Friday, July 22, 2011


This post is about Ursula K. le Guin's book The Left Hand of Darkness. I don't recommend continuing to read unless you've already read the book.


In this post I will examine all the places where "nusuth" is used. I think it's a word connected specifically to the Handdarata, and I'm trying to figure out if I am correct in that assumption.

...and the first mention of it proves that I remembered correctly! :)

Also, I will separate the this into two sections: from Genly's viewpoint, and Therem's.


"It was an introverted life, self-sufficient, stagnant, steeped in that singular "ignorance" prized by the Handdarata and obedient to their rule of inactivity or non-interference. That rule (expressed in the word nusuth, which I have to translate as "no matter") is the heart of the cult, and I don't pretend to understand it" (60).

Genly's first explanation of the word. Pretty self explanatory.

"Nusuth, the ubiquitous and ambiguous negative of the Handdara" (68).

Genly's second explanation of the word.

"'To tell him the children are well,' he said, then hesitated, and said queitly, 'Nusuth, no matter,' and left me" (107).

Ashe saying that how the children are doing is unimportant. Why?

"I had never made quite sure whether the invitation was a request or a polite command. Nusuth. I was in Orgoreyn to speak for the Ekumen, and might as well begin here as anywhere" (115-6).

Genly using the word himself.

Is he exercising his vocabulary, or is he beginning to learn towards the beliefs (or lack thereof?) of the Handdara?

"Nusuth" (203).

Genly asks forgiveness for the difficult conversation immediately after Therem has rescued him, and this is Therem's response.


"Whether he did thisin shifgrethor against Tibe's men who would kill an unarmed man, or in kindness, I do not know. Nusuth" (78).

Here we see (in addition to a shifgrethor reference that I missed earlier...) a place where Therem uses nusuth. Someone has saved his life for unknown reasons, and Therem says that the reasons for his savior's actions are unimportant.

"Nusuth. . . . My full brother, Arek Harth rem ir Estraven. He was a year older than I. He would have been Lord of Estre. We . . . I left home, you know, for his sake. He has been dead fourteen years" (254).

Therem saying that his brother is unimportant, despite the fact that Arek was his kemmering, and that (I think) that they as good as swore kemmering to each other.

And yet, after saying that it is nusuth, Therem continued on to tell Genly about Arek.


We only get explanations of the word from Genly, who does not fully understand the culture and whose explanations must be taken with a grain of salt. And Therem never explained the word, but he did use it twice.

Also, nusuth is always in italics. 


karen lindsey said...

blog-hopping before i go to bead and came across this. i love this book a lot. even its failures [and leguin said once she had concerns about her failure in terms of the gender really being male, rather than really being both....] even the failures show what she was working at, and how far she had gotten there.

i think, if you don't mind, i'll visit here again when i have time to really feast on you like 'the dispossessed'?

Sarita Rucker said...

I don't mind you poking around at all! :)

Yes I like "The Dispossessed." I read it just after spring break, and I think it's one I'll have to re-visit some time in the future. I've also written about it on this blog.

I hadn't known anything of what le Guin said LHoD after writing it. Can you tell me where you found the interviews? That's something I'd be interested in looking at.


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