Has Ursula Le Guin ever discussed being influenced by the Kibbutz system in writing her novel The Dispossessed? If she has, do we know to what extent it influenced the book?


2 Answers 2


From the Guardian:

Q: The austere, anti-materialistic, pioneering spirit of the anarchist settlers on Anarres, in The Dispossessed, reminds me a bit of accounts of the very early kibbutzim, set up by idealistic European socialists and anarchists. Did you have this, or any other experimental communities, in mind when you wrote the novel?

UKL: I did indeed "read up on" the kibbutzim when I was planning Anarres. A more important souce was the work of the American pacifist anarchist Paul Goodman and his brother.


According to Le Guin, she did consider the Kibbutzim (and Chinese Commune) movement in relation to the relative gender differences that might be found in utopian society, but cites her main influence overall as being "Engels, Marx, Godwin, Goldman, [Paul] Goodman, and above all Shelley and Kropotkin" which she describes as 'the Utopias' and 'the Anarchists'.

Very well. That sounded reasonable. There was something so decent about him, he was so intelligent and yet so disarmingly naive, that he might well come from a better place than this. But where? The better place; no place. What did I know about Utopia? Scraps of More, fragments of Wells, Hudson, Morris. Nothing. It took me years of reading and pondering and muddling, and much assistance from Engels, Marx, Godwin, Goldman, Goodman, and above all Shelley and Kropotkin, before I could begin to see where he came from, and could see the landscape about him—and yes, in a way it was a prison camp, but what a difference!—and the other people, the people whom his eyes saw; and the place, the other place, to which he was going, and from which I now knew, as he had always known, why he must return. …

Only comparative ethnology offers, so far, any solid evidence on the matter [of sexual differentiation], and the evidence is incomplete and often contradictory. The only going social experiments that are truly relevant are the kibbutzim and the Chinese communes, and they too are inconclusive—and hard to get unbiased information about.

The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

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