diverse possibilities of her fictional universes, often clashing with publishers and TV production companies over careless depictions of her characters; as with previous Folio volumes of her work, a great deal of care has been taken to reflect this passion for diversity. As Theo advised, ‘With regard to skin tones, I would guess that my mother’s advice would be: dear reader, imagine them as you wish, with the sole proviso that they don’t necessarily look like you.’ The slipcase and the binding are resplendent with stars, with Shevek pictured on the latter, his hands cradling an image of one of the twin planets. The endpaper features the author’s maps of the two planets, redrawn here by Andreas Skyman, printed in silver ink on an ink-blue paper. This volume has been produced in series with Folio’s edition of Le Guin’s award-winning The Left Hand of Darkness, for which Lupton also provided a series of exquisite images.
A book with multiple layers of meaning
In the anarchist society of Anarres and the lavish capitalism of A-Io, the Urrastian nation Shevek visits, it is easy to see parallels with the Cold War: Shevek comes to know worlds with viewpoints so opposed that it seems there can be no reconciliation. Le Guin wrote The Dispossessed in 1974, drawing on her experiences protesting the Vietnam War, and this proxy war between the United States and the Soviet Union was to inspire many science-fiction novels of the period. However, in his introduction, Professor Brian Attebery suggests that Le Guin’s purposes were always more complex than a single comparison. He describes how Le Guin partly based Shevek, the thoughtful, stubborn scientist, on Robert Oppenheimer, the ‘father of the atomic bomb’, whom she had met through her father’s work. Oppenheimer was a man forced to watch his research used for unimaginable purposes, a fate that Shevek desperately tries to avoid, even as he works to be the force that ‘unbuilds walls’. Looking closely at the author’s life and work, Attebery examines the continuing vital relevance of The Dispossessed in a world where the question of who builds the walls, and who is kept prisoner, is more urgent than ever.
About Ursula K. Le Guin
About Brian Attebery
About David Lupton
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