Ursula K. Le Guin (1929 – 2018)

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Ola: One of the best fantasy and science fiction writers ever, although she didn’t like that label and preferred to be called a novelist and a poet. A daughter of the famous cultural anthropologist, Alfred Kroeber, who documented the vanishing lifestyles of West Coast Native Americans, Le Guin always put the focus of her novels on people and their varied ways of living.

As she said in an interview with John Wray in 2013 for The Paris Review,

The “hard”–science fiction writers dismiss everything except, well, physics, astronomy, and maybe chemistry. Biology, sociology, anthropology—that’s not science to them, that’s soft stuff. They’re not that interested in what human beings do, really. But I am. I draw on the social sciences a great deal. I get a lot of ideas from them, particularly from anthropology. When I create another planet, another world, with a society on it, I try to hint at the complexity of the society I’m creating, instead of just referring to an empire or something like that.

Piotrek: She was the social scientist’s fantasy writer, just as Tolkien was an heir to the rich tradition of philology and traditional study of myths. Politically not neutral, never shying away from important issues of race, feminism and other forms of inequality. Full of passion, but also smart and well-read in theory. Wise and compassionate.

In literary disputes, she was a staunch defender of what we call genre fiction. I’ve mentioned it before, but let me quote from her Guardian interview from 2016:

Realism is a genre – a very rich one, that gave us and continue to give us lots of great fiction. But by making that one genre the standard of quality, by limiting literature to it, we were leaving too much serious writing out of serious consideration

She wrote reviews for Guardian, including one of Gaiman’s Norse Mythology, and she was harsher than Ola!

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Kazuo Ishiguro with Nobel prize in literature

This is yesterday’s news, but I just wanted to say I’m very happy about it. Japanese-born British author is not really a genre writer, but his latest novel, The Buried Giant, gave me the pretext to devote one review to him. Book Ola liked even more than I did, a rare occurrence 😉

It is a very literary fnobel-ishiguroantasy novel, and he also published dystopian kind-of s/f Never Let Me Go. In the genre world he is, nevertheless, an outsider, possibly a newcomer, albeit a very friendly one. I heartily recommend an excellent interview conducted by David Barr Kirtley on Geek’s Guide to the Galaxy, after a very interesting talk Ishiguro asks Kirtley for genre recommendations. So, you know, if the Swedish Academy is too dumb to give the prize to Le Guin, Ishiguro is also a very good choice 🙂 A writer, who

in novels of great emotional force, has uncovered the abyss beneath our illusory sense of connection with the world

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John Hurt (1940 – 2017)

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Ola: Sir John Hurt – who hadn’t seen him? Unforgettable Elephant Man, Ollivander from Harry Potter franchise, the dictator Adam Sutler from V for Vendetta and Winston Smith from 1984, Kane from Alien – and from Spaceballs – Trevor ‘Broom’ Bruttenholm from Hellboy, Controller from Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Gilliam from Snowpiercer and, for one-hour special episode (and a little bit more, to be precise), War Doctor from Doctor Who. And many more, of course. He was the rare actor who with equal dedication and equanimity accepted roles in contemporary dramas, costume movies, horrors and science fiction flicks. And his presence was always felt.

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Zygmunt Bauman (1925-2017)

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Zygmunt Bauman, Polish-born sociologist and philosopher of a globalized world, the author of renowned books on modernity and Holocaust, on liquid modernity, rootless life, immigrants and terrorists and inequities of the contemporary world, a Pole, a Jew, a whole-hearted European, a communist, a soldier, a patriot, an erudite, one of the most influential and thoughtful contemporary thinkers and (ironically, as he was never an anti-globalist himself) an anti-globalist icon, died today.

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Tove Jansson (1914 – 2001)

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© Aftonbladet

Yes, another Scandinavian writer of children literature – but what can you do? I was enchanted by the Moomins a long, long time ago, and the enchantment still holds, even when I read them now aloud, to kids. We’re talking about books here, mind you – not that dreadful Japanese-European animated series, nor the gloomy Polish puppet animated show (although I still remember the Groke from this show – with a memory of lingering terrified fascination).

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Actually, Tove Jansson wanted to be a painter; she studied art in Sweden, Finland and France, and she painted intermittently throughout her life, both commissioned and private works. The images of the Moomins’ world were also created by her – apparently the prototype for Moomin was Jansson’s caricature of Immanuel Kant. She drew “the ugliest creature imaginable” on the toilet wall and named it Kant after she lost a discussion about the philosopher with her brother. Fortunately, the final image of the Moomin is much more friendly and blobby, with a big, round nose, a big, round belly, short, fat arms and legs, and a thin, slightly incongruous tail. Tove Jansson’s illustrations form the world of Moomins as much as the text – and they are in perfect harmony with each other.

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