“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.
“Our lives are not our own. From womb to tomb, we are bound to others, past and present, and by each crime and every kindness, we birth our future.” – Sonmi 451 Thus sums up the core premise of Cloud Atlas, one of the more polarizing movies in recent memory and my personal favourite film for 2012. Spanning six stories over five centuries, many people found the movie slow, jarring, and difficult to follow. While I understand and accept some of these criticisms, they in no way diminish the sheer vision and ambition of this sprawling and profoundly human epic. If there ever was a film where the sum experience becomes more than its parts, Cloud Atlas is it. Before I begin, I want to share this short clip featuring directors Lana Wachowski, Andy Wachowski, and Tom Tykwer as they speak about their motivations for adapting David Mitchell’s novel for the big screen:
We felt a mixture of excitement and anxiety after learning the finalized details of our volunteer placement: We were to work with and learn from the Tharu people, an indigenous group who inhabited the Terai region of Nepal. Arriving after an eleven-hour bus ride to the small town of Lamahi in Dang District, we were once again reminded of the country’s spectacular geographic diversity. This land of red dust and flat farmlands, far removed from any tourist attractions, was to be home for the following three weeks. It could not be more different than the mountain vistas of the Himalayas or the congested and bustling streets of Kathmandu.Knowing next to nothing about the land and its people, we tried to be receptive and perceptive to our surroundings and our hosts. In turn, we were rewarded with a wealth of information regarding Tharu history, culture, and worldviews and how their intimate bond with place and land has profoundly shaped their past and present relationships with nature, culture, and self.
I came across an interesting post on how stories can help both the writer and the reader see the world in a different light: Literature as a way of seeing, by Helon Habila On art and seeing: “Art, and indeed life itself, is a way of seeing. There is looking at a thing, and then there is seeing a thing; the two are totally different. We look with our eyes, but it takes more than eyes to really see. This is a subject I find myself coming back to over and over again in my writing and in my thinking; and I find that, as a metaphor, it can be extended to most everyday situations. Oppression and poverty have always been with us, but how many among us can claim to have really seen the poor and the powerless, not just look at them, but truly see them?” The motivations of a writer: “The writer enlarges our sympathies by making us see ourselves better, but first he must see himself better in his own work. …