The Word for World is Forest by Ursula K. Le Guin

★★★★★ (5/5)

A selection of my favourite passages from the book

  • Get enough humans here, build machines and robots, make farms and cities, and nobody would need the creechies any more. And a good thing too. For this world, New Tahiti, was literally made for men. Cleaned up and cleaned out, the dark forests cut down for open fields of grain, the primeval murk and savagery and ignorance wiped out, it would be a paradise, a real Eden. A better world than worn-out Earth. And it would be his world. For that’s what Don Davidson was, way down deep inside him: a world-tamer. He wasn’t a boastful man, but he knew his own size. It just happened to be the way he was made. He knew what he wanted, and how to get it. And he always got it.
  • You want to make this world into Earth’s image, eh? A desert of cement?”
  • That was your choice on New Tahiti. Water and sunlight, or darkness and leaves.
  • No way was clear, no light unbroken, in the forest. Into wind, water, sunlight, starlight, there always entered leaf and branch, bole and root, the shadowy, the complex.
  • The view was never long, unless looking up through the branches you caught sight of the stars. Nothing was pure, dry, arid, plain. Revelation was lacking. There was no seeing everything at once: no certainty.
  • There was nothing to that dream but relief. A sip of bland water. It was the bitter he needed.
  • If the yumens are men, they are men unfit or untaught to dream and to act as men. Therefore they go about in torment killing and destroying, driven by the gods within, whom they will not set free but try to uproot and deny. If they are men, they are evil men, having denied their own gods, afraid to see their own faces in the dark.
  • The fruit of fear is ripening. And I see you gather it. You are the harvester. All that we fear to know, you have seen, you have known: exile, shame, pain, the roof and walls of the world fallen,
  • The most winning characteristic of the rather harsh Cetian temperament was curiosity, inopportune and inexhaustible curiosity; Cetians died eagerly, curious as to what came next.
  • Athshean word for world is also the word for forest.
  • Selver crawled out of the tunnel-door, stood upright, blinked at the rain-grayed, foliage-dimmed brightness of daylight.
  • Only if you listened intently could you hear the rain, too multitudinous a music for one mind to grasp, a single endless chord played on the entire forest.
  • The Athsheans are governed, in so far as they have government, by old women. Intellect to the men, politics to the women, and ethics to the interaction of both: that’s their arrangement.
  • “The yumens poison themselves in order to dream. I saw the dreamer’s look in them after they took the poisons. But they couldn’t call the dreams, nor control them, nor weave nor shape nor cease to dream; they were driven, overpowered. They did not know what was within them at all. So it is with a man who hasn’t dreamed for many days. Though he be the wisest of his Lodge, still he’ll be mad, now and then, here and there, for a long time after. He’ll be driven, enslaved. He will not understand himself.”
  • His brain was entirely occupied by the complex smells of rot and growth, dead leaves, decay, new shoots, fronds, flowers, the smells of night and spring and rain.

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