The Day Before the Revolution • 1974 • SF short story by Ursula K. Le Guin

★★★★★

Meta: isfdb. This SF short story appeared August 1974 in Galaxy. I read it in her anthology The Wind’s Twelve Quarters. It won the 1975 Locus and Nebula Awards.

Synopsis: This prologue to Le Guin’s novel The Disposessed follows a day in the life of the famous elderly lady Laia Asieo Odo, who founded the revolution leading to the anarchist society of The Dispossessed. It is the very day before this revolution, and the last day in her life. We follow the afterglow of her dreams about her deceased husband, watch her getting up in a community-organized house, meet guests, goout into the streets feeling the uprising general strike. She struggles with her age, her failing body, her ugliness but also her desire for sex.

Review:  I read this as a kind of preparation for my re-read of Le Guin’s The Dispossessed which is set a couple of generations after the anarchist revolution started in this story. She wrote it directly after that novel to give some emphasis to the revolutionary founder of anarchism in the Hainish universe. I don’t think that it would make much sense as a standalone story, but as a prologue or extension of The Dispossessed, it is just perfect. I feared a longer treatise about anarchism, but found a perfect characters study, instead. It contrasts Shevek, the young male main protagonist in the novel with 72 years old female Odo. The story reflects on love, loss, and grief touching aging, sexuality in older age, and death. It is a very emotional story, full of bittersweet memories but also realistic assessments. Her character is fully set out and believable with her insecurity, stubbornness, and longing.

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