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Статьи о жизни и творчестве Станислава Лема

LEM, STANISLAW (1921–    ), Poland

One of the real characters of the genre, Stanislaw Lem is perhaps the best-known SF author to write outside the English language. His scathing deconstruction of the genre has tended to dominate his work: he writes SF that deliberately pursues a different agenda from that of the Anglophone establishment and forswears the trapping of mere ‘entertainment’ so that it may better provide a commentary on humanity free of sentimentality and the slick accoutrements of adventure. Lem's work is learned and worthy.

His best known novel, Solaris (1961) was also the first to be published in translarion (USA, 1970). It is a wonderfully evocative, LITERARY work that describes a form of first contact with an ALIEN entity. A group of scientists have travelled to a distant PLANET, Solaris, to study the immense ocean that covers its surface. Once there, the protagonists all begin to be plagued by disturbing recurring memories that they had previously repressed. They deduce that the ocean is actually one huge, sentient entity, and that for some reason it is revealing their innermost dreams. There is no way to work out why: the alein intelligence is utterly incomprehensible, ‘alien’ in the deepest sense of the word.

Lem makes no assumptions that life elsewhere in the universe will be understood by humans: there is no reason why it should be. And with this realization we see the central concept informing Lem's work, as well as the reason for his apparent distaste for the genre in wich he writes so well: the iniverse is simply too big for human intelligence to grasp, too unimaginably ancient and beyonf our reach, for us to even begin to believe that we may one day conquer it. Lem is not a pessimist, simply a realist struggling to come to terms with the wast maze of life and to provide an alternative to the blatant, uncritical optimism about humanity's destiny that pervades much of Western culture. When Lem looks at the world, he sees a floating island of tiny minds adrift in one very small corner of the universe, its population ignorant of its own place in the grand scale of time and space.

This bleak but well-reasoned realism is a trait that characterizes most of Lem's SF. The Invincible (1964, English translation 1973) is thematically akin to Solaris, as is His Master's Voice (1968, English translation 1983), in that they both confront their human protagonists with an impenetrable, incomprehensible situation.

Much of Lem's work has appeared in translation over the years; it is said that they read even better in their original Polish. Whatever the case, Lem's commentary on and contributions to the genre have been very important. His self-declared point of view is that of an outsider looking in, and we should be grateful for this valuable perspective.

Lem's best short fiction is collected in One Human Minute (English translation, 1986).

Solaris was filmed by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky in 1971 under the same title. Although not strictly adhering to the events detailed in the book, it remains one of the most thoughtful pieces of SF cinema to date.

See Also


Recommended Further Reading

Sirius (1944) by OLAF STAPLEDON; 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) by ARTHUR C. CLARKE; The Fifth Head of Cerberus (1972) by GENE WOLFE

Bibliography (Selected)

Eden (1959, trans. 1989)

Solaris (1961, trans. 1970)

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1961, trans. 1973)

The Invincible (1964, trans. 1983)

The Cyberiad (short stories, 1965, trans. 1974)

Tales of Pirx the Pilot (short stories, 1968, trans. in two vols. 1979 and 1982

His Master's Voice (1968, trans. 1983)

A Perfect Vacuum (short stories, 1971, trans. 1978)

The Futurological Congress (1971, trans. 1974)

Imaginary Magnitude (1973, trans. 1984)

The Chain of Chance (1977, trans. 1978)

One Human Minute (short stories, trans. 1986)

Fiasco (1986, trans. 1987)

The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction / Edited by George Mann. – New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2001. – P. 191-193.


SOLARIS (1971, 165 minutes)

Director: Andrei Tarkovsky

Producer: Mosfilm

Screenplay: Andrei Tarkovsky, Friedrich Gorenstein

Starring: Natalya Bondarchuk, Donatas Banionis, Yuri Jarvet, Nikolai Grinko

Tarkovsky's adaptation of STANISLAW LEM'S Solaris (1961) has to be one of the darkest and most affecting SF mobies ever to be made.

A psychologist (Banionis) is sent from Earth to the space station orbiting the distant PLANET Solaris, chiefly to investigate the strange goings on amongst the crew. He finds a station falling into disrepair and a broken and disconcerted set of people unable to describe their experiences. Soon he finds himself haunted by a manifestation of his dead wife, who appears in a disturbing physical form. He destroys her, but she returns, and in turn the psychologist comes to understand the circumstances behind the mysterious events at the station, as well as questioning the validity of his own sanity.

Solaris is covered by a vast, sentient ocean, and the manifestations are an attempt ny the entity to communicate with the station crew. However, this ALIEN (although it could be a RELIGIOUS analogy for God), remains utterly incomprehensible; there is no level upon which the human beings may come to understand it.

In a scene towards the end of the movie, Solaris replicates a small portion of Earth upon its surface, the family home of one of the characters. This differs from Lem's novel, and suggests two possible interpretations.

Firstly, that if Solaris is not God, then it may in fact represent the human psyche and be, a tangible manifestation of the unconscious, fulfilling our unrequited dreams. Secondly, it shows the character's inability to comprehend the entity that is Solaris. At a moment when he is offered the key to unlocking the nature of the enigmatic alien, he can only realize the human desire for comfort and familiarity.

This is the crux of Solaris. Humanity just doesn't have the necessary level of perception and insight to be able to comprehend the scale of the universe. The entity Solaris remains enigmatic and we can do nothing but long for the comfort of Earth.

Solaris remains one of the most thoughtful of SF movies.

The Mammoth Encyclopedia of Science Fiction / Edited by George Mann. – New York: Carroll & Graf Publishers, 2001. – P. 419.


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© 2001 George Mann