Quotes: An Agreed, Understood Silence

“Secrecy in Karhide is to an extraordinary extent a matter of discretion, of an agreed, understood silence – an omission of questions, yet not an omission of answers.”

– Ursula K. Le Guin: The Left Hand of Darkness

In the country of Karhide on planet Gethen, acceptable modes of behavior and communication—and through them, people’s social standing—depend on what isn’t said as much as what is. In that sense, the world reminds me of Jane Austen’s novels, where discretion and the ability to read other people’s reactions are highly valued. And as a Finn, I certainly know and sympathize with an understood silence. In Finland, silence—even beyond an understood silence—is normal. In the U.S., for me, silence is a way to connect to my home country and therefore a solace.

Le Guin, Ursula K.: The Left Hand of Darkness. New York, NY: Ace Books, 1976 [originally published 1969], p. 287.

(This quote comes from my 21 new-to-me SFF authors reading project.)

This post has been edited to correct spelling errors and for style.

Serving exactly what it sounds like, the Quotes feature excerpts other people’s thoughts.


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