All posts filed under: Literature

Ekostories from literature.

marcovaldo-artwork

Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo: Seasons in the City

Bedridden with the flu on a recent writing retreat, I had resigned myself to focus on recovery rather than to get any writing done. I had not expected, between the coughing fits and the fever chills, to find new inspiration from a familiar source. But there it was, sitting eye-level on the third shelf of a corner bookcase at a stranger’s vacation rental, all 128 pages of glory: Italo Calvino’s Marcovaldo, translated by William Weaver. My experience with Calvino is uneven. On more than one occasion, my awe of the Italian author’s way with words outpaced my ability to keep up with the quickness of his intellect. I gave up halfway through The Castle of Cross Destinies because my mind could no longer hold the labyrinth of interconnected narratives together, and while I admired and strove to emulate the stylings of his Cosmicomics, many of those journeys across time, space, and imagination remains beyond my comprehension. Yet when Calvino’s work connects, he leaves an impression upon me unlike any other author. Even as I have professed …

Hong Kong Cityscape

Place and Memory: Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities

I’m not sure how to describe Italo Calvino’s Invisible Cities. It isn’t traditional fiction on a structural level, having no story arc or a defined ending. Nor is it conventional fantasy, doing away with the worlds it creates almost as soon as it forms them. Even the broadest definitions of historical fiction and magical realism don’t quite fit, as Calvino blends real and imagined details into a concoction of seemingly irreverent tales. Invisible Cities is a travelogue to places that do not exist. It is a work that brushes aside conventions of form and narrative to ruminate on ideas of memory and place, touching on everything from trajectory of civilizations to the limits of communication. At times delightfully whimsical and intensely melancholic, Invisible Cities is a testament to the power of an author at the height of his powers to provoke, enthrall, and connect.

A Boat in the Desert

Look Up: Antoine De Saint-Exupéry’s Wind, Sand and Stars

Unlike millions around the world, my first encounter with the works of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry did not involve La Petit Prince; I am ashamed to admit that I have not yet read his most famous work. What I have read, and what continues to stay with me, was the man’s memoir and the inspiration for what is arguably one of the most beloved children’s stories in history. Winner of the National Book Award and hailed by National Geographic as one of the Top Ten adventure books of all time, Wind, Sand and Stars (an English translation by Lewis Galantière of Terre des Hommes, or “Land of Men”) is a work I return to when I grow weary or unsure of life. In the brief tome I am lifted by the soaring spirit of a writer at the height of his craft, by a pioneer of an age past who saw a vaster picture and dared to ask the great questions. Within its pages, I find a soul who believed wholeheartedly in human potential, a man open to the simple joys …

Mars 2099 ESO J Girard

The Dispossessed: On Time and Meaning

“You are our history. We are perhaps your future. I want to learn, not ignore. It is the reason I came. We must know each other. We are not primitive men. Our morality is no longer tribal, it cannot be. Such ignorance is a wrong, from which wrong will arise. So I come to learn.” – The Dispossessed, p. 75 Welcome to the final part in the series exploring one of my favourite novels: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed. You can read the previous entries here: Part 1 – Crossing the Wall: The Dispossessed Part 2 – Urras and Hope Betrayed Part 3 – Anarres the Promise Kept In this last piece, I’ll touch on the theme of reconciliation that runs through the novel and look at one of its key recurring image: the wall. Finally, I’ll explore how the idea of the promise, as expressed by Le Guin’s ideas and embodied by the protagonist Shevek’s actions, has implications for my own personal journey in forging a meaningful and fulfilling life.

Wonder Eye

The Dispossessed: Anarres the Promise Kept

“We have nothing but our freedom. We have nothing to give you but your own freedom. We have no law but the single principle of mutual aid between individuals. We have no government but the single principle of free association. We have no states, no nations, no presidents, no premiers, no chiefs, no generals, no bosses, no bankers, no landlords, no wages, no charity, no police, no soldiers, no wars. Nor do we have much else. We are sharers, not owners. We are not prosperous. None of us is rich. None of us is powerful. If it is Anarres you want, if it is the future you seek, then I tell you that you must come to it with empty hands.” -The Dispossessed, pp.300-301 Welcome to my continuing series exploring Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia. You can check out my history with the novel and part 2 of the analysis. This piece details the protagonist Shevek growing up in the anarchic world of Anarres, the nature of his unique society, and the journey …

SciFi Cityscape by Darink-Wide

The Dispossessed: Urras and Hope Betrayed

“Shevek, a brilliant physicist, decides to take action. He will seek answers, question the unquestionable, and attempt to tear down the walls of hatred that have isolated his planets of anarchists from the rest of the civilized universe… Shevek must make the unprecedented journey to the utopian mother planet, Urras, to challenge the complex structures of life and living, and ignite the fires of change.” – Eos edition paperback cover Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed alternates between two narratives across time and space. One revolves around the protagonist Shevek in the present as he travels to and learns about the world of Urras; the following piece looks at this story. The second narrative tells the story of Shevek’s past and his life growing up on the world of Anarres, an anarchic and egalitarian society – I’ll explore that in the next post. Finally, I’ll be examining the whole story in a third and final piece through one of the novel’s central theme: Reconciliation.

Dispossessed Laguna Miscanti - Antofagasta Chile

Crossing the Wall: Ursula K. Le Guin’s The Dispossessed

My honeymoon with The Dispossessed: An Ambiguous Utopia was an intense and extended one. Ursula K. Le Guin’s Nebula and Hugo-winning novel proved immensely alluring to me – its rendition of post-capitalistic civilization; its probing into the nature of revolution and power; its look at the possibility for change. The novelty and power of its ideas captivated me so much that I devoured an essay collection dedicated to them, and The Dispossessed quickly became one of my favourite novels of all time. When I recently returned to the story through the audiobook narrated by Don Leslie, I found the infatuation that had so arrested me had faded. The ideas, once so vivid and vital in my mind, had lost their lustre, becoming old-hat and common sense. At the same time, I began to notice the novel’s shortcomings, despite my best efforts not to: There was an awful lot of exposition, its real world parallels were obvious and dated, and Le Guin’s prose, while still beautiful, contained neither the mythic flourish of The Left Hand of Darkness nor the …