© 2017 by Anna Johnson

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January 24, 2018

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Ursula K Le Guin

January 24, 2018

She is dead and I am bereft: her books are transformative, urgent, real. You don't just read them - you absorb them - their strangeness and familiarity are what you want and where you want to be. She understood what it is to be human, what it is to be a woman. She was a brilliant, prickly, funny, CAT loving, wise being. Her words have gone into the universe now so she'll always be with us, but I'll miss her nevertheless. Celebrate her - to describe her as a fantasy writer is as reductive as calling a diamond a clod of earth.  And Le Guin knew the importance of giving things their true names.

As David Mitchell puts it, 'Magic in Earthsea is contingent on knowing an object’s true name in Old Speech, the language spoken by dragons and used by Segoy, who raised the islands above the waves and named everything on them. Knowledge of a thing’s true name brings mastery over the object, and as this applies to people as well, to tell someone your true name in Earthsea is an act of intimate trust. Ged triumphs in his encounter with the Dragon of Pendor by correctly guessing its name, but can’t hope to vanquish his shadow until he learns its name too, if it has one. This idea of language being power is a delicious one for writers and readers as well as wizards, and is one place where Ged’s world and ours intersect. Le Guin’s words are magical. Drink this magic up. Drown in it. Dream it.'

 

Ursula punctuated her life with quotations. This is one of my favourites:

'I know that to me words are things, almost immaterial but actual and real things, and that I like them. I like their most material aspect: the sound of them, heard in the mind or spoken by voice. And right along with that, inseparably, I like the dances of meaning words do with one another, the endless changes and complexities of their interrelationships in sentence or text, by which imaginary worlds are built and shared.'

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