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The Religious Affiliation of
Ursula K. Le Guin
acclaimed science fiction author


Ursula K. Le Guin: The influence of Le Guin's Taoist faith on her writing has been widely about. She has published a new translation of the Tao Te Ching. As Le Guin points out on her website, "Taoist thought runs quite deep in the structure of many of my fictions." (http://www.ursulakleguin.com/FAQ_Questionnaire5_01.html) In various published biographical sketches, Le Guin identifies herself as a feminist and environmentalist. In the introduction to some editions of The Left Hand of Darkness, LeGuin states: "I write about gods, I am an atheist." An interview for Book (September/October 2000, http://www.bookmagazine.com/issue12/trailblazer.shtml) notes:
The moral core has been strengthened by Taoism, which besides feminism is the other major influence on her work. Le Guin says her first memory of Taoism was of watching her father read a book with Chinese characters all over the cover -- "and I knew he didn't know Chinese." The book was Lao Tzu's Tao Te Ching.

Thus, it's hardly surprising that Le Guin's new novel, The Telling, should be inspired by Mao Tse-tung's attempt to destroy Taoism in China. Mao pretty much succeeded in his own country, eradicating three thousand years of spiritual tradition in the name of communism. This fact inspired Le Guin to write a story in which a time-honored religion is obliterated just as quickly and brutally.

Next to feminism, Taoism has been the system of thought that most influenced her work. It is most evident in the many stories in which her characters' strength lies not in their action but in their inaction. The principle of yin and yang operates in her work, and the traditional Western dichotomies -- black and white, good and evil -- become much more complicated and intertwined.

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Webpage created 28 July 2005. Last modified 28 July 2005.
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