Ursula Le Guin’s novel, The Dispossessed, is supposedly about a dissident physicist who travels from his “ambiguously utopian” (so says the cover) anarchist home-world of Anarres, where all is shared, there is no state, and the women are liberated, to the “propertarian” Urras, a luxurious, unequal (on both class and gender lines), world from which Anarres has been long isolated.
Actually, the book largely seems to be about Ursula Le Guin. Anarres is drawn, nearly wholly, from other Le Guin novels: the laconic sages, the moral purity and simple living, the richly imagined gender egalitarianism. Meanwhile, Urras, as the back cover admits, “is a world very similar to Earth.” The book moves back and forth, chapter by chapter, between Shevek (the brilliant protagonist) as a student and young physicist on Anarres, and his mid-life visit to Urras, when he attempts to cash in on his now considerable fame to achieve some rapprochement between the two social orders.
We are, in other words, plunged into the split consciousness of the successful, but radical, science-fiction writer. Continue reading