The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Stanislaw Lem, 1921 - 2006

Although probably of little interest to most readers here, I wanted to mention the passing of Stanislaw Lem. I've read several of his books, some of which have been published in new editions over the last decade. Although I'm not a big reader of science fiction, I'm glad to have been introduced to his work by Andrei Tarkovsky's film adaptation of Solaris, and tangentially by another Soviet-era production, Planet of Storms. Regrettably, many of the English translations of Lem's fiction are still difficult to come by.

Although Lem worked in a little-respected genre (and good-naturedly chided himself for it), he was a visionary with a remarkable range. From the complex philosophical issues raised by Solaris to the comical technology-run-amok vignettes in The Cyberiad, Lem is one of those gifted authors whose visions of the future still fascinate in the age of the Mars Rovers and global positioning systems. He also managed to publish a remarkable number of stories that cast a critical eye on the Cold War era in spite of the Soviet censors who had to approve his work for publication.

I consider Stanislaw Lem, along with Karel Capek and Alfred Bestor (to name just two), a literary figure unlikely to ever receive his due. In spite of the Wikipedia observation that his work has been "translated into 41 languages and sold over 27 million copies."

If you're looking for some thoughtful entertainment, consider The Cyberiad, Mortal Engines, or Tales of Pirx the Pilot. If you're up for something more challenging and bleak, try Solaris or one of his other stories of "first contact," Eden, Invincible or Fiasco.