Thursday, January 11, 2007

Ursula Le Guin on Fantasy

Fantasy fans may be interested in this article by Ursula Le Guin in the New Statesman, which I read back in December but never got around to mentioning here, owing to the Cybils dominating my brain ! She opens by saying:

Many of us have at least one book or tale that we read as a child and come back to now and then for the rest of our lives. A child or grandchild to read aloud to provides a good excuse, or we may have the courage to return, quite alone, to Peter Rabbit, for the keen pleasure of reading language in which every word is right, the syntax is a delight in itself and the narrative pacing is miraculous. Revisiting a book loved in childhood may be principally an indulgence in nostalgia; I knew a woman who read The Wizard of Oz every few years because it "made her remember being a child". But returning to The Snow Queen or Kim, you may well discover a book far less simple and unambiguous than the one you remembered. That shift and deepening of meaning can be a revelation both about the book and about yourself.

She goes on to discuss the origins of the concept that "fantasy is for children" and then discusses Shakespeare's influence on British fantasy:

Shakespeare may have influenced English literature towards fantasy in a rather particular way. Spenser has Continental counterparts, but A Midsummer Night's Dream and The Tempest do not. Nowhere else in Europe did folk tale, legend, medieval romance, travellers' tales and individual genius coalesce in such works of imagination as those plays. That may be one reason why the literature I am talking about is very largely an English-language phenomenon.

She also praises Saint-Exupéry's The Little Prince, which I must confess I've never yet read and Lewis Carroll's Alice tales...

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