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Le Guin’s 'Orsinia Tales' Earn Prestigious Publication


Some lesser-known works by Oregon literary great Ursula K. Le Guin will be republished this week by the Library of America.

Le Guin first wrote a poem in the Orsinian language published in 1959. Her stories set in Orsinia began appearing in the 1970s.

Le Guin first wrote a poem in the Orsinian language published in 1959. Her stories set in Orsinia began appearing in the 1970s.

Courtesy of the Library of America

The library is a nonprofit that publishes the country’s most eminent writers in special editions. Few living authors have ever been chosen for a Library of America edition.

Le Guin has been writing about an imagined central European country called Orsinia, battered by a history of oppressive regimes, since the 1950s. The stories have the distinction of being historical fiction, in which the setting itself is fictional. Le Guin uses the point of view of average people living under repressive leadership.

According to Professor Brian Attebery of Idaho State University, Orsinia became a laboratory where Le Guin’s fictional explorations of society and politics, long before she moved into fantasy and interplanetary settings.

“This was a great voyage of discovery for me,” Attebery said, “going back over them, reading them all together for the first time, and seeing what a coherent and powerful longer narrative they make up.”  

Le Guin's fiction has repeatedly addressed political and social situations, but in more fantastical settings.

Le Guin's fiction has repeatedly addressed political and social situations, but in more fantastical settings.

Euan Monaghan, Structo./Courtesy of Ursula K. Le Guin

Attebery edited “The Complete Orsinia” for publication, writing annotations, and working with Le Guin on corrections from previous editions.

He said Le Guin is highly skilled at getting a great deal of information across without lecturing or doing what some in science fiction circles refer to as “an infodump.” Her tactics of choosing one character’s view of events and sticking with it, he said, delivers a great deal of detail about what it might be like living under a Stalinist state. 

The “Orsinia” edition comes in the same year the Library of America is publishing texts by John O’Hara, Willa Cather and David Foster Wallace.

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