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The Day Before the Revolution by Ursula K. Le Guin

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“The Day Before the Revolution” is a 1974 science fiction short story by Ursula K. Le Guin. It is about one day in the life on an old revolutionary woman.

I Was Dis-Possessed!

When I was a young and just starting out reading science fiction I read Ursula Le Guin’s book The Dispossessed and, admittedly, hated it. There wasn’t near enough action or stereotypical SF elements in it for me to enjoy it. In the many years since then I have come to appreciate the importance of that book and its political under-pinnings. So when I had the chance to read this story, which could be considered a short prequel to The Dispossessed, I figured it was my chance to redeem myself by showing how much I had learned and matured since then. Well, I guess I have advanced, intellectually speaking, a little bit because I enjoyed this story and found myself wanting to re-read The Dispossessed. That is proof enough that I’ve matured… isn’t it? 😉

Non-spoiler Summary in a Nutshell

National Copper Bank in 1911, Salt Lake City, Utah

Laia is an ugly, old woman who recently had a stroke, yet she is respected immensely by the people who surround her. Why? Because she is a major figure in an anarchist revolution on her home world of Urras that will eventually lead to the events depicted in The Dispossessed. In this story we are treated to a typical day for a revolutionary who is well past her prime, including dreams of her husband, memories of being a political prisoner and dictation of anarchist essays. The question is will she survive long enough to see the changes she fought so hard for really take effect?

My Two Cents…

  • This is NOT an action story by any means, so don’t expect anything too exciting from it.
  • If you haven’t read The Dispossessed (or it has been a long time since you read it) then I HIGHLY recommend you familiarize yourself with that story, otherwise you may find yourself scratching your head after you finish reading “The Day Before the Revolution”.
  • Anyway, regardless of the previous 2 points, this is still a fascinating story. Ursula Le Guin is an excellent writer and that shows in her beautiful descriptions of Laia’s thoughts and actions.

Interesting Tidbits About This Story:

  • Page Count: 9
  • Word Count: 6,233
  • “The Day Before the Revolution” won 3 short story awards in 1975: The Nebula, the Locus and the Jupiter. Impressive!
  • Did you know that Ursula Le Guin was raised in Berkeley, California by her famous anthropologist parents? Yep. You can learn more about this fascinating author at Wikipedia.

Where You Can Find The Day Before the Revolution:

  • This story was originally published in the August 1974 issue of Galaxy Science Fiction.
  • “The Day Before the Revolution” is included in Ursula Le Guin’s excellent collection of short stories The Wind’s Twelve Quarters.
  • You can read an online version of this story at the Harper Collins web site. (Hint: use the Table of Contents button to jump to Chapter 2)

Craving More?

If you liked “The Day Before the Revolution” then may want to check out Ursula Le Guin’s very famous and multiple award winning novel The Dispossessed, which describes events that take place years after this story.