Kahdesti haarautuva puu

by Ursula K. Le Guin

Other authorsJyrki Iivonen ((KAnt.))
Paper Book, 2009



Call number



Call number



Helsingiss: BTJ, 2009.


There have been eighty requests to send an Observer into the hinterlands of the planet Aka to study the natives. Much to everyone¿s surprise, the eighty-first request is granted, and Observer Sutty is sent upriver to Okzat-Ozkat, a small city in the foothills of Rangma, to talk to the remnants in hiding of a cult practising a banned religion. On Aka, everything that was written in the old scripts has been destroyed; modern aural literature is all written to Corporation specifications. The Corporation expects Sutty to report back so the non-standardised folk stories and songs can be wiped out and the people ¿re-educated¿. But Sutty herself is in for an education she never imagined.

User reviews

LibraryThing member bragan
An observer is sent from Earth to study a world whose official government has embraced a doctrine of progress and control, to the extent of erasing their own history and repudiating their traditions. But when she makes a visit to a rural mountain area, she discovers that there are people who preserve the old ways, practicing a gently spiritual form of religion that the new regime has not entirely wiped out.

I can't exactly say that Le Guin's handling of these societies is heavy-handed or clunky. She's too good a writer for that, and she does make a point of adding in a bit of complexity. But, still, I could never quite manage to fully believe in either of these cultures, or to accept them on their own terms. It was never, ever far from my mind that the author had invented these societies to contrast with each other, to compare with our own societies on Earth, and to make some sort of point about what she believes to be good and bad in human civilizations, and that awareness made me feel a bit too detached from it all. I did find a few aspects of the traditional culture she describes to be interesting, appealing, even mildly insightful. But, for me, it just never quite came together into something satisfying or particularly profound.

It wasn't an unpleasant read or anything, and I'm not sorry I picked it up. But it's definitely not the first Le Guin novel I would recommend to anyone.
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LibraryThing member sturlington
Set in Le Guin's Hainish universe, a young woman from a future Earth, where she has lived underneath a repressive, fundamentalist religious government, travels to the planet of Aka, where religion has been outlawed by a different type of repressive government.

I was so looking forward to reading this book, as it is the only one of the novels set in the Hainish universe that I had left to read, and I had highly enjoyed reading all of the previous novels. However, this one left me wanting. I will say that my expectations were high, and that Le Guin's writing, as always, is excellent. At no point did I want to abandon the story. However, there is very little happening in the book (but there is a lot of telling). The story is just so subtle that it almost seems slight.

The novel is set on the planet of Aka, where a dystopian, corporatist society has been established in which all religion has been outlawed. The protagonist, Sutty, is an observer from Earth who feels somewhat untethered; the change in government occurred while she was traveling to Aka, so the planet she arrived at in no way matched the planet she had prepared to observe. After a while, she is able to escape government minders and travel to the country to get some insight into the religious culture of the Akans before it was forced underground. The primary expression of religion is through storytelling, in which stories are related over and over by knowledgeable "priests/priestesses" to all willing listeners in a process called the "telling." Eventually, Sutty journeys with some of these "priests" to see the last existing library, which is hidden in a remote mountain peak.

Of course, I appreciated this appreciation of storytelling and oral history. But the contrast between the two forms of Akan culture seemed too stark; it was clear that the old way was Good and the new way was Bad. I expect more shades of gray, more ambiguity from Le Guin. Also, I was far more interested in the little snippets of Earth's future history that Sutty related than in what was happening on Aka. I was left wanting.

Well, so-so Le Guin is better than the best of many other writers. This is not a bad book, by any means. It is no Left Hand of Darkness or Dispossessed either. I worry that there is so much in Le Guin's head that she is not letting out. I am so fascinated by this universe she has created. I want more!

Read because I like the author, particularly her books set in the Hainish universe (2013).
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LibraryThing member kmaziarz
Sutty, a young woman serving as an anthropological Observer for the benevolent governing body of the Ekumen, is assigned to the embassy on Aka, once a world adhering to a peaceful, all-encompassing belief system somewhat akin to earth’s Taoism. When she arrives, however, she finds that this belief system has been replaced with a form of corporate totalitarianism (that strongly reminds her of the religious totalitarian government of her own childhood) and that all traces of Aka’s cultural past are eradicated without mercy wherever they are found. Closely monitored by the government and frustrated in her mission to catalog and understand a culture which, to all appearances, no longer exists, Sutty is shocked when she suddenly receives permission to visit a small mountain village rumored to harbor the vestiges of the Akans’ former way of life.

Dogged by an Akan Monitor who is fanatically devoted to the new way of life, Sutty nevertheless gains the trust of the traditional Akans in the mountains, and begins to immerse herself in their deeply beautiful, poetic, and all-pervasive ethos, which Sutty dubs the Telling. Deeply touched by this way of life, Sutty finds herself on a pilgrimage to the Akans’ most sacred site and simultaneously embroiled in the fight to preserve the Telling from the Monitor and those he serves.

A parable for our own culture’s willingness to abandon its cultural heritage, “The Telling” is a lyrical and affecting examination of the conflict between traditional values and technological progress, with no clear winner on either side.
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LibraryThing member fugitive
Le Guin continues her "Hainish" cycle in this work, which complements THE DISPOSSESSED and THE LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS. The author's previous works often explore two colliding concepts, philosophies, or human conditions (e.g., in the LEFT HAND OF DARKNESS it is the concept/condition of gender). In this book, we have a Terran envoy (Sutty) coming from an Earth where fundamentalist religion controls society, to a world where a corporate state outlaws such "backward superstition." Unlike her earlier works, in this book she spends less time fleshing out the societies and characters, and focuses more on the central theme. For that, it is less satisfying than the two books previously mentioned. By not fleshing out her societies the reader is left with a more didactic novel than is the norm for Le Guin.

I enjoyed the book, but must confess that I am a long-time Le Guin fan, and this is a work in a larger spectrum of life-long brilliant writing.
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LibraryThing member whitewavedarling
While this isn't nearly as engaging as much of LeGuin's other work, it is still worth the read. At the same time, it's one of those books that you'll read when you pick it up, but the characters don't drive you back to it as much as some others. If you've read her short stories, in some ways, this is reminiscent of "The Ones who Walk Away from Omelas" for me, though without the same narration. It's a fairly short quick read, but the drive to continue I feel has to come from the reader moreso than coming from the text, unlike most of her other works.… (more)
LibraryThing member MaowangVater
Sutty leaves the rigid book-burning theocracy of Terra to become an envoy to Aka. She studies the language and customs, but arrives a century later on a planet that in the grip of a rigid book-burning anti-religious state that considers the old ideograms that she learned to be a reactionary residue of superstitious times. Then she's unexpectedly given a chance to go into the country in search of the old religion and its last library.… (more)
LibraryThing member raschneid
Spare, thoughtful, and beautiful like all of her Hainish novels. Not heavy on plot, but a fascinating, organic world to explore.
LibraryThing member thesmellofbooks
Has much of the usual magnificence of LeGuin's writing, though with a tad too much Telling in the first half or so of the book. Nevertheless, a satisfying conclusion, and worthwhile read.
LibraryThing member EmScape
Sutty is a Terran envoy of the Ekumen to the world of Aka. The Aka have suppressed and criminalized their ancient “religion” (it isn’t, but that’s the most expedient way to describe it. Think Buddhist.) in order to become Consumer-Producers of the Corporation State and bring their technology up to date with that of Earth and Hain. Sutty’s mission is to learn and preserve The Telling, which is made difficult by the Monitors of the Corporation State (thought police).
I feel like LeGuin conceived of The Telling and wrote the plot around it in order to convey The Telling to us. Which, great. Frankly, I’d like to have heard more of it, but again, much more philosophical and thought-experiment-y than science fiction, per se. Fans of LeGuin will like it. Fans of more science-y, tech-y sci fi will probably not.
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LibraryThing member LisCarey
This is a new Hainish novel, about a young Observer for the Ekumen on her first assignment. Sutty grew up on an Earth dominated by a rigid, repressive religious authority; Aka, the world she is assigned to, is controlled by an extremely rationalistic government, dedicated to advancing as rapidly as possible to catch up with the other Ekumen worlds, and eliminating any remaining vestiges of "primitive" thinking. Sutty's not the only one who has to reexamine all her assumptions; she's just one of the first to realize it. This isn't as good as The Dispossessed, or The Left Hand of Darkness, but it is a good, satisfying story.
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LibraryThing member alwright1
After living through a series of tragedies on a future, dystopian Earth, Sutty plans to travel and study the history and literature of a newly contacted planet for the Ekumen. In the 70 years it takes Sutty to reach the planet, however, major social and governmental changes force the literature, history, and religion of the people underground. Sutty is able to travel deep into a rural area in the mountains where she tries to regain what has been lost.

I was way more connected to Sutty than I have been to Le Guin's other protagonists that I have read. I to understand the Akans with her almost immediately. I enjoyed her growth and the Akan cultural system immensely.
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LibraryThing member selfnoise
A somewhat interesting anthropological "social SF" novel, in the vein of The Dispossessed, but inferior to most of Le Guin's better works. It's not offensively bad, but it's probably only for Le Guin diehards.
LibraryThing member Zathras86
An interesting read, but not Le Guin's best work. There were too many plot threads and hints of depth that never really went anywhere, and I came away from the novel unsure of exactly what the author wanted to say.
LibraryThing member dreamweaversunited
As per usual, LeGuin's writing is magnificent and absorbing; every page is a joy to read, lyrical. I love her account of this society. But as a plot and a story, it doesn't really hold together.
LibraryThing member JBD1
I probably shouldn't have tried to read this before bed during a particularly exhausting time of the year, since I'm sure I missed some of the nuance, but this is still a lovely read in Le Guin's Hainish Cycle.
LibraryThing member Aspenhugger
"Sutty, an Observer for the interstellar Ekumen, has been assigned to Aka, a world in the grip of a materialistic government. The monolithic Corporation State of Aka has outlawed all old customs and beliefs. Sutty herself, an Earthwoman, has fled from a similar monolithic state -- but one controlled by religious fundamentalists.

"Unexpectedly she received permission to leave the modern city where her movements were closely monitored. She travels up the river into the countryside, going from howling loudspeakers to bleating cattle, to seek the remnants of the banned culture of Aka. As she comes to know and love the people she lives with, she begins to learn their unique religion -- the Telling. Finally joining them on a trek into the high mountains to one of the last sacred places, she glimpses hope for the reconciliation of the warring ideologies that have filled their lives, and her own, with grief.

"The Telling is a reflection on the conflict of politics and religion in our modern world, and the story of a spiritual journey through a landscape that is at once very strange and very familiar."
~~front flap

Ursula Le Guin is probably my favorite author, and I have and cherish almost all the books she wrote (and am working on having them all.) I've noticed that as she grew older, her books became simpler, and yet more profound. The book is a thinly disguised warning about the consequences we would all suffer if any fundamental religion became the state.

It's written with her usual spare, poetic language, and the trip into the mountains had echoes of Tibet: the country that has been taken over by China and has had its culture and religion banned. Our hearts bleed for Tibet, just as Sutty's heart grieved for Earth taken over by a fundamentalist religion, and for Aka, taken over by a materialistic state.

The ending promises hope, but it's a slim one. Governments aren't generally willing to give up their power. Since the book was published in 2000, and is the last in the Hainish cycle, we'll never know if the promise came to fruition, or not.

I miss her. Terribly.
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LibraryThing member Gmomaj
Sutty, an Observer from Earth for the interstellar Ekumen, has been assigned to a new world—a world in the grips of a stern monolithic state, the Corporation. Embracing the sophisticated technology brought by other worlds and desiring to advance even faster into the future, the Akans recently outlawed the past, the old calligraphy, certain words, all ancient beliefs and ways; every citizen must now be a producer-consumer. Their state, not unlike the China of the Cultural Revolution, is one of secular terrorism. Traveling from city to small town, from loudspeakers to bleating cattle, Sutty discovers the remnants of a banned religion, a hidden culture. As she moves deeper into the countryside and the desolate mountains, she learns more about the Telling—the old faith of the Akans—and more about herself. With her intricate creation of an alien world, Ursula K. Le Guin compels us to reflect on our own recent history.… (more)
LibraryThing member james.d.gifford
I've been going back through Le Guin on audiobooks this time, and she's always fantastic. The performer for this one was also good. The Daoist element is very clear in this book, and I appreciated the dreamlike quality of the narrative, in particular the shift here away from a dramatic plot. Some readers may find this a shift from the other books in the Hainish Cycle, but I liked it and found it worked particularly well for the audiobook format.… (more)
LibraryThing member sonofcarc
UKL does Tibet. A good book, but the author packs too much into it.
LibraryThing member TheCrow2
If you like high-paced action packed SF you`ll be disappointed. But of course in this case you shouldn`t read Le Guin at all. But all the lovers of slower, philosophical stories about different cultures, traditions and religions will be in for a treat.
LibraryThing member juniperSun
I still am thankful for the dedication LeGuin has to portraying societies living in balance with their world, which serve as an inspiration for those of us hoping to restore (or develop) the same balance here on Earth.
On this second reading, I am more critical of the naivete of Sutty. Surely a highly developed confederacy would use people who were more self-aware, or had come to terms better with their childhood. But perhaps that was part of why she was brought to Aka where more experienced observers had been shut out by the local government, and her experiences as a member of a persecuted religion gave her insights into what was going on.
Favorite quote is really 2 pages (134-5) where Maz Uming explains why people need to keep reminding themselves of the right way to live, i.e. why the Telling is so important in their culture.
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Physical description

302 p.; 22 cm


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