The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K. Le Guin (1971)

The Lathe of Heaven is a 1971 science fiction novel by American writer Ursula K. Le Guin. The plot concerns a character whose dreams alter past and present reality. The story was serialized in the American science fiction magazine Amazing Stories. The novel received nominations for the 1972 Hugo and the 1971 Nebula Award, and won the Locus Award for Best Novel in 1972. … The title is from the writings of Chuang Tzu (Zhuang Zhou) — specifically a passage from Book XXIII, paragraph 7, quoted as an epigraph to Chapter 3 of the novel: To let understanding stop at what cannot be understood is a high attainment. Those who cannot do it will be destroyed on the lathe of heaven. Other epigraphs from Chuang Tzu appear throughout the novel. Le Guin chose the title because she loved the quotation. However, it seems that quote is a mis-translation of Chuang Tzu’s Chinese text. In an interview with Bill Moyers for the 2000 DVD release of the 1980 adaptation, Le Guin clarified the issue: …it’s a terrible mis-translation apparently, I didn’t know that at the time. There were no lathes in China at the time that was said. Joseph Needham wrote me and said ‘It’s a lovely translation, but it’s wrong’. She published her rendition of the Tao Te Ching, The Book of the Way and Its Virtue by Lao Tzu, the traditional founder of Taoism (Daoism). … The book is set in Portland, Oregon, in the year 2002. Portland has three million inhabitants and continuous rain. It is deprived enough for the poorer inhabitants to have kwashiorkor, a protein deprivation from malnutrition. Although impoverished, the culture is similar to the 1970s in the United States. There is also a massive war in the Middle East. Climate change reduces quality of life. George Orr, a draftsman and addict, abuses drugs to prevent ‘effective’ dreams that change reality. After one of these dreams, the new reality is the only reality for everyone else, but George retains memory of the previous reality. Under threat of incarceration, Orr undergoes treatment for his addiction. George attends therapy sessions with ambitious psychiatrist and sleep researcher William Haber. …”
The Lathe of Heaven – Ursula K. Le Guin, Reviews & Quote
YouTube: Bill Moyers interview with Ursula K. LeGuin about “Lathe of Heaven” 22:42

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