Let me answer a question that some of you may have, being, “Is that the same Ursula K. Le Guin that writes science fiction?” Yes. The author of The Left Hand of Darkness, a sci-fi novel that it is said changed the genre, is also a student of Eastern philosophies.
I had not previously read any translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching, so I cannot make any judgment about Le Guin’s translation / interpretation over any other.
I enjoyed the book. Lao Tzu’s thoughts, as laid out by Le Guin, are insightful as well as third eye opening. I fully expect whatever translation you run across and select to read you will find something in Lao Tzu’s views that will touch your soul and mind.
I am thankful for Le Guin’s interpretations and her construction of this work. I think even the best translations of Lao Tzu must be vague, and full of conflict and interpretation. There is no one left that is a native Chinese speaker of the language of twenty-five hundred years ago. No one left who can put the terms and concepts in complete context. Le Guin has digested these teachings over decades, and compares and contrasts several translations and interpretations, and delivers the messages that she receives in a very fluid and compelling manner.
Each chapter is a single poem or a short series of poems. She includes helpful notes and observations after several chapters of the book, as well as comprehensive notes at the end of the work where she discusses many different translations and explains why she made the selections or judgments that she did.
leaving self behind
and setting self aside
Why let the self go?
To keep what the soul needs.”
I recommend the book to everyone. While at times it is difficult to wrap your mind around, it is short and overall an easy read. You will find something in it that speaks to you.