The Complete Orsinia

Le Guin – The Complete Orsinia (Malafrena, Songs and Stories)
Edited by Brian Attebery

The Library of America

Ursula K. Le Guin has produced a considerable body of fine work over the course of a long career. Her novels and short stories focus on the human qualities of courage in the face of oppression, optimism, endurance and, above all, freedom.

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“. . . a paean of praise for the triumph of the human spirit over adversity .”

All of these are woven into the richly-detailed world of Orsinia, an imaginary Middle European country. 

Malafrena takes place between the years 1825 and 1830 when Orsinia is a client-state of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and chafing under its impersonal and bureaucratic rule. Itale Sorde, a young man of good provincial stock becomes a student, then a radical Nationalist, determined to help his country throw off the Imperial yoke and become a free nation once more. He leaves his home and inheritance to stake all on challenging the established order through his written work. The story tells of Itale’s struggle against an increasingly angry regime, of those he left behind, and the people he encounters during the fateful five years when turmoil gripped the nations of Europe. 

The Songs and Stories are snapshots of Orsinia taken through time from the twelfth century, through the heartbreak of a failed 1956 uprising, to the Velvet Revolution of 1989 that overthrows the oppressive Stalinist regime. 

In The Complete Orsinia, Le Guin demonstrates her incredible gift of bringing an entire world to life complete with people and places so realistically drawn we could believe they exist. Orsinia is a paean of praise for the triumph of the human spirit over adversity.

Reviewer: Cindy A. Matthews