The Telling


The Telling is a 2000 science fiction novel by Ursula K. Le Guin set in her fictional universe of Hainish Cycle. The Telling is Le Guin's first follow-up novel set in the Hainish Cycle since her 1974 novel The Dispossessed. It tells the story of Sutty, a Terran sent to be an Ekumen observer, on the planet Aka, and her experiences of political and religious conflicts between a corporatist government and the indigenous resistance, which is centered on the traditions of storytelling, locally referred to as "the Telling" (for which the book is named).

The Telling
First Edition Hardback Cover
AuthorUrsula K. Le Guin
IllustratorVictor Stabin
CountryUnited States
GenreScience fiction
Published2000 (Harcourt)
Media typePrint (hardback & paperback)
AwardsLocus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel (2001)
813/.54 21
LC ClassPS3562.E42 T45 2000
Preceded byFour Ways to Forgiveness 

Plot summaryEdit

Sutty, a woman of mixed India/British ancestry, travels from Earth to the planet Aka to provide observations as an outside observer. On Aka, all traditional customs and beliefs have been outlawed by the state. There Sutty experiences and tells of the conflicts there between the Corporation, a repressive State capitalist government, and the native people who resist.

Historical parallelsEdit

Le Guin constructed the recent historical situation of Aka as a parallel to the history of China during the Great Leap Forward and Cultural Revolution.[1] The practice of the Telling is analogous to Taoist and Hindu practices and philosophy, and its suppression to the suppression of religious practices by the Chinese government at the time.

Publication historyEdit

The Telling was published in 2000 as part of the Signed First Editions of Science Fiction series by Easton Press, who describe themselves as releasing 'works of lasting meaning, beauty and importance.'

Reception and critical analysisEdit

It has been noted that The Telling is just as much a story about religion and politics as it is a story about storytelling.[2] It has also been noted as having a standard Le Guin writing approach because it has a clear outside observer/narrator and a setting that includes strongly contrasting civilizations.[3]

Gerald Jonas, reviewing The Telling for The New York Times, found it to be "an anthropological puzzle story" but because the main character Sutty has little personal stake on Aka she comes across as "little more than a mouthpiece for the author's personal vision of the good society."[4]


The Telling won the Endeavour Award which recognizes distinguished novels or collections in 2001.[5] It also won the Locus Award for Best Science Fiction Novel in 2001.[6]


The Telling was translated into Hebrew as ההגדה by Ornit Shachar (אורנית שחר).


  1. ^ " synopsis of The Telling". Archived from the original on 2000-11-21.
  2. ^ Seed, David A Companion to Science Fiction (Blackwell Companions to Literature and Culture), (Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing, 2005), page 417.
  3. ^ Turtledove, Harry The Best Time Travel Stories of the 20th Century, (New York, NY: Del Rey Books, 2005), page 388.
  4. ^ "Science Fiction", The New York Times, October 1, 2000.
  5. ^ "Endeavour Award History". Endeavour Awards. Retrieved 2011-07-10.
  6. ^ "2001 Award Winners & Nominees". Worlds Without End. Retrieved 2011-07-10.

Further readingEdit

  • Bernardo, Susan M.; Murphy, Graham J. (2006). Ursula K. Le Guin: A Critical Companion (1st ed.). Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-33225-8.
  • Cadden, Mike (2005). Ursula K. Le Guin Beyond Genre: Fiction for Children and Adults (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 0-415-99527-2.
  • Hellekson, Karen; Jacobsen, Craig B.; Sharp, Patrick B.; Yaszek, Lisa (2010). Practicing Science Fiction: Critical Essays on Writing, Reading and Teaching (1st ed.). McFarland. ISBN 978-0-7864-4793-0.
  • Moylan, Tom; Baccolini, Raffaella (2003). Dark Horizons: Science Fiction and the Dystopian Imagination (1st ed.). New York, NY: Routledge. ISBN 978-0-415-96613-9.

External linksEdit

  • The Telling at Worlds Without End
  • The Telling in Hebrew at Opus