Orsinian Tales

Orsinian Tales

by Ursula K. Le Guin

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in a career spanning half a century, Ursula K. Le Guin has produced a body of work that testifies to her abiding faith in the power and art of words. She is perhaps best known for imagining future intergalactic worlds in brilliant books that challenge our ideas of what is natural and inevitable in human relations—and that celebrate courage, endurance, risk-taking, and above all, freedom in the face of the psychological and social forces that lead to authoritarianism and fanaticism. it is less well known that she first developed these themes in richly imagined historical fiction set in the imaginary East European country of Orsinia, including the enchanting stories collected in Orsinian Tales. These brilliantly rendered stories recount episodes of personal drama set against a history that spans Orsinia’s emergence as an independent kingdom in the twelfth century to its absorption by the eastern Bloc after World War ii. Here is a dimension of Le Guin's extraordinary literary imagination that will surprise and delight readers.

Complete with a newly researched chronology of the author's life and career.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781598534962
Publisher: Library of America
Publication date: 09/06/2016
Series: Orsinia Series
Sold by: Penguin Random House Publisher Services
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 200
File size: 363 KB

About the Author

Ursula K. Le Guin is the author of twenty novels, ten story collections, four volumes of translation, six volumes of poetry, four collections of essays, and thirteen books for children. In 2014 she was awarded the National Book Awards Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters.


Portland, Oregon

Date of Birth:

October 21, 1929

Place of Birth:

Berkeley, California


B.A., Radcliffe College; M.A., Columbia University, 1952

Read an Excerpt

Orsinian Tales

By Le Guin, Ursula K.


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.
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Orsinian Tales 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
booklove2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was a loosely connected batch of short stories labeled as "fantasy" but I didn't see what was so unrealistic about it other than the setting of an imaginary place called Orsinia. It seemed to me it was somewhere in Europe though. Not a bad story of the bunch, but one story seemed to go on a while. I liked that the stories were connected a bit. Also, a big hint is the dates after each story mean when the story takes place, not when the story was written, which was helpful in a book that jumps around in time.
whitewavedarling on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed [Orsinian Tales]. It took me a while to read, but only because I left it at my boyfriend's place and read about a story per weekend while I was around. As usual, Le Guin gives a fascinating universe and characters who feel real in every way. She also managed in this work to make supposedly fantastic stories feel absolutely relevant to this world and the issues we've enountered as a global society. I will say that I don't think I would have enjoyed this book quite so much had I tried to read it all through as a single work. Most of the stories are of a darker (or at least more somber) nature, and the characters and themes are similar across the full work. Ideally, I'd say it's a good work to read stories from as a break from longer works. Highly recommended. My favorite stories from the collection were "Ile Forest" and "The Lady of Moge", though I enjoyed all of them.
xicanti on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A collection of eleven short stories set in the imaginary European country of Orsinia.I have a bit of a love/hate relationship with Le Guin's books. I find her writing absolutely beautiful and I think she explores some very interesting ideas with her work, but I can never become emotionally involved with her stories. I find them distanced, as though she's sitting on her characters' shoulders instead of riding around inside their heads.This approach bothers me somewhat with her novels, but it works perfectly with her short stories. These tales are snippets of life in which we learn just enough about each character to get us through. The story itself, the plot, and the overarching ideas behind everything become key. Le Guin shows us people in bleak, often hopeless circumstances. We're forced to consider their every action as they struggle to keep hold of themselves. Most of the stories take place in the early 20th century, when Orsinia is on the brink of becoming a communist state. Several pieces set in the 50's and 60's, (including the very first story), show us Orsinian life under the communist regime. These pieces make this a very political work... but to be honest, I'm not sure I got as much out of it as I could have, in that sense. I was born near the very end of the Cold War. These themes simply don't resonate with me the way they would with someone who grew up with them. I still found the characters' struggles thought-provoking, but more because of how they related to human nature than for any political reason.
clong on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is an interesting and satisfying collections of 11 non-scifi, non-fantasy Le Guin short stories. They are all set in the fictional eastern European nation of Orsinia, and range in dates from medieval times through the height of the cold war. Most of these stories tell of people facing bleak lives, with little or no opportunity for advancement. Several include very effective tales of romance. Le Guin does good job of quickly establishing believable characters and inviting the reader into these characters' challenging lives. My favorite was the earliest written of the bunch, An die Musik.