Kairos Book Club: “The Dispossessed” by Ursula Le Guin

Friday May 19th, 6.30 

The Dispossessed paints a hopeful and complex portrait of a society rooted in collectivism.” - Naomi Klein

For the third meeting of our book club, we're reading science fiction classic "The Dispossessed", Ursula K Le Guin's much admired 1974 anarchist utopia.

'There was a wall. It did not look important - even a child could climb it. But the idea was real. Like all walls it was ambiguous, two-faced. What was inside it and what was outside it depended upon which side of it you were on...'

Shevek is a brilliant scientist who is attempting to find a new theory of time - but there are those who are jealous of his work, and will do anything to block him. So he leaves his homeland, hoping to find a place of more liberty and tolerance. Initially feted, Shevek soon finds himself being used as a pawn in a deadly political game.

Extract from Ursula Le Guin’s introduction to a 2016 edition: "The Dispossessed started as a very bad short story, which I didn’t try to finish but couldn’t quite let go. There was a book in it, and I knew it, but the book had to wait for me to learn what I was writing about and how to write about it.

"I needed to understand my own passionate opposition to the war that we were, endlessly it seemed, waging in Vietnam, and endlessly protesting at home. If I had known then that my country would continue making aggressive wars for the rest of my life, I might have had less energy for protesting that one. But, knowing only that I didn’t want to study war no more, I studied peace.

"I started by reading a whole mess of utopias and learning something about pacifism and Gandhi and nonviolent resistance. This led me to the nonviolent anarchist writers such as Peter Kropotkin and Paul Goodman. With them I felt a great, immediate affinity. They made sense to me in the way Lao Tzu did. They enabled me to think about war, peace, politics, how we govern one another and ourselves, the value of failure, and the strength of what is weak. 

"So, when I realised that nobody had yet written an anarchist utopia, I finally began to see what my book might be.”

6.30pm for drinks, discussion starts at 7pm with a break for a one pot vegan dish.

Free for members, £5 non-members. Includes vegan supper. Bring your own beer or wine.

Kairos, 1-6 Essex Street, WC2R 3HY