Was impacted by this book twenty odd years ago when I first read it, and the ideas kept coming to mind, though I could only remember the outline of the story–two planets, a habitable moon colonized by anarchist revolutionaries from the home planet, as a compromise so they can build a new society without destabilizing the home one. And the contrast between an anarchist society, which seemed strange but also beautiful in a way, with a market-driven, government-led one.
More: several hundred years later, when the new anarchist society is well established and the propertarian one has evolved further along its lines, one anarchist, Shevek, whose primary work is physics, returns “to unbuild walls.” He learns about the beauties, accomplishments, and dark side of the home planet, about his role in this exchange of ideas, and about the ways in which his own society must be renewed. In parallel, he works out, in order to share equally with all the known worlds, a theory of time–the ways cyclical time, linear time , timelessness, and eternity interact. Amazing book, amazing author. So many writers can put together as compelling a story, but not many can create such a rich landscape of profound ideas and complex development of characters. One of those books I need to go out and buy in order to reread and underline. A few quotes:
“Sacrifice might be demanded of the individual, but never compromise: for though only the society could give security and stability, only the individual, the person, had the power of moral choice–the power of change, the essential function of life…revolution begins in the thinking mind.”
“If we must all agree, all work together, we’re no better than a machine. If an individual can’t work in solidarity with his fellows, it’s his duty to work alone. His duty and his right.”
“The thing about working with time, instead of against it…is that it is not wasted. Even pain counts.”
These quotes are particularly striking to me and I’m thinking a lot about why… what is my work, my essential work, and as I work with time and not against it, when will I really get underway, how will I overcome obstacles, and since I do not live in a society without possessions, family structure, or a need for money, how do these things apply?