The Left Hand of Darkness- Chapter 1


I am reading Left Hand of Darkness with Aya. We are both blogging. Something will come of it, I am not sure what.

How do I write this post? Do I write it for people who have read this book? Do I just write what I feel? Of course I write what is in my spleen.

This book is a book by an anthropologist. We get a structure of society, of kinship, kingship, friendship, we get a discussion of protocol for interaction, we get a notions of gender and sexuality. Sometimes these are introduced via exposition, like that story of the border skirmish. Sometimes these are introduced via the inner ruminations of the narrator, talking about pronouns or referring to certain actions as effeminate or masculine. Sometimes these are introduced via description of events, like the cornerstone made of human blood and bones, and then made from animal blood.

What does it mean to tell a story anthropologically? what other modes are there? This book begins with a framing device. It does not frame the context, like in the arabian nights, these tales are being told one night after another to forestall death. But it frames the story – this is going to be a story, not a regular report, or a log (like in star trek -the captains log). This is interesting – what is this ansible report – it is a story. Stories, as the narrator says has perspective. But this does not make it any less true.

Some quotes and rememberings:

The first investigators called the planet winter

bill dull rufous moon


a man must cast his own shadow

when I say patriotism I mean fear, fear of the other

hire services not people (no slaves)

gongs (instruments, musical)


his was the darkest

self-alienation (capitalism is not the only cause of alienation or is it)

The Ekumen doesn’t rule, it co-ordinates (ecumenical and consensus algorithms blockchain)

insane vs sanity (various people are described as insane or sane, the king, the orgoreyn, mr ai)

an integral man


the common utensil to break ice off beer

Hainish grain

more teeth





musical instruments

32 different meanings

Here is a link to Aya’s chapter 1 post.