6:02 pm - Friday April 20, 2018

The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas – Novel and Ebooks

Novel Name: Premium Harmony

Series: The Wind’s Twelve Quarters

Written by: Ursula K. Le Guin

Category: Science, Fiction, Fantasy, Short Stories

Page 1

With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the
city Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In
the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens
and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved.

Some were decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry
women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a
shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance.
Children dodged in and out, their high calls rising like the swallows’ crossing flights, over the
music and the singing.

All the processions wound towards the north side of the city, where on the
great water-meadow called the Green’ Fields boys and girls, naked in the bright air, with mudstained
feet and ankles and long, lithe arms, exercised their restive horses before the race. The
horses wore no gear at all but a halter without bit. Their manes were braided with streamers of
silver, gold, and green.

They flared their nostrils and pranced and boasted to one another; they were vastly excited, the horse being the only animal who has adopted our ceremonies as his own.
Far off to the north and west the mountains stood up half encircling Omelas on her bay.

The air of morning was so clear that the snow still crowning the Eighteen Peaks burned with white-gold
fire across the miles of sunlit air, under the dark blue of the sky.

There was just enough wind to make the banners that marked the racecourse snap and flutter now and then. In the silence of the
broad green meadows one could hear the music winding through the city streets, farther and
nearer and ever approaching, a cheerful faint sweetness of the air that from time to time trembled
and gathered together and broke out into the great joyous clanging of the bells.
Joyous!

How is one to tell about joy? How describe the citizens of Omelas? They were not simple folk, you see, though they were happy. But we do not say the
words of cheer much any more. All smiles have become archaic. Given a description such as this
one tends to make certain assumptions. Given a description such as this one tends to look next
for the King, mounted on a splendid stallion and surrounded by his noble knights, or perhaps in a
golden litter borne by great-muscled slaves. But there was no king. They did not use swords, or
keep slaves.

They were not barbarians. I do not know the rules and laws of their society, but I suspect that they were singularly few. As they did without monarchy and slavery, so they also
got on without the stock exchange, the advertisement, the secret police, and the bomb. Yet I
repeat that these were not simple folk, not dulcet shepherds, noble savages, bland utopians. They
were not less complex than us.

The trouble is that we have a bad habit, encouraged by pedants and sophisticates, of considering happiness as something rather stupid. Only pain is intellectual,
only evil interesting. This is the treason of the artist: a refusal to admit the banality of evil and
the terrible boredom of pain. If you can’t lick ’em, join ’em. If it hurts, repeat it. But to praise
despair is to condemn delight, to embrace violence is to lose hold of everything else. We have
almost lost hold; we can no longer describe a happy man, nor make any celebration of joy. How
can I tell you about the people of Omelas?

They were not naive and happy children – though their children were, in fact, happy. They were mature, intelligent, passionate adults whose lives
were not wretched. O miracle! but I wish I could describe it better. I wish I could convince you.
Omelas sounds in my words like a city in a fairy tale, long ago and far away, once upon a time.
Perhaps it would be best if you imagined it as your own fancy bids, assuming it will rise to the
occasion, for certainly I cannot suit you all. For instance, how about technology? I think that
there would be no cars or helicopters in and above the streets; this follows from the fact that the
people of Omelas are happy people. Happiness is based on a just discrimination of what is
necessary, what is neither necessary nor destructive, and what is destructive. In the middle
category, however – that of the unnecessary but undestructive, that of comfort, luxury,
exuberance, etc. — they could perfectly well have central heating, subway trains,. washing
machines, and all kinds of marvelous devices not yet invented here, floating light-sources,
fuelless power, a cure for the common cold. Or they could have none of that: it doesn’t matter.
As you like it. I incline to think that people from towns up and down the coast have been coming
in to Omelas during the last days before the Festival on very fast little trains and double-decked
trams, and that the train station of Omelas is actually the handsomest building in town, though
plainer than the magnificent Farmers’ Market. But even granted trains, I fear that Omelas so far
strikes some of you as goody-goody. Smiles, bells, parades, horses, bleh. If so, please add an
orgy. If an orgy would help, don’t hesitate. Let us not, however, have temples from which issue
beautiful nude priests and priestesses already half in ecstasy and ready to copulate with any man
or woman, lover or stranger who desires union with the deep godhead of the blood, although that
was my first idea. But really it would be better not to have any temples in Omelas – at least, not
manned temples. Religion yes, clergy no. Surely the beautiful nudes can just wander about,
offering themselves like divine souffles to the hunger of the needy and the rapture of the flesh.
Let them join the processions. Let tambourines be struck above the copulations, and the glory of
desire be proclaimed upon the gongs, and (a not unimportant point) let the offspring of these
delightful rituals be beloved and looked after by all. One thing I know there is none of in Omelas
is guilt. But what else should there be? I thought at first there were no drugs, but that is
puritanical. For those who like it, the faint insistent sweetness of drooz may perfume the ways of
the city, drooz which first brings a great lightness and brilliance to the mind and limbs, and then
after some hours a dreamy languor, and wonderful visions at last of the very arcana and inmost
secrets of the Universe, as well as exciting the pleasure of sex beyond all belief; and it is not
habit-forming. For more modest tastes I think there ought to be beer. What else, what else
belongs in the joyous city? The sense of victory, surely, the celebration of courage. But as we did
without clergy, let us do without soldiers.

The joy built upon successful slaughter is not the right kind of joy; it will not do; it is fearful and it is trivial. A boundless and generous contentment, a magnanimous triumph felt not against some outer enemy but in communion with the finest and fairest in the souls of all men everywhere and the splendor of the world’s summer; this is what swells the hearts of the people of Omelas, and the victory they celebrate is that of life. I really don’t think many of them need to take drooz.

Filed in: Fantasy, Fiction, Science, Short Stories, Ursula K. Le Guin

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