The Dispossessed

An Ambiguous Utopia

Ursula K. Le Guin

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’ 

  1. 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

Production Details

Bound in printed and blocked cloth

Set in Poliphilus 

376 pages

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

Printed endpapers

Printed slipcase

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’

  1. 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 Ida-Sofia 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

Ursula K. Le Guin (1929–2018) was born in Berkeley and lived in Portland, Oregon. She published 21 novels, 11 volumes of short stories, four collections of essays, 12 books for children, six volumes of poetry and four translated works, and received many honours and awards, including the Hugo Award, the Nebula Award, a National Book Award and the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. A Wizard of Earthsea (1968; Folio Society 2015, 2022) is her best-known work; it is the first book of Earthsea, which includes The Tombs of Atuan (1971; Folio Society 2022), The Farthest Shore (1972; Folio Society 2022), Tehanu (1990), Tales from Earthsea (2001) and The Other Wind (2001). Her Hugo Award-winning novels, The Left Hand of Darkness (1969) and The Dispossessed (1974) are also available as Folio editions (2018). Her most recent publications were Finding My Elegy: New and Selected Poems, 1960–2010 (2012) and The Unreal and the Real: Selected Short Stories (2012). 

About Brian Attebery

Brian Attebery is the author of Stories about Stories: Fantasy and the Remaking of Myth and Decoding Gender in Science Fiction (2014), among other genre studies. With Ursula K. Le Guin and Karen Joy Fowler, he edited the groundbreaking Norton Book of Science Fiction (1993). His work has been honoured with a Pilgrim Award, two Mythopoeic Awards and the Distinguished Scholarship Award from the International Association for the Fantastic in the Arts. He is Professor of English at Idaho State University and editor of the Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts. He has also been editing new editions of the work of Ursula K. Le Guin for the Library of America. In 2019, Attebery was Leverhulme Visiting Professor at the University of Glasgow.

About David Lupton

David Lupton is a London-based illustrator. He studied Illustration at the University of Portsmouth before completing an MA in Sequential Illustration at the University of Brighton. His work is hand-drawn and painted with only the slightest digital enhancement. He has created work for many commercial briefs, including editorial illustration, children’s picture books, music video design and animation, and record cover artwork. Lupton has illustrated a number of books for Folio, including The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym (2015). He worked closely with Ursula K. Le Guin to illustrate the Folio edition A Wizard of Earthsea (2015), and continued to realise the author’s vision after Le Guin passed away, illustrating The Left Hand of Darkness (2018), The Dispossessed (2019), The Tombs of Atuan (2022) and The Farthest Shore (2022).


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