Orsinian Tales: Stories

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Orsinia...a land of medieval forests, stonewalled cities, and railways reaching into the mountains where the old gods dwell. A country where life is harsh, dreams are gentle, and people feel torn by powerful forces and fight to remain whole. In this collection, Ursula K. Le Guin brings to mainstream fiction the same compelling mastery of word and deed, of story and character, of violence and love, that has won her the Pushcart Prize, and the Kafka and National Book Awards. ...
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Overview

Orsinia...a land of medieval forests, stonewalled cities, and railways reaching into the mountains where the old gods dwell. A country where life is harsh, dreams are gentle, and people feel torn by powerful forces and fight to remain whole. In this collection, Ursula K. Le Guin brings to mainstream fiction the same compelling mastery of word and deed, of story and character, of violence and love, that has won her the Pushcart Prize, and the Kafka and National Book Awards.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780060914332
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/1/1987
  • Pages: 192

Meet the Author

Ursula K.  Le Guin

Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of more than one hundred short stories, two collections of essays, four volumes of poetry, and nineteen novels. Her best-known fantasy works, the Earthsea books, have sold millions of copies in America and England, and have been translated into sixteen languages. Her first major work of science fiction, The Left Hand of Darkness, is considered epochmaking in the field because of its radical investigation of gender roles and its moral and literary complexity.

Three of Le Guin's books have been finalists for the American Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize, and among the many honors her writing has received are the National Book Award, five Hugo Awards, five Nebula Awards, the Kafka Prize, a Pushcart Prize, and the Harold D. Vursell Award of the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters. She lives in Portland, Oregon.

Biography

Speculative fiction, magic realism, "slipstream" fiction -- all these terms could apply to the works of Ursula K. Le Guin. Unfortunately, none was in common use when she started writing in the early 1960s. As a young writer, Le Guin weathered seven years of rejections from editors who praised her novels' elegant prose but were puzzled by their content. At a time when the only literary fiction was realistic fiction, as Le Guin later told an interviewer for The Register-Guard in Portland, Oregon, "There just wasn't a pigeonhole for what I write."

At long last, two of her stories were accepted for publication, one at a literary journal and one at a science-fiction magazine. The literary journal paid her in copies of the journal; the science-fiction magazine paid $30. She told The Register-Guard, "I thought: 'Oooohhh! They'll call what I write science fiction, will they? And they'll pay me for it? Well, here we go!' "

Le Guin continued to write and publish stories, but her breakthrough success came with the publication of The Left Hand of Darkness in 1969. The novel, which tells of a human ambassador's encounters with the gender-changing inhabitants of a distant planet, was unusual for science fiction in that it owed more to anthropology and sociology than to the hard sciences of physics or biology. The book was lauded for its intellectual and psychological depth, as well as for its fascinating premise. "What got to me was the quality of the story-telling," wrote Frank Herbert, the author of Dune. "She's taken the mythology, psychology -- the entire creative surround -- and woven it into a jewel of a story."

Since then, Le Guin has published many novels, several volumes of short stories, and numerous poems, essays, translations, and children's books. She's won an arm's-length list of awards, including both the Hugo and Nebula Awards for The Left Hand of Darkness and The Dispossessed, and a National Book Award for The Farthest Shore. Over the years, she has created and sustained two fictional universes, populating each with dozens of characters and stories. The first universe, Ekumen, more or less fits into the science-fiction mode, with its aliens and interplanetary travel; the second, Earthsea, is a fantasy world, complete with wizards and dragons. As Margaret Atwood wrote in The New York Review of Books, "Either one would have been sufficient to establish Le Guin's reputation as a mistress of its genre; both together make one suspect that the writer has the benefit of arcane drugs or creative double-jointedness or ambidexterity."

More impressive still is the way Le Guin's books have garnered such tremendous crossover appeal. Unlike many writers of science fiction, she is regularly reviewed in mainstream publications, where her work has been praised by the likes of John Updike and Harold Bloom. But then, Le Guin has never fit comfortably into a single genre. As she said in a Science Fiction Weekly interview, "I know that I'm always called 'the sci-fi writer.' Everybody wants to stick me into that one box, while I really live in several boxes. It's probably hurt the sales of my realistic books like Searoad, because it tended to get stuck into science fiction, where browsing readers that didn't read science fiction would never see it."

Le Guin has also published a translation of Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching, a book that has influenced her life and writing since she was a teenager; she has translated fiction by Angelica Gorodischer and a volume of poems by Gabriela Mistral; and, perhaps most gratifyingly for her fans, she has returned to the imaginary realm of Earthsea. Tehanu, which appeared in 1990, was subtitled "The Last Book of Earthsea," but Le Guin found she had more to tell, and she continued with Tales from Earthsea and The Other Wind. "I thought after 'Tehanu' the story was finished, but I was wrong," she told Salon interviewer Faith L. Justice. "I've learned never to say 'never.' "

Good To Know

The "K" in Ursula K. Le Guin stands for Le Guin's maiden name, Kroeber. Her father was the anthropologist Alfred Kroeber; her mother, the writer Theodora Kroeber, is best known for the biography Ishi in Two Worlds.

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    1. Hometown:
      Portland, Oregon
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 21, 1929
    2. Place of Birth:
      Berkeley, California
    1. Education:
      B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Orsinian Tales

Stories
By Le Guin, Ursula K.

Perennial

ISBN: 0060763434

The Fountains

They knew, having given him cause, that Dr Kereth might attempt to seek political asylum in Paris. Therefore, on the plane flying west, in the hotel, on the streets, at the meetings, even while he read his paper to the Cytology section, he was distantly accompanied at all times by obscure figures who might be explained as graduate students or Croatian microbiologists, but who had no names, or faces. Since his presence lent not only distinction to his country's delegation but also a certain luster to his government-See, we let even him come-they had wanted him there; but they kept him in sight. He was used to being in sight. In his small country a man could get out of sight only by not moving at all, by keeping voice, body, brain all quiet. He had always been a restless, visible man. Thus, when all at once on the sixth day in the middle of a guided tour in broad daylight he found himself gone, he was confused for a time. Only by walking down a path could one achieve one's absence?

It was in a very strange place that he did so. A great, desolate, terrible house stood behind him yellow in the yellow sunlight of afternoon. Thousands of manycolored dwarfs milled on terraces, beyond which a pale blue canal ran straight away into the unreal distance of September. The lawns ended in groves of chestnut trees a hundred feet high, noble, somber, shot through withgold. Under the trees they had walked in shadow on the riding-paths of dead kings, but the guide led them out again to sunlight on lawns and marble pavements. And ahead, straight ahead, towering and shining up into the air, fountains ran.

They sprang and sang high above their marble basins in the light. The petty, pretty rooms of the palace as big as a city where no one lived, the indifference of the noble trees that were the only fit inhabitants of a garden too large for men, the dominance of autumn and the past, all this was brought into proportion by the running of water. The phonograph voices of the guides fell silent, the camera eyes of the guided saw. The fountains leapt up, crashed down exulting, and washed death away.

They ran for forty minutes. Then they ceased. Only kings could afford to run the Great Fountains of Versailles and live forever. Republics must keep their own proportion. So the high white jets shrank, stuttering. The breasts of nymphs ran dry, the mouths of rivergods gaped black. The tremendous voice of uprushing and downfalling water became a rattling, coughing sigh. It was all through, and everyone stood for a moment alone. Adam Kereth turned, and seeing a path before him went down it away from the marble terraces, under the trees. Nobody followed him; and it was at this moment, though he was unaware of it, that he defected.

Late-afternoon light lay warm across the path between shadows, and through the light and shadows a young man and a young woman walked hand in hand. A long way behind them Adam Kereth walked by himself, tears running down his cheeks.

Presently the shadows fell away from him and he looked up to see no path, no lovers, only a vast tender light and, below him, many little round trees in tubs. He had come to the terrace above the Orangerie. Southward from this high place one saw only forest, France a broad forest in the autumn evening. Horns blew no longer, rousing wolf or wild boar for the king's hunt; there was no great game left. The only tracks in that forest would be the footprints of young lovers who had come out from Paris on the bus, and walked among the trees, and vanished.

With no intent, unconscious still of his defection, Kereth roamed back along wide walks towards the palace, which stood now in the sinking light no longer yellow but colorless, like a sea-cliff over a beach when the last bathers are leaving. From beyond it came a dim roar like surf, engines of tourist busses starting back to Paris. Kereth stood still. A few small figures hurried on the terraces between silent fountains. A woman's voice far off called to a child, plaintive as a gull's cry. Kereth turned around and without looking back, intent now, conscious, erect as one who has just stolen something-a pineapple, a purse, a loaf-from a counter and has got it hidden under his coat, he strode back into the dusk among the trees.

"This is mine," he said aloud to the high chestnuts and the oaks, like a thief among policemen. "This is mine!" The oaks and chestnuts, French, planted for aristocrats ... Continues...


Excerpted from Orsinian Tales by Le Guin, Ursula K. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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