Chapter 7 is about SEX! On “Winter” the planet we are on – gender is not fixed. People become man or woman during a period of the month known as Kemmer and they dont know which they will be! It sort of reminds me of the book testo junkie. So this is fun – talking about the nature of gender. Apparently people on Winter (aka Karhide) always mate with someone of the opposite sex… which is a bit disappointing. But really what I find interesting is that this chapter breaks the frame. What do I mean?
Well we begin the left hand of darkness with one a narrative frame, the reporting of an envoy on his mission. That frames the narrative. Then we have another frame, the escape of the traitor, whose name escapes me, at this moment, but that narrative is within the frame of the envoy, it is just a different perspective of the story.
In this chapter thought we go one level up – and speculate on how Karhie gender was created and we learn that a long time ago planets were seeded with humans as an experiment! MIND BLOWN. You see our frame has been blown open. By asking why these people are the way they are we learn something about the wider world within which they are situated and it is not just a spacial world (one of 1000s planets), but a temporal world (there is a history), and this made me think the meaning of the story and the envoy’s mission was different.
There are other interesting points in this chapter. The impact of this gender on the construction of buildings, social relations, self understanding, presentation, desire. Also speculation on why people would want to make humans in this way: maybe to eliminate war. There is also the question of how important is the individual biology in the face of the environment – in this case the ice of winter. I think about this too in relation to our looming climate crisis. We all wander about reading books by Ursula leguin and swiping left and right – but really in the end – a lot will be determined by whether or not our cities are submerged under water, our plains dry up and other things that at the moment seem out of our control.
The narrator of this section is new as well – a woman from Chiffewar. Where the heck is she from an what is Chiffewar.