The ones who walk away from Omelas

This short story was written by Ursula K. Le Guin. It was the recipient of the 1974’s Hugo and received a Locus nomination.

In the documentary about her life and work, I learned that The dispossessed was how Ursula reacted to this question: where do the people who walk away from Omelas go?  While they are separate stories, I see how they share the same mental space.

It took me half an hour to finish it. I have read none of the Earthsea stories yet, so I don’t know if readers of that series would be interested in this story. It does have a Hainish taste: a story based on a thought experiment. Being already familiar with the plot, it lacked a climactic moment. It didn’t spark any more thoughts than I had already given to the topic when I first learned about it. It’s always wise to avoid related material about short-stories you want to read if you don’t want them to be spoiled. The advice is particularly true for this one. I wish I hadn’t read anything about it.

I liked how it’s built on simple language and a raw metaphor anyone can relate to. Reading it helped me to consolidate this idea of Ursula being not a novelist, but an anthropologist that communicates through fiction. Writing stories about non-existing societies is her way of researching a topic. She lives with the locals, and then she explains to us what it is like.

The anthology I bought, The wind’s twelve quarters, includes a commentary by the author, which helps to understand the state of her mind when she wrote it. There is also the anecdote about how she came up with the word Omelas. That was fun. It humanized the way I picture writers work.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *