Skip links

“A Biographical and Literary Sketch of a great modern writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, the enduring creator of fantasy and science fiction, one for all ages and generations and one for all time”

“A Biographical and Literary Sketch of a great modern writer, Ursula K. Le Guin, the enduring creator of fantasy and science fiction, one for all ages and generations and one for all time”


My dear fellow lovers of literature and you of all nations, opinions and ideas, I bid and ask you to join with me in another voyage of intellectual discovery. I welcome you in this quest and task of attaining and coming to know intellectual honesty and honest discernment. Join with me in this voyage of discovery to get at and find what is valid and authentic in this present world of confusion and come with me in tearing apart the curtain of lies and darkness that hides from us what is truth and facts. 

Today I will undertake to speak of the life and literary work of one of the great novelists and writers of science fiction and fantasy, Ursula Le Guin. For me to even speak or write of this literary and world giant is a great and overwhelming privilege and honor which I undertake with great humility and hesitation. I am, as many of you may know, a fan of English, American, Russian and French literature and I have written of such poets as Keats, Shelley, Byron, Tennyson and Browning and also of such novelists and prose writers as Melville, Conrad, Jane Austen, Dickens, Thackeray and many, many others such as Jack London, Sinclair Lewis and Steinbeck. For me, this writer I speak of and write on is equal to the best.

Ursula Le Guin was born in 1929 and died in 2018 at age 88. She was born in California. Her father was an anthropologist in Berkeley and her mother turned to writing. She had three older brothers and the family had many books. Her reading included science fiction and fantasy and mythology. She attended high school and graduated from Radcliffe where she received a BA degree in French and Italian literature. She obtained a master’s degree in French from Columbia in 1952 and won a Fulbright grant in 1953 and 1954. She married in 1953 and taught French until the birth of her first daughter. The couple moved to Portland, Oregon where the couple would stay the rest of their lives. A second daughter was born in 1959 and a son in1964. She received further Fulbright grants and would continue writing for nearly 60 years. She taught courses at various colleges. She died in 2018 in Portland at age 88. She was irreligious and had an interest in Buddhism and Taoism. She wrote five novels between 1951 and 1961. She wrote her first three novels in 1966 and 1967. 

Her next two books brought critical attention. A Wizard of Earthsea and The Left Hand of Darkness have been described as Le Guin’s masterpieces. She continued to write in the earthsea series and wrote more novels and stories in the 1970s. She returned to the Hainish cycle in the 1990s and from 2003 and on several collections of her work were published. 

She had many influences including Kipling and Lord Dunsany. She was influenced by many classic English writers such as Dickens and Wordsworth and also was influenced by Tolstoy and Borges and others. She also wrote non-fiction, poetry and realistic fiction. Gender and sex are prominent in her works. She explored moral issues in her writing and the political system. She received rapid recognition by the 1970s and also received many awards. Her works have been adapted for radio, TV, films and the stage. 

For me, this writer is one of the very great and her works may be found in the Library of America. She is outstanding and I for one, having read a great deal of her work, cannot cease to admire and read and benefit from her work. I always at the end of the day before retiring return to her novels and short stories with utmost pleasure. 


I acknowledge my debt for this essay to the Wikipedia article on this author.