The Ones Who Walk Away From the Omerlas by Ursula Le Guin.
Available to read online for free here or in various anthologies; including The Winds Twelve Quarters, first published in 1975.
I was really thrilled to play a small part during Insole Court’s very first Brilliant Books Festival, which celebrated literature for all ages, between the 2nd and 9th March 2019. They asked me to run a short story book club and gave me free-reign, which is brave of them. It really challenged me as although I appreciate short stories as an art form, I don’t read a whole lot of them myself. So I thought I would find something written by an author that I was familiar with.
My love of Ursula is no secret. See here for when I went to a Cardiff Book Talk discussion about her work. Omerla’s was ideal for many reasons; it was available for free online, it had depth and the themes were very in-keeping with other work of hers that I was familiar with.
The short story explores the moral conundrum of one person’s suffering vs the happiness of many. Le Guin explains that she was inspired by William James and The Moral Philosopher and the Moral Life, although she also admits that she was influenced by Dostoevsky. We discussed this theme at length, as well as the uncertain narrator, utopia/dystopia, balance in the world and exploitation. We also explored how Le Guin breaks the fourth wall, and the impacts of it (some of us liked it, others didn’t!).
We also discussed many books, films and TV shows that we thought were similar is someways or were recommend further viewing or reading:
- The Earthsea Quartet by Ursula Le Guin
- Golden Apples in the Sun by Ray Bradbury
- Brain Pickings by Maria Popova – Blog/E-newsletter
- Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
- Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
- East West Street by Phillipe Sands
- Carnage on Netflix
- Roma on Netflix
- They Shall Not Grow Old (Peter Jackson)
It was a really interesting discussion and I would love to hear whether this is something people would like more of… And can anyone else recommend any other compelling short stories?