Interview: Karabatak 9

1. You have written many books in a variety of genres including Science Fiction, Fantasy, Non-Fiction, and Poetry. You have readers all over the world, and have won a great number of awards. You have raised three children. What is the meaning of success to you?

UKL: Your question makes me realise that “success” is a word I don’t use. I’m not certain what it means, or maybe the problem with it is that it means such different things to different people.

To me, as a writer, a “successful novel” is a novel that does what I wanted it to do, or is what I hoped it would be, while I was planning and writing it.

My definition of a “successful career”: Getting paid and appreciated for doing what you do well and like to do. (What luck!!)

Perhaps a whole life is much too complicated a matter ever to be called “a success,” though alas, there are lives that are almost wholly failures...


2. You have explored many Fantasy and Science Fiction worlds. After all these travels, how does Earth seem to you? While you are working on a story that requires traveling between our earth and your imagined worlds, how do you balance the needs of your imagination and life?

UKL: I love Earth. I love my home. All the worlds of my imagination are Earth, seen through my mind’s eye. All the travel is in my head. I am always coming home.

Imagination provides the balance of my life. How could I understand reality without it?


3. Many Science Fiction and Fantasy books have recently been turned into movies or TV series. Do you think that this trend helps us enrich and improve our imagination? What is your opinion about your books or stories being modify for movies? How did you feel about the Earthsea adaptation to the screen?

UKL: I like movies very much, and they can enrich our mind and experience — but they can’t do nearly as much to enrich our imagination as books do. When we watch a movie we just watch it, passively. To read a story is to recreate it in the mind, to make it happen — reading is an intensely active process, actively involving the imagination. The more imaginative the book, the richer that experience may be.

A very good film was made for Public TV in 1980 of my novel The Lathe of Heaven. It’s still available as a DVD. The films made in Hollywood and Japan, supposedly “based on” my Earthsea book, had nothing in common with the books at all; they used some names and a few events in mindlessly violent films that merely exploited the reputation of the books.


4. A collection of your works, Women, Dreams and Dragons in Turkish, is one of the bedside books of Turkey. It contains articles and speeches that you wrote and made in the 1970’s and 1980’s on a variety subjects including women and writing. In the last 50 years, from the 1960's to today, what changes do you see regarding female writers and their rights and opportunities? Are the problems for women who write the same?

UKL: Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.... In the last fifty years (I can only speak for America, of course) much has changed, and for the better. Yet still, books that win prizes are mostly by men, reviews are mostly of books by men, a story about women is merely “for women” while a story about men is “for us all” — etc.

The problems for women who write are very much the same as they always were. I think it isn’t as difficult for a women with children to be a writer as it used to be, because these days nobody is telling us that it’s impossible and wrong to have both books and babies. But nobody is making it very much easier for us to do so....


5. Currently Arwen Curry is directing the documentary Worlds of Ursula K. Le Guin. Do you know its status?

UKL: Like most films by independent film-makers, it has to find backing. Films are so expensive to make! I think it will be a good one.


6. You have explored Earthsea for more than 40 years. When you started the first book, did you know it would be a long running adventure? What made you decide to continue the journey and to write Tehanu and The Other Wind? Is there more to explore?

UKL: I had no idea, when I wrote A Wizard of Earthsea, that there would be more to the story than that one book. But I had put clues into the book, without knowing it, that led me on into Ged’s life. And so came the next two books.

I imagined that there would be four in all, two with Ged at the center, two with Tenar at the center. But the fourth, Tenar’s second book, would not let me write it. Now that she was a grown woman, I did not understand her — I could not see where she must go. It took me 17 years to learn how to write that book.

Fortunately for me, those were the years when feminism was giving women the courage to speak in our own voice. So I could return to Earthsea and see it not from above, the man’s view, the position of power, but from below, through the eyes of women and children, the powerless. The same world, but how different! So I could write Tehanu, and the book of Tales of Earthsea, and at last The Other Wind. In all of them I was discovering so much about my dear Earthsea and the people in it that I couldn’t have known if I’d stayed with the convention that puts men at the center and everybody else off in the margins.


7. Which authors do you like to read?

UKL: Many, many, many... too many....

My favorite novel this year is Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver.


8. You have a wide readership in Turkey. What do you think about Turkish and Eastern Literature?

UKL: I bow my head in shame at my ignorance.

The only Turkish writer well known here is Orhan Pamuk, and I’m sorry to say that when I’ve tried to read his books, I felt so excluded from his world that I couldn’t go on. I assumed that it was a matter of gender, but perhaps I’m wrong?

Please, if you can recommend to me some Turkish novelists, particularly women, who have been translated into English, I’ll do my best to find copies!

Thank you, and my best wishes to your readers.

— Ursula K. Le Guin


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