Ursula K. Le Guin’s “The Left Hand of Darkness” is one of my all time favorite books. Since I first read it I returned a couple of times with great pleasure to the planet Winter in re-readings of the novel. This year seems like a very proper time for a re-visit to Winter, because “The Left Hand of Darkness” celebrates its 40th anniversary. I own the Romanian edition of Ursula K. Le Guin’s novel, but I am very much tempted to buy the anniversary copy which will be released by Orbit Books UK this November (especially since I find the cover to be very appropriate for the content within).
Genly Ai is a diplomat of sorts, sent to observe the inhabitants of the snowbound planet of Winter. But the isolated, androgynous people are suspicious of this strange, single-gendered visitor. Tucked away in a remote corner of the universe, they have no knowledge of space travel or of life beyond their own world. So, bringing news of a vast coalition of planets they are invited to join, he is met with fear, mistrust and disbelief.
But also something more. For Genly Ai, who sees himself as a bringer of the truth, it is a bittersweet irony that he will discover truths about himself and, in the snow-shrouded strangeness of Winter, find both love and tragedy . . .