Help me, find a story by Ursula Le Guin

by | Monday, September 07, 2020

 I am looking for a short story by Ursula Le Guin that I read many years ago growing up in India. The story has stayed with me but I cannot find it, despite many deep dives into the internet. I have posted on reddit, on the Ursula Le Guin fan page on FB and also reached out to the ASU librarians—but with no success. More details below…

In brief, the story is set in a land where people are given some kind of an aptitude test (by the government) and careers suggested for them based on their performance on the test. The main character had always wanted to be an artist but the test says that he has to be a miner. He rails and rants and appeals to over-turn this clear error on their part, but to no avail. He ends up in a mining town/planet/island (I am not sure I remember exactly) and hates it. He keeps appealing the government, but all his requests are turned down. He slowly adjusts to the place, its roughness and brutality – and makes a life. One day he discovers some strange minerals in the mines, and takes it home to play with. Over time he creates a whole array of artistic creations that others come to like. And so it goes. 

Then one day there is an urgent missive from the ministry/government that they had made a mistake — that his tests had indeed showed that he was supposed to be an artist. They say that such an error was unprecedented, but they will make it right. So, he is shipped off to this artists paradise. And once there he realizes he doesn’t like these people – they live in their own heads and it starts driving him nuts. He misses the mining life and people in the mines and wants to go back to his previous life.  Over time he had come to like its rhythms, the rough honesty of the people there and the space he had built for himself with them.

I don’t exactly remember how the story ended – but this is the basic outline.

Growing up, this story resonated with me deeply, and has stayed with me all these years, maybe even influencing how I approach my work as an educator. It speaks to this complicated relationship between innate talent and experience and how both of them play critical roles in making us who we are.

But despite my best efforts I cannot find the story. Hence this post.

To be honest, I have even begun doubting if Le Guin even wrote this story, (though I swear that is what I remember). Actually, some days I even wonder if I read any such story of if I just made the whole thing up. 🙂 

Any help in finding this story would be meaningful to me, and deeply appreciated.

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1 Comment

  1. Gary Swabel

    Hi Punya, the book is call The Dispossessed. Happy to chat sometime about education stuff. I’m the chair of governors a small Multi Academy Trust in the UK.

    Reply

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