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Stanislaw Lem

Stanislaw Lem

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Stanisław Lem was a Polish
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

 writer of science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

, philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 and satire
Satire
Satire is primarily a literary genre or form, although in practice it can also be found in the graphic and performing arts. In satire, vices, follies, abuses, and shortcomings are held up to ridicule, ideally with the intent of shaming individuals, and society itself, into improvement...

. He was named a Knight of the Order of the White Eagle. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of the 1961 novel Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

, which has been made into a feature film three times. In 1976 Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon
Theodore Sturgeon was an American science fiction author.His most famous novel is More Than Human .-Biography:...

 said that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world.

His works explore philosophical themes; speculation on technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

, the nature of intelligence
Intelligence
Intelligence has been defined in different ways, including the abilities for abstract thought, understanding, communication, reasoning, learning, planning, emotional intelligence and problem solving....

, the impossibility of mutual communication
Communication
Communication is the activity of conveying meaningful information. Communication requires a sender, a message, and an intended recipient, although the receiver need not be present or aware of the sender's intent to communicate at the time of communication; thus communication can occur across vast...

 and understanding, despair about human limitations and mankind's place in the universe. They are sometimes presented as fiction
Fiction
Fiction is the form of any narrative or informative work that deals, in part or in whole, with information or events that are not factual, but rather, imaginary—that is, invented by the author. Although fiction describes a major branch of literary work, it may also refer to theatrical,...

, but others are in the form of essay
Essay
An essay is a piece of writing which is often written from an author's personal point of view. Essays can consist of a number of elements, including: literary criticism, political manifestos, learned arguments, observations of daily life, recollections, and reflections of the author. The definition...

s or philosophical books. Translations of his works are difficult due to passages with elaborate word formation
Word formation
In linguistics, word formation is the creation of a new word. Word formation is sometimes contrasted with semantic change, which is a change in a single word's meaning...

, alien or robotic poetry, and puns. Multiple translated versions of his works exist.

Youth and education


Lem was born in 1921 in Lwów
Lviv
Lviv is a city in western Ukraine. The city is regarded as one of the main cultural centres of today's Ukraine and historically has also been a major Polish and Jewish cultural center, as Poles and Jews were the two main ethnicities of the city until the outbreak of World War II and the following...

, Poland
Second Polish Republic
The Second Polish Republic, Second Commonwealth of Poland or interwar Poland refers to Poland between the two world wars; a period in Polish history in which Poland was restored as an independent state. Officially known as the Republic of Poland or the Commonwealth of Poland , the Polish state was...

 (now Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

). He was the son of Sabina Woller and Samuel Lem, a wealthy laryngologist
Laryngology
Laryngology is that branch of medicine which deals with disorders, diseases and injuries of the vocal apparatus, especially the larynx. Common conditions addressed by laryngologists include vocal fold nodules and cysts, laryngeal cancer, spasmodic dysphonia, laryngopharyngeal reflux, papillomas,...

 and former physician
Physician
A physician is a health care provider who practices the profession of medicine, which is concerned with promoting, maintaining or restoring human health through the study, diagnosis, and treatment of disease, injury and other physical and mental impairments...

 in the Austro-Hungarian Army
Austro-Hungarian Army
The Austro-Hungarian Army was the ground force of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy from 1867 to 1918. It was composed of three parts: the joint army , the Austrian Landwehr , and the Hungarian Honvédség .In the wake of fighting between the...

. Though raised a Roman Catholic, he later became an atheist "for moral reasons ... the world appears to me to be put together in such a painful way that I prefer to believe that it was not created ... intentionally". After the Soviet occupation of Eastern Poland, he was not allowed to study at the Polytechnic as he wished because of his "bourgeois
Bourgeoisie
In sociology and political science, bourgeoisie describes a range of groups across history. In the Western world, between the late 18th century and the present day, the bourgeoisie is a social class "characterized by their ownership of capital and their related culture." A member of the...

 origin" and only due to his father's connections was accepted to study medicine at Lwów University in 1940. During World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

 and the Nazi occupation
History of Poland (1939–1945)
The history of Poland from 1939 to 1945 encompasses the German invasion of Poland as well as the Soviet invasion of Poland through to the end of World War II. On 1 September 1939, without a formal declaration of war, Germany invaded Poland...

 (1941–1944), Lem survived with false papers, earning a living as a car mechanic and welder, and becoming active in the resistance
Polish resistance movement in World War II
The Polish resistance movement in World War II, with the Home Army at its forefront, was the largest underground resistance in all of Nazi-occupied Europe, covering both German and Soviet zones of occupation. The Polish defence against the Nazi occupation was an important part of the European...

. (Lem's family had Jewish
Jews
The Jews , also known as the Jewish people, are a nation and ethnoreligious group originating in the Israelites or Hebrews of the Ancient Near East. The Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and religion are strongly interrelated, as Judaism is the traditional faith of the Jewish nation...

 ancestors, and thus was in greater danger than they would have already been as Polish citizens and intellectuals.) In 1945, Polish eastern Kresy
Kresy
The Polish term Kresy refers to a land considered by Poles as historical eastern provinces of their country. Today, it makes western Ukraine, western Belarus, as well as eastern Lithuania, with such major cities, as Lviv, Vilnius, and Hrodna. This territory belonged to the Polish-Lithuanian...

 were annexed into the Soviet Ukraine and the family, like many other Poles, was resettled to Kraków
Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

 where Lem, at his father's insistence, took up medical studies at the Jagiellonian University
Jagiellonian University
The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kazimierz . It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world....

. He refused to tailor his answers to the prevailing Lysenkoism
Lysenkoism
Lysenkoism, or Lysenko-Michurinism, also denotes the biological inheritance principle which Trofim Lysenko subscribed to and which derive from theories of the heritability of acquired characteristics, a body of biological inheritance theory which departs from Mendelism and that Lysenko named...

 and failed his final examinations on purpose so as not to be obliged to become a military doctor. Earlier he had started working as a research assistant in a scientific institution and writing stories in his spare time.


Writing career


Lem made his literary debut in 1946 as a poet, and at that time he also published several dime novel
Dime novel
Dime novel, though it has a specific meaning, has also become a catch-all term for several different forms of late 19th-century and early 20th-century U.S...

s. Beginning that year, Lem's first science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 novel Człowiek z Marsa (The Man from Mars) was serialized in the magazine Nowy Świat Przygód (New World of Adventures). Between 1947 and 1950 Lem, while continuing his work as a scientific research assistant, published poems, short stories, and scientific essays. However, during the era of Stalinism
Stalinism
Stalinism refers to the ideology that Joseph Stalin conceived and implemented in the Soviet Union, and is generally considered a branch of Marxist–Leninist ideology but considered by some historians to be a significant deviation from this philosophy...

, all published works had to be directly approved by the communist regime. Lem finished a partly autobiographical novella Hospital of the Transfiguration
Hospital of the Transfiguration
Hospital of the Transfiguration is a book written by Stanisław Lem. It tells the story of a young doctor, Stefan Trzyniecki, who after graduation starts to work in a psychiatric hospital...

 (Szpital Przemienienia) in 1948, but it was suppressed by the authorities until 1955 when he added a sequel more acceptable to the doctrine of socialist realism
Socialist realism
Socialist realism is a style of realistic art which was developed in the Soviet Union and became a dominant style in other communist countries. Socialist realism is a teleologically-oriented style having its purpose the furtherance of the goals of socialism and communism...

. In 1951 he published his first book, Astronauci (The Astronauts
The Astronauts
The Astronauts is the first science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem published as a book, in 1951....

); it was commissioned as juvenile SF and Lem was forced to include many references to the 'glorious future of communism' in it. He later criticized this novel (as well as several of his other early pieces, bowing to the ideological pressure) as simplistic; nonetheless its publication persuaded him to become a full-time writer.

Lem became truly productive after 1956, when the de-Stalinization period
Khrushchev Thaw
The Khrushchev Thaw refers to the period from the mid 1950s to the early 1960s, when repression and censorship in the Soviet Union were partially reversed and millions of Soviet political prisoners were released from Gulag labor camps, due to Nikita Khrushchev's policies of de-Stalinization and...

 in the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 led to the "Polish October
Polish October
Polish October, also known as October 1956, Polish thaw, or Gomułka's thaw, marked a change in the Polish internal political scene in the second half of 1956...

", when Poland experienced an increase in freedom of speech
Freedom of speech
Freedom of speech is the freedom to speak freely without censorship. The term freedom of expression is sometimes used synonymously, but includes any act of seeking, receiving and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used...

. Between 1956 and 1968, Lem authored 17 books. His works were widely translated abroad (although mostly in the Eastern Bloc
Eastern bloc
The term Eastern Bloc or Communist Bloc refers to the former communist states of Eastern and Central Europe, generally the Soviet Union and the countries of the Warsaw Pact...

 countries). In 1957 he published his first non-fiction, philosophical book, Dialogi (Dialogues). Dialogi and Summa Technologiae
Summa Technologiae
Summa Technologiae is a 1964 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. Summa is one of the first collection of philosophical essays by Lem. The book exhibits depth of insight and irony usual for Lem's creations...

 (1964) are his two most famous philosophical texts. The Summa is notable for being a unique analysis of prospective social, cybernetic, and biological advances. In this work, Lem discusses philosophical implications of technologies that were completely in the realm of science fiction
Science fiction
Science fiction is a genre of fiction dealing with imaginary but more or less plausible content such as future settings, futuristic science and technology, space travel, aliens, and paranormal abilities...

 then, but are gaining importance today—for instance, virtual reality
Virtual reality
Virtual reality , also known as virtuality, is a term that applies to computer-simulated environments that can simulate physical presence in places in the real world, as well as in imaginary worlds...

 and nanotechnology
Nanotechnology
Nanotechnology is the study of manipulating matter on an atomic and molecular scale. Generally, nanotechnology deals with developing materials, devices, or other structures possessing at least one dimension sized from 1 to 100 nanometres...

. Over the next few decades, he published many books, both science fiction and philosophical/futurological, although from the 1980s onwards he tended to concentrate on philosophical texts and essays.

Fame


He gained international fame for The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

, a series of humorous short stories from a mechanical universe inhabited by robots (who had occasional contacts with biological "slimies" and human "palefaces"), first published in English in 1974. His best-known novels include Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

 (1961), His Master's Voice
His Master's Voice (novel)
His Master's Voice is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem, first published in 1968. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel in 1983. It is a densely philosophical novel about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission...

 (Głos pana, 1968), and the late Fiasco (Fiasko, 1987), expressing most strongly his major theme of the futility of mankind's attempts to comprehend the truly alien. Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

 was made into a film
Solaris (1972 film)
Solaris is a 1972 film adaptation of the novel Solaris , directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film is a meditative psychological drama occurring mostly aboard a space station orbiting the fictional planet Solaris. The scientific mission has stalled, because the scientist crew have fallen to...

 in 1972 by Russian director Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century....

 and won a Special Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival
Cannes Film Festival
The Cannes International Film Festival , is an annual film festival held in Cannes, France, which previews new films of all genres including documentaries from around the world. Founded in 1946, it is among the world's most prestigious and publicized film festivals...

 in 1972; in 2002, Steven Soderbergh
Steven Soderbergh
Steven Andrew Soderbergh is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and an Academy Award-winning film director. He is best known for directing commercial Hollywood films like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and the remake of Ocean's Eleven, but he has also directed smaller less...

 directed a Hollywood remake
Solaris (2002 film)
Solaris is a 2002 science fiction film and psychological drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone...

 starring George Clooney
George Clooney
George Timothy Clooney is an American actor, film director, producer, and screenwriter. For his work as an actor, he has received two Golden Globe Awards and an Academy Award...

.

In 1982, with martial law in Poland
Martial law in Poland
Martial law in Poland refers to the period of time from December 13, 1981 to July 22, 1983, when the authoritarian government of the People's Republic of Poland drastically restricted normal life by introducing martial law in an attempt to crush political opposition to it. Thousands of opposition...

 declared, Lem moved to West Berlin
West Berlin
West Berlin was a political exclave that existed between 1949 and 1990. It comprised the western regions of Berlin, which were bordered by East Berlin and parts of East Germany. West Berlin consisted of the American, British, and French occupation sectors, which had been established in 1945...

 where he became a fellow of the Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin
Institute for Advanced Study, Berlin
The Institute for Advanced Study in Berlin in an interdisciplinary institute created 1981 in Berlin-Grunewald for studies in natural, social sciences for various research projects. It is a member of the group Some Institutes for Advanced Study....

 (Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin). After that, he settled in Vienna
Vienna
Vienna is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Austria and one of the nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primary city, with a population of about 1.723 million , and is by far the largest city in Austria, as well as its cultural, economic, and political centre...

. He returned to Poland in 1988.

In the early 1990s Lem met with a literary scholar and critic, Peter Swirski
Peter Swirski
Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

, for a series of extensive interviews, published together with other critical materials and translations as A Stanislaw Lem Reader (1997). In the book Lem speaks about a range of issues rarely before touched on in any interview. Moreover, the book includes Swirski's translation of Lem's retrospective essay, 'Thirty Year Later', devoted to Lem's legendary nonfictional treatise, Summa Technologiae. During later interviews in 2005, Lem expressed his disappointment with the genre of science fiction and his general pessimism regarding technical progress. He viewed the human body as unsuitable for space travel, held that information technology drowns people in a glut of low-quality information, and considered truly intelligent robots as both undesirable and impossible to construct.

Lem died in Kraków
Kraków
Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

 on 27 March 2006 at the age of 84 due to heart disease.

Honors and accolades

  • 1957 – City of Kraków's Prize in Literature (Nagroda Literacka miasta Krakowa)
  • 1965 – Prize of the Minister of Culture and Art, 2nd Level (Nagroda Ministra Kultury i Sztuki II stopnia)
  • 1972 – member of commission "Poland 2000" of the Polish Academy of Sciences
    Polish Academy of Sciences
    The Polish Academy of Sciences, headquartered in Warsaw, is one of two Polish institutions having the nature of an academy of sciences.-History:...

  • 1973
    • Prize of the Minister of Foreign Affairs for popularization of Polish culture abroad (nagroda Ministra Spraw Zagranicznych za popularyzację polskiej kultury za granicą)
    • Literary Prize of the Minister of Culture and Art (nagroda literacka Ministra Kultury i Sztuki) and honorary member of Science Fiction Writers of America
      Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
      Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or SFWA is a nonprofit association of professional science fiction and fantasy writers. It was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight under the name Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. and it retains the acronym SFWA after a very brief use of the SFFWA...

  • 1976 – State Prize 1st Level in the area of literature (Nagroda Państwowa I stopnia w dziedzinie literatury)
  • 1979
    • Grand Prix de Littérature Policière
      Grand Prix de Littérature Policière
      The Grand Prix de Littérature Policière is a French literary prize founded in 1948 by author and literary critic Maurice-Bernard Endrèbe. It is the most prestigious award for crime and detective fiction in France...

       for his novel Katar.
    • A minor planet
      Minor planet
      An asteroid group or minor-planet group is a population of minor planets that have a share broadly similar orbits. Members are generally unrelated to each other, unlike in an asteroid family, which often results from the break-up of a single asteroid...

      , 3836 Lem
      3836 Lem
      3836 Lem is a main belt asteroid. It was discovered by Soviet astronomer Nikolai Chernykh on 22 September 1979 at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory. It was named after Stanisław Lem, a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer....

      , discovered by Soviet
      Soviet Union
      The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

       astronomer Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh
      Nikolai Stepanovich Chernykh
      Nikolay Stepanovich Chernykh was a Soviet and Russian astronomer.Chernykh was born in the city of Usman' in Voronezh Oblast...

       in 1979, is named after him.
  • 1981 – Doctor honoris causa honorary degree
    Honorary degree
    An honorary degree or a degree honoris causa is an academic degree for which a university has waived the usual requirements, such as matriculation, residence, study, and the passing of examinations...

     from the Wrocław University of Technology
  • 1986 – Austrian State Prize for European Literature
    Austrian State Prize for European Literature
    The Austrian State Prize for European Literature , also known as the European Literary Award , is a literary prize in Austria awarded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Art to European writers...

  • 1991 – Austrian literary Franz Kafka Prize
    Franz Kafka Prize
    The Franz Kafka Prize is an international literary award presented in honour of Franz Kafka, the German language novelist. The prize was first awarded in 2001 and is co-sponsored by the and the city of Prague, Czech Republic. At a presentation held annually at the end of October in the Old Town...

  • 1994 – member of the Polish Academy of Learning
    Polish Academy of Learning
    The Polish Academy of Arts and Sciences or Polish Academy of Learning , headquartered in Kraków, is one of two institutions in contemporary Poland having the nature of an academy of sciences....

  • 1996 – recipient of the Order of the White Eagle
  • 1997 – honorary citizen of Kraków
    Kraków
    Kraków also Krakow, or Cracow , is the second largest and one of the oldest cities in Poland. Situated on the Vistula River in the Lesser Poland region, the city dates back to the 7th century. Kraków has traditionally been one of the leading centres of Polish academic, cultural, and artistic life...

  • 1998 – Doctor honoris causa: University of Opole
    University of Opole
    Opole University is a university in Opole. It was founded in 1994 from a merger of two other educational institutions.It has eight faculties:* Faculty of Philology;* Faculty of History and Pedagogy,* Faculty of Theology,...

    , Lviv University
    Lviv University
    The Lviv University or officially the Ivan Franko National University of Lviv is the oldest continuously operating university in Ukraine...

    , Jagiellonian University
    Jagiellonian University
    The Jagiellonian University was established in 1364 by Casimir III the Great in Kazimierz . It is the oldest university in Poland, the second oldest university in Central Europe and one of the oldest universities in the world....

  • 2003 – Doctor honoris causa of the University of Bielefeld
  • 2007 – A street in Kraków is to be named in his honour.
  • 2009 – A street in Wieliczka
    Wieliczka
    -External links:***...

     was named in his honour
  • 2011 – An interactive Google logo inspired by The Cyberiad
    The Cyberiad
    The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

     was created and published in his honor for the 60th anniversary of his first published book: The Astronauts
    The Astronauts
    The Astronauts is the first science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem published as a book, in 1951....

    .

SFWA controversy


Lem was awarded an honorary membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America
Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, or SFWA is a nonprofit association of professional science fiction and fantasy writers. It was founded in 1965 by Damon Knight under the name Science Fiction Writers of America, Inc. and it retains the acronym SFWA after a very brief use of the SFFWA...

 (SFWA) in 1973 despite being technically ineligible. SFWA Honorary membership is given to people who do not meet the criteria for joining the regular membership but who would be welcomed as members. Lem, however, never had a high opinion of American science-fiction—particularly the works of Harlan Ellison
Harlan Ellison
Harlan Jay Ellison is an American writer. His principal genre is speculative fiction.His published works include over 1,700 short stories, novellas, screenplays, teleplays, essays, a wide range of criticism covering literature, film, television, and print media...

—describing it as ill thought-out, poorly written, and interested more in making money than in ideas or new literary forms. After his American publication, when he was eligible for regular membership, his honorary membership was rescinded. Some of the SFWA members apparently intended this as a rebuke, and it seems that Lem interpreted it thus, but the organization's official line is that honorary membership is only extended to people who are not eligible for regular membership. After his American publication, Lem was invited to stay on with the organization with a regular membership, but declined.

Lem singled out only one American SF writer for praise, Philip K. Dick
Philip K. Dick
Philip Kindred Dick was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered...

—see the 1986 English-language anthology of his critical essays, Microworlds. Dick, however, considered Lem to be a composite committee operating on orders of the Communist party
Communist party
A political party described as a Communist party includes those that advocate the application of the social principles of communism through a communist form of government...

 to gain control over public opinion, and wrote a letter to the FBI to that effect. After many members (including Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin
Ursula Kroeber Le Guin is an American author. She has written novels, poetry, children's books, essays, and short stories, notably in fantasy and science fiction...

) protested Lem's treatment by the SFWA, a member offered to pay his dues. Lem never accepted the offer. He had also been critical of science fiction in general.

Themes



Lem's work displays several recurring themes. The first major grouping of his fiction falls into a more traditional understanding of science fiction, with elements including speculation on technological advances, space travel and alien worlds. This group includes such works as Eden
Eden (novel)
Eden is a 1959 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It was first published in English in 1989 .-Plot:A starship crew – a captain, a doctor, an engineer and a chemist, a physicist and a cyberneticist – crash land for an unknown reason on an alien world they call Eden...

 (1959), Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars is one of the better known science fiction novels of Stanisław Lem, the most famous Polish science-fiction author. Written in 1961, it revolves around the story of a cosmonaut returning to his homeworld, Earth, and finding it a completely different place than when he left....

 (1961), Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

 (1961), The Invincible
The Invincible
The Invincible is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem and published in 1964. It originally appeared as the title story in Lem's collection Niezwyciężony i inne opowiadania . A translation into German was published in 1967; an English translation by Wendayne Ackerman of the German...

 (1964), His Master's Voice
His Master's Voice (novel)
His Master's Voice is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem, first published in 1968. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel in 1983. It is a densely philosophical novel about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission...

 (1968), and Tales of Pirx the Pilot
Tales of Pirx the Pilot
Stanisław Lem's Tales of Pirx the Pilot , published in Poland in 1968, and translated to English in two parts in 1979 and 1982, is a series of short stories about a spaceship pilot named Pirx...

 (1968). Fable
Fable
A fable is a succinct fictional story, in prose or verse, that features animals, mythical creatures, plants, inanimate objects or forces of nature which are anthropomorphized , and that illustrates a moral lesson , which may at the end be expressed explicitly in a pithy maxim.A fable differs from...

s of a dark nature make up the other grouping. These include The Star Diaries
The Star Diaries
Dzienniki gwiazdowe is a 1971 collection of short stories by Polish writer Stanisław Lem around the character of space traveller Ijon Tichy...

 (1957), Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem, First published English in 1973 , a second edition was published in 1986...

 (1961), and The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

 (1965).

One of Lem's primary themes was the impossibility of communication between humans and profoundly alien civilizations. His aliens are often incomprehensible to the human mind, be they swarms of mechanical insects (in The Invincible
The Invincible
The Invincible is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem and published in 1964. It originally appeared as the title story in Lem's collection Niezwyciężony i inne opowiadania . A translation into German was published in 1967; an English translation by Wendayne Ackerman of the German...

), a living ocean (in Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

) or strangely ordered societies of more human-like beings in Fiasco and Eden
Eden (novel)
Eden is a 1959 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It was first published in English in 1989 .-Plot:A starship crew – a captain, a doctor, an engineer and a chemist, a physicist and a cyberneticist – crash land for an unknown reason on an alien world they call Eden...

, describing the failure of the first contact
First contact (science fiction)
First contact is a common science fiction theme about the first meeting between humans and extraterrestrial life, or of any sentient race's first encounter with another one....

. Lem's book Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars is one of the better known science fiction novels of Stanisław Lem, the most famous Polish science-fiction author. Written in 1961, it revolves around the story of a cosmonaut returning to his homeworld, Earth, and finding it a completely different place than when he left....

 follows an astronaut's adjustment to a radically changed human society after spending 100 years in space. In His Master's Voice
His Master's Voice (novel)
His Master's Voice is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem, first published in 1968. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel in 1983. It is a densely philosophical novel about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission...

 Lem describes the failure of humanity's intelligence in deciphering and truly comprehending an apparent message from space.

He wrote about human technological progress and the problem of human existence in a world where technological development makes biological human impulses obsolete or dangerous. His criticism of most science fiction surfaced in novels (His Master's Voice
His Master's Voice (novel)
His Master's Voice is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem, first published in 1968. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel in 1983. It is a densely philosophical novel about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission...

), literary and philosophical essays (Fantastyka i futurologia) and interviews. In the 1990s Lem forswore science fiction and returned to futurological prognostications, most notably those expressed in Okamgnienie (Blink of an Eye). He became increasingly critical of modern technology in his later life, criticizing inventions such as the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

.

In many novels, humans become an irrational and emotional liability to their machine partners, who are not perfect either. Issues of technological utopias appeared in Peace on Earth
Peace on Earth (novel)
Peace on Earth is a 1987 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. The novel describes in a satirical tone the ultimate implications of the arms race....

, in Observation on the Spot
Observation on the Spot
Observation on the Spot is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem which has not been translated into English. It deals with Ijon Tichy's traveling to a faraway planet, Entia to study their civilization...

, and, to a lesser extent, in The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

.

Lem often placed his characters — like the spaceman Ijon Tichy
Ijon Tichy
Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

 of The Star Diaries
The Star Diaries
Dzienniki gwiazdowe is a 1971 collection of short stories by Polish writer Stanisław Lem around the character of space traveller Ijon Tichy...

, Pirx the pilot (of Tales of Pirx the Pilot
Tales of Pirx the Pilot
Stanisław Lem's Tales of Pirx the Pilot , published in Poland in 1968, and translated to English in two parts in 1979 and 1982, is a series of short stories about a spaceship pilot named Pirx...

), or the narrator of Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars is one of the better known science fiction novels of Stanisław Lem, the most famous Polish science-fiction author. Written in 1961, it revolves around the story of a cosmonaut returning to his homeworld, Earth, and finding it a completely different place than when he left....

 in strange, new settings. Thrust into the unknown, he used them to personify various aspects of the possible futures, often having them balance on the thin line separating his belief in the inherent goodness of humanity and his deep pessimism about human limitations.

He also often deploys a wicked sense of humor in his descriptions of even the darkest human situations, most famously in The Futurological Congress
The Futurological Congress
The Futurological Congress is a 1971 black humour science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem detailing the exploits of the hero of a number of his books, Ijon Tichy, as he visits the Eighth World Futurological Congress at a Hilton Hotel in Costa Rica...

 and Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem, First published English in 1973 , a second edition was published in 1986...

. In this regard, he has sometimes been compared to Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut
Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. was a 20th century American writer. His works such as Cat's Cradle , Slaughterhouse-Five and Breakfast of Champions blend satire, gallows humor and science fiction. He was known for his humanist beliefs and was honorary president of the American Humanist Association.-Early...

 or Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

. Many of his lighter tales are about Ijon Tichy
Ijon Tichy
Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

, a cosmic traveller in his one-man spaceship, whose adventures challenge commonly accepted ideas about things like time travel, the nature of the soul, and the origin of the universe, in a satiric and ironic, yet undeniably logical way.

Three of his novels are likely his most famous. The philosophical Solaris
Solaris (novel)
Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

, filmed three times, is set on an isolated research station above the planet Solaris, which is home to a unique alien lifeform. Głos Pana (His Master's Voice) is a very philosophical - much more so than Solaris - story of a scientific effort to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission, critically approaching humanity's intelligence and intentions in deciphering and truly comprehending a message from space. Finally, The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad
The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

, pointedly subtitled "Fables for the Cybernetic Age", provides a commentary on humanity in the form of a series of comic short stories relating the adventures of two robot
Robot
A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

 'constructors' who handle engineering issues around the galaxy.

Influence


Franz Rottensteiner, Lem's former agent, was instrumental in introducing him to the Western audience, but they later separated on bitter terms. Rottensteiner summarized his importance:

Stanisław Lem, whose works were influenced by such masters of Polish literature
Polish literature
Polish literature is the literary tradition of Poland. Most Polish literature has been written in the Polish language, though other languages, used in Poland over the centuries, have also contributed to Polish literary traditions, including Yiddish, Lithuanian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, German and...

 as Cyprian Norwid
Cyprian Norwid
Cyprian Kamil Norwid, a.k.a. Cyprian Konstanty Norwid is a nationally esteemed Polish poet, dramatist, painter, and sculptor. He was born in the Masovian village of Laskowo-Głuchy near Warsaw. One of his maternal ancestors was Polish King John III Sobieski.Norwid is regarded as one of the second...

 and Stanisław Witkiewicz, chose the language of science fiction as in the communist People's Republic of Poland
People's Republic of Poland
The People's Republic of Poland was the official name of Poland from 1952 to 1990. Although the Soviet Union took control of the country immediately after the liberation from Nazi Germany in 1944, the name of the state was not changed until eight years later...

 it was easier — and safer — to express ideas veiled in the world of fantasy and fiction than in the world of reality. Despite this — or perhaps because of this — he has become one of the most highly acclaimed science-fiction writers, hailed by critics as equal to the likes of H. G. Wells
H. G. Wells
Herbert George Wells was an English author, now best known for his work in the science fiction genre. He was also a prolific writer in many other genres, including contemporary novels, history, politics and social commentary, even writing text books and rules for war games...

 or Olaf Stapledon
Olaf Stapledon
William Olaf Stapledon was a British philosopher and author of several influential works of science fiction.-Life:...

.

Lem's works influenced not only the realm of literature, but that of science as well. For example, Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars
Return from the Stars is one of the better known science fiction novels of Stanisław Lem, the most famous Polish science-fiction author. Written in 1961, it revolves around the story of a cosmonaut returning to his homeworld, Earth, and finding it a completely different place than when he left....

 includes the "opton", which is often cited as the first published appearance of the idea of electronic paper
Electronic paper
Electronic paper, e-paper and electronic ink are a range of display technology which are designed to mimic the appearance of ordinary ink on paper. Unlike conventional backlit flat panel displays, electronic paper displays reflect light like ordinary paper...

.

Other

  • Will Wright's popular city planning game, SimCity
    SimCity
    SimCity is a critically acclaimed city-building simulation video game, first released in 1989, and designed by Will Wright. SimCity was Maxis' first product, which has since been ported into various personal computers and game consoles, and spawned several sequels including SimCity 2000 in 1994,...

    , was partly inspired by Lem's short story, "The Seventh Sally."

  • Lem's works have been used as teaching texts for philosophy students.

  • Texts by Lem were set to music by Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Esa-Pekka Salonen
    Esa-Pekka Salonen is a Finnish orchestral conductor and composer. He is currently Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor of the Philharmonia Orchestra in London and Conductor Laureate of the Los Angeles Philharmonic.-Early career:...

     in his 1982 piece, Floof.

Fiction

  • Man From Mars translated by Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

     (see also :pl:Człowiek z Marsa), 1946. Short novel, originally published in magazine serial form, reissued in the 1990s after a German translation rekindled interest in this very first novel. In 2009 for the first time a long excerpt from Chapter 1 translated into English by Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

     and published with permission of Lem's family in an online literary magazine Words Without Borders
    Words Without Borders
    Words Without Borders is an international magazine opened to international exchange through translation, publication, and promotion of the world’s best writing and authors who are not easily accessible to English-speaking readers....

  • Hospital of the Transfiguration
    Hospital of the Transfiguration
    Hospital of the Transfiguration is a book written by Stanisław Lem. It tells the story of a young doctor, Stefan Trzyniecki, who after graduation starts to work in a psychiatric hospital...

     (:pl:Szpital Przemienienia, written 1948) – partly autobiographical novella about a doctor working in a Polish asylum during the nazi euthanasia program Action T4
    Action T4
    Action T4 was the name used after World War II for Nazi Germany's eugenics-based "euthanasia" program during which physicians killed thousands of people who were "judged incurably sick, by critical medical examination"...

    , published in expanded form in 1955 as Czas nieutracony: Szpital przemienienia. Translated into English by William Brand in 1988. Made in Poland into a film in 1979.
  • The Astronauts
    The Astronauts
    The Astronauts is the first science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem published as a book, in 1951....

     (Astronauci, 1951) – juvenile science fiction novel. In early 21st century, it is discovered that Tunguska meteorite
    Tunguska event
    The Tunguska event, or Tunguska blast or Tunguska explosion, was an enormously powerful explosion that occurred near the Podkamennaya Tunguska River in what is now Krasnoyarsk Krai, Russia, at about 7:14 a.m...

     was a crash of a reconnaissance ship from Venus, bound to invade the Earth. A spaceship sent to investigate finds that Venusians killed themselves in atomic war first. Made into a film in 1960.
  • The Magellanic Cloud
    The Magellanic Cloud
    The Magellanic Cloud is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem . By this novel was inspired the Czech film Ikarie XB-1.-Plot summary:...

     (Obłok Magellana, 1955, untranslated into English)
  • Sezam (1955) – Linked collection of short fiction, dealing with time machines used to clean up Earth's history in order to be accepted into intergalactic society. Not translated into English.
  • Dzienniki gwiazdowe (1957, expanded until 1971) – Collection of short fiction dealing with the voyages of Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

    . Translated into English and expanded as The Star Diaries
    The Star Diaries
    Dzienniki gwiazdowe is a 1971 collection of short stories by Polish writer Stanisław Lem around the character of space traveller Ijon Tichy...

     (1976, translated by Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel is an American translator and author of science fiction. He received a doctorate in Slavistics from Indiana University, and is an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel is also a part-time editor at Harcourt, editing Ursula K...

    ), later published in 2 volumes as Memoirs of a Space Traveller (1982, second volume translated by Joel Stern
    Joel Stern
    Joel M. Stern is Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Stern Stewart & Co., and the creator and developer of Economic Value Added . He is a recognized authority on financial economics, corporate performance measurement, corporate valuation and incentive compensation and is a pioneer and leading...

    ).
  • The Invasion from Aldebaran (:pl:Inwazja z Aldebarana, 1959) – Collection of science fiction stories.
  • The Investigation
    The Investigation
    The Investigation is a science fiction/mystery novel by the Polish writer Stanisław Lem, published in 1959....

     (Śledztwo, 1959; trans. 1974 by Adele Milch) – philosophical mystery novel. The book was made into a short film of the same name by Marek Piestrak in 1973.
  • Eden
    Eden (novel)
    Eden is a 1959 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It was first published in English in 1989 .-Plot:A starship crew – a captain, a doctor, an engineer and a chemist, a physicist and a cyberneticist – crash land for an unknown reason on an alien world they call Eden...

     (1959) – Science fiction novel; after crashing their spaceship on the planet Eden, the crew discovers it is populated with an unusual society. Translated into English by Marc E. Heine as Eden (1989).
  • Mortal Engines (:pl:Bajki robotów,1961) – Also contains The Hunt from Tales of Pirx the Pilot.
  • Return from the Stars
    Return from the Stars
    Return from the Stars is one of the better known science fiction novels of Stanisław Lem, the most famous Polish science-fiction author. Written in 1961, it revolves around the story of a cosmonaut returning to his homeworld, Earth, and finding it a completely different place than when he left....

     (Powrót z gwiazd, 1961; trans. 1980 by Barbara Marszal and Frank Simpson) – SF novel. An astronaut returns to Earth after a 127 year mission.
  • Solaris
    Solaris (novel)
    Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

     (1961) – SF novel. The crew of a space station is strangely influenced by the living ocean as they attempt communication with it. Translated into English from the French translation by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox in 1970. Made into a Russian film
    Solaris (1972 film)
    Solaris is a 1972 film adaptation of the novel Solaris , directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film is a meditative psychological drama occurring mostly aboard a space station orbiting the fictional planet Solaris. The scientific mission has stalled, because the scientist crew have fallen to...

     in 1972, and US film
    Solaris (2002 film)
    Solaris is a 2002 science fiction film and psychological drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone...

     in 2002.
  • Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
    Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
    Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem, First published English in 1973 , a second edition was published in 1986...

     (Pamiętnik znaleziony w wannie, 1961; trans. 1973) – Novel set in the distant future about a secret agent, whose mission is so secret that no one can tell him what it is.
  • The Invincible
    The Invincible
    The Invincible is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem and published in 1964. It originally appeared as the title story in Lem's collection Niezwyciężony i inne opowiadania . A translation into German was published in 1967; an English translation by Wendayne Ackerman of the German...

     (Niezwyciężony, 1964; translated by Wendayne Ackerman from the German translation 1973) – SF novel. The crew of a space cruiser searches for a disappeared ship on the planet Regis III, discovering swarms of insect-like micromachines.
  • The Cyberiad
    The Cyberiad
    The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

     (Cyberiada, 1965; trans. by Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel is an American translator and author of science fiction. He received a doctorate in Slavistics from Indiana University, and is an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel is also a part-time editor at Harcourt, editing Ursula K...

     1974) – collection of humorous stories about the exploits of Trurl and Klapaucius, "constructors" among robot
    Robot
    A robot is a mechanical or virtual intelligent agent that can perform tasks automatically or with guidance, typically by remote control. In practice a robot is usually an electro-mechanical machine that is guided by computer and electronic programming. Robots can be autonomous, semi-autonomous or...

    s. The stories of Douglas Adams
    Douglas Adams
    Douglas Noel Adams was an English writer and dramatist. He is best known as the author of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which started life in 1978 as a BBC radio comedy before developing into a "trilogy" of five books that sold over 15 million copies in his lifetime, a television...

     have been compared to the Cyberiad.
  • His Master's Voice
    His Master's Voice (novel)
    His Master's Voice is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem, first published in 1968. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel in 1983. It is a densely philosophical novel about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission...

     (Głos pana,1968) – SF novel about the effort to translate an extraterrestrial radio transmission. Translated by Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel is an American translator and author of science fiction. He received a doctorate in Slavistics from Indiana University, and is an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel is also a part-time editor at Harcourt, editing Ursula K...

     as His Master's Voice
    His Master's Voice (novel)
    His Master's Voice is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem, first published in 1968. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel in 1983. It is a densely philosophical novel about an effort by scientists to decode, translate and understand an extraterrestrial transmission...

    .
  • Ze wspomnień Ijona Tichego; The Futurological Congress
    The Futurological Congress
    The Futurological Congress is a 1971 black humour science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem detailing the exploits of the hero of a number of his books, Ijon Tichy, as he visits the Eighth World Futurological Congress at a Hilton Hotel in Costa Rica...

     (Kongres futurologiczny, 1971) – An Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

     novella, published in the collection Bezsenność.
  • Ze wspomnień Ijona Tichego; Professor A. Dońda (1971)
  • A Perfect Vacuum
    A Perfect Vacuum
    A Perfect Vacuum is a 1971 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. It is an anthology of reviews of nonexistent books. It was translated into English by Michael Kandel...

     (Doskonała próżnia, 1971) – Collection of reviews of fictional book
    Fictional book
    A fictional book is a book that sometimes provides the basis of the plot of a story, a common thread in a series of books, or the works of a particular writer or canon of work. A fictional book may also be used as a mode of conceit to illustrate a story within a story.-Prominent fictional...

    s. Translated into English by Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel
    Michael Kandel is an American translator and author of science fiction. He received a doctorate in Slavistics from Indiana University, and is an editor at the Modern Language Association. Kandel is also a part-time editor at Harcourt, editing Ursula K...

    .
  • Opowieści o pilocie Pirxie (1973) – Collection of linked short fiction involving the career of Pirx. Translated into English in two volumes (Tales of Pirx the Pilot
    Tales of Pirx the Pilot
    Stanisław Lem's Tales of Pirx the Pilot , published in Poland in 1968, and translated to English in two parts in 1979 and 1982, is a series of short stories about a spaceship pilot named Pirx...

     and More Tales of Pirx the Pilot)
  • Imaginary Magnitude (:pl:Wielkość urojona, 1973) – Collection of introductions to nonexistent books. Also includes Golem XIV
    Golem XIV
    Golem XIV is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem and published in Polish in 1981. In 1985 it was published in English by Harvest Books in the collection Imaginary Magnitude.-Plot:...

    , a lengthy essay/short story on the nature of intelligence delivered by eponymous US military computer. In the personality of Golem XIV, Lem with a great amount of humor describes an ideal of his own mind. Spanish edition: Magnitud imaginaria by Editorial Impedimenta Madrid, 2010.
  • Katar
    Katar (novel)
    The Chain of Chance is a novel by Stanisław Lem, published in 1975. The novel is clearly grounded in the detective fiction genre, but Lem's treatment introduces many nontraditional elements...

     (The Cold, 1975) – borderline SF novel. A former US astronaut is sent to Italy to investigate a series of mysterious deaths. Translated as The Chain of Chance.
  • Golem XIV
    Golem XIV
    Golem XIV is a science fiction novel written by Stanisław Lem and published in Polish in 1981. In 1985 it was published in English by Harvest Books in the collection Imaginary Magnitude.-Plot:...

     (1981) – Expansion of an essay/story from Wielkość urojona.
  • Observation on the Spot
    Observation on the Spot
    Observation on the Spot is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem which has not been translated into English. It deals with Ijon Tichy's traveling to a faraway planet, Entia to study their civilization...

     (:pl:Wizja lokalna, 1982) – Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

     novel about the planet Entia. Not translated into English.
  • Fiasco (Fiasko, 1986, trans. 1987) – SF novel concerning an expedition to communicate with an alien civilization that devolves into a major fiasco.
  • Library of 21st Century (Biblioteka XXI wieku, 1986) – 3 more fictional reviews; translated as One Human Minute
  • Peace on Earth
    Peace on Earth (novel)
    Peace on Earth is a 1987 science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. The novel describes in a satirical tone the ultimate implications of the arms race....

     (Pokój na Ziemi, 1987; transl. 1994) – Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

     novel. A callotomised
    Corpus callosotomy
    Corpus callosotomy is a surgical procedure that disconnects the cerebral hemispheres, resulting in a condition called split-brain....

     Tichy returns to Earth, trying to reconstruct the events of his recent visit to the Moon.
  • The Riddle (Zagadka, 1996) – Short stories collection. Not translated into English.
  • The Fantastical Lem (Fantastyczny Lem, 2001) – Short stories collection. Not translated into English.

Nonfiction


unless noted, not translated into English
  • Dialogi (Dialogs 1957) - Non-fiction work of philosophy. Translated into English by Frank Prengel as Dialogs.
  • Wejście na orbitę (Going into Orbit, 1962)
  • Summa Technologiae
    Summa Technologiae
    Summa Technologiae is a 1964 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. Summa is one of the first collection of philosophical essays by Lem. The book exhibits depth of insight and irony usual for Lem's creations...

     (1964) - Philosophical essay. Partially translated into English.
  • Filozofia Przypadku (Philosophy of Coincidence or The Philosophy of Chance, 1968) - Nonfiction
  • Fantastyka i futurologia (Fantasy and Futurology 1970) - Critiques on science fiction. Some parts were translated into English in the magazine Science Fiction Studies
    Science Fiction Studies
    Science Fiction Studies is an academic journal founded in 1973 by R.D. Mullen. The journal is published three times per year by DePauw University. As the name implies, the journal publishes articles and book reviews on science fiction, but also occasionally on fantasy and horror when the topic...

     in 1973-1975, selected material was translated in the single volume Microworlds (New York, 1986). Includes two important essays on Philip K. Dick
    Philip K. Dick
    Philip Kindred Dick was an American novelist, short story writer and essayist whose published work is almost entirely in the science fiction genre. Dick explored sociological, political and metaphysical themes in novels dominated by monopolistic corporations, authoritarian governments and altered...

    .
  • Rozmowy ze Stanisławem Lemem Interviews with Stanisław Lem, Stanisław Beres, Wydawnictwo Literackie Kraków(1987) ISBN 83-08-01656-1
  • Rozprawy i szkice (Essays and drafts, 1974) - collection of essays on science, science fiction, and literature in general
  • Wysoki zamek (1975) - Autobiography of Lem's childhood before World War II. Translated into English as Highcastle: A Remembrance.
  • Rozprawy i szkice (1975) - Essays and sketches
  • Lube czasy (Pleasant Times, 1995)
  • Dziury w całym (Looking for Problems, 1995)
  • Tajemnica chińskiego pokoju (Mystery of the Chinese Room, 1996) - Collection of essays on the impact of technology on everyday life.
  • Sex Wars
    Sex Wars
    Sex Wars can refer to:* The Feminist Sex Wars of the late 1970s through the 1980s* Sex wars, a novel by Stanisław Lem* Sex Wars , an American game show that ran from 2000-2001* Sex Wars, a novel by Marge Piercy...

     (1996) - essays
  • Dyskusje ze Stanisławem Lemem M. Szpakowska, Interviews with Stanisław Lem, Warszawa 1996
  • Bomba megabitowa (The Megabit Bomb, 1999) - Collection of essays about the potential downside of technology, including terrorism and artificial intelligence.
  • Okamgnienie (A Blink of an Eye, 2000) – Collection of essays on technological progress since the publication of Summa Technologiae
    Summa Technologiae
    Summa Technologiae is a 1964 book by Polish author Stanisław Lem. Summa is one of the first collection of philosophical essays by Lem. The book exhibits depth of insight and irony usual for Lem's creations...

  • Tako rzecze Lem (Thus Spake Lem, 2002) - Interviews with Lem.
  • Mój pogląd na literaturę (My View of Literature, 2003)
  • Krótkie zwarcia (Short Circuits, 2004) - Essays
  • Lata czterdzieste. Dyktanda. (The 40s, 2005) - Lem's works from the 1940s
  • Rasa drapieżców. Teksty ostatnie (The Predator Race 2006) - the last book of Stanislaw Lem contains actual feuilleton
    Feuilleton
    Feuilleton was originally a kind of supplement attached to the political portion of French newspapers, consisting chiefly of non-political news and gossip, literature and art criticism, a chronicle of the latest fashions, and epigrams, charades and other literary trifles...

    s about art, politic and social problems from Polish press "Tygodnik Powszechny
    Tygodnik Powszechny
    Tygodnik Powszechny is a Polish Roman Catholic weekly magazine, focusing on social and cultural issues. Established in 1945 under the auspices of Cardinal Adam Stefan Sapieha, Jerzy Turowicz was its editor-in-chief until his death in 1999. He was succeeded by priest Adam Boniecki.-History:The...

    ".

Dramatic adaptations


Lem was well-known for criticizing the films based on his work, including the famous characterization of Solaris
Solaris (1972 film)
Solaris is a 1972 film adaptation of the novel Solaris , directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film is a meditative psychological drama occurring mostly aboard a space station orbiting the fictional planet Solaris. The scientific mission has stalled, because the scientist crew have fallen to...

 by Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Tarkovsky
Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century....

 as "Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment
Crime and Punishment is a novel by the Russian author Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It was first published in the literary journal The Russian Messenger in twelve monthly installments during 1866. It was later published in a single volume. This is the second of Dostoyevsky's full-length novels following his...

 in space".
  • Der Schweigende Stern
    First Spaceship on Venus
    First Spaceship on Venus, German: Der schweigende Stern , Polish: Milcząca Gwiazda, is a 1960 East German/Polish film directed by Kurt Maetzig and based on the novel The Astronauts by Stanisław Lem...

     (literally The Silent Star, shown in USA as First Spaceship on Venus, German Democratic Republic
    German Democratic Republic
    The German Democratic Republic , informally called East Germany by West Germany and other countries, was a socialist state established in 1949 in the Soviet zone of occupied Germany, including East Berlin of the Allied-occupied capital city...

     – Poland 1960
    1960 in film
    The year 1960 in film involved some significant events, with Alfred Hitchcock's Psycho the top-grossing release in the U.S.-Events:* April 20 - for the first time since coming home from military service in Germany, Elvis Presley returns to Hollywood, California to film G.I...

    ), loosely based on The Astronauts
    The Astronauts
    The Astronauts is the first science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem published as a book, in 1951....

  • Przekładaniec (Layer Cake/Roly Poly, 1968, by Andrzej Wajda
    Andrzej Wajda
    Andrzej Wajda is a Polish film director. Recipient of an honorary Oscar, he is possibly the most prominent member of the unofficial "Polish Film School"...

    )
  • Ikarie XB-1
    Ikarie XB-1
    Ikarie XB-1 is a 1963 Czechoslovak science fiction film directed by Jindřich Polák. It was also edited and dubbed into English for release in the USA, where it is known by its alternate title Voyage to the End of the Universe.-Plot:...

     (in USA as White Planet or Voyage to the End of the Universe, Czechoslovakia 1963) – loosely based on The Magellanic Cloud
    The Magellanic Cloud
    The Magellanic Cloud is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem . By this novel was inspired the Czech film Ikarie XB-1.-Plot summary:...

    , uncredited
  • Solaris (Соля́рис 1968) - by Boris Nirenburg (USSR). TV film based on the novel Solaris
    Solaris (novel)
    Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

  • Solaris
    Solaris (1972 film)
    Solaris is a 1972 film adaptation of the novel Solaris , directed by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film is a meditative psychological drama occurring mostly aboard a space station orbiting the fictional planet Solaris. The scientific mission has stalled, because the scientist crew have fallen to...

     (1972, by Andrei Tarkovsky
    Andrei Tarkovsky
    Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky was a Soviet and Russian filmmaker, writer, film editor, film theorist, theatre and opera director, widely regarded as one of the finest filmmakers of the 20th century....

    )
  • Pirx kalandjai (1973, Hungarian TV)
  • Test pilota Pirxa
    Test pilota Pirxa
    Inquest of Pilot Pirx is a joint Polish//Estonian/Ukrainian 1979 film directed by Marek Piestrak based on the story The Inquest by Stanisław Lem from his short story collection More Tales of Pirx the Pilot. It was adapted for film by Vladimir Valutsky. It is a joint production by Dovzhenko Film...

     or Дознание пилота Пиркса (from Pirx story "The Inquest", joint Soviet (Ukrainian-Estonian)-Polish production 1978
    1978 in film
    The year 1978 in film involved some significant events.-Events:* February 1 - Bob Dylan's film Renaldo and Clara, a documentary of the "Rolling Thunder Revue" tour premieres in Los Angeles, California....

    , directed by Marek Piestrak)
  • Szpital przemienienia (Hospital of the Transfiguration, 1979, by Edward Zebrowski)
  • Victim of the Brain
    Victim of the Brain
    Victim of the Brain is a 1988 film by Dutch director Piet Hoenderdos, loosely based on The Mind's I, a compilation of texts and stories on the philosophy of mind and self, co-edited by Douglas Hofstadter and Daniel C. Dennett...

     (1988, by Piet Hoenderdos) includes adaptation of "The Seventh Sally"
  • Marianengraben (1994, directed by Achim Bornhak, written by Lem and Mathias Dinter)
  • Solaris
    Solaris (2002 film)
    Solaris is a 2002 science fiction film and psychological drama directed by Steven Soderbergh and starring George Clooney and Natascha McElhone...

     (2002, by Steven Soderbergh
    Steven Soderbergh
    Steven Andrew Soderbergh is an American film producer, screenwriter, cinematographer, editor, and an Academy Award-winning film director. He is best known for directing commercial Hollywood films like Erin Brockovich, Traffic, and the remake of Ocean's Eleven, but he has also directed smaller less...

    )
  • Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy
    Ijon Tichy is a fictional character who appears in several works of Stanisław Lem, including The Futurological Congress, Peace on Earth, Observation on the Spot, The Star Diaries and Memoirs of a Space Traveller .-Character:Tichy is a space explorer whose interplanetary...

    : Raumpilot (2007), German TV (ZDF
    ZDF
    Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen , ZDF, is a public-service German television broadcaster based in Mainz . It is run as an independent non-profit institution, which was founded by the German federal states . The ZDF is financed by television licence fees called GEZ and advertising revenues...

    ) miniseries, 6 episodes, directed by Oliver Jahn, after his student's film from 1998.
  • 1
    1 (2008 film)
    1 is the first featured film of the Hungarian director/production designer Pater Sparrow. It is inspired by the science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem.-Plot:...

     (2008, by Pater Sparrow
    Pater Sparrow
    Pater Sparrow is a Hungarian filmmaker and production designer. He graduated from London Film School as a director with a production designer distinction...

    )
  • Solaris
    Solaris (novel)
    Solaris is a 1961 Polish science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem. It is about the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species....

     29 July 2007, BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4
    BBC Radio 4 is a British domestic radio station, operated and owned by the BBC, that broadcasts a wide variety of spoken-word programmes, including news, drama, comedy, science and history. It replaced the BBC Home Service in 1967. The station controller is currently Gwyneth Williams, and the...

     Classic Serial radio play adaptation, 2 one hour episodes, adapted by Hattie Naylor, produced by Polly Thomas.
  • Thirty-Minute Theatre: Roly Poly (1969) - by Michael Hart (Great Britain), scenario of one part was based on the story "Do you exist Mr Jones?"
  • The Congress (2012), directed by Ari Folman
    Ari Folman
    Ari Folman is an Israeli film director, screenwriter and film score composer.-Biography:Ari Folman was born in Haifa to Holocaust survivors. His wife is also a film director...

    .

Opera adaptation

  • The Cyberiad
    The Cyberiad
    The Cyberiad is a series of humorous short stories by Stanisław Lem. The Polish version was first published in 1965, with an English translation appearing in 1974. The main protagonists of the series are Trurl and Klapaucius, the "constructors"....

     (1970; 2nd version 1985), by Krzysztof Meyer
    Krzysztof Meyer
    Krzysztof Meyer is a Polish composer, pianist and music scholar.-Biography:Meyer was born in Cracow. As a boy he played piano and organ. He began his composition study early – in 1954, with Stanisław Wiechowicz...

    ; broadcast by Polish Television (1st act, 1971), staged in Wuppertal (Germany) (1986)

Further reading

  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

    , Stanislaw Lem Reader, Northwestern University Press, 1997, ISBN 0-81011495-X description
  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

    , "Stanislaw Lem." In Science Fiction Writers; Revised Edition. Ed. Richard Bleiler. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1999. 453-466.
  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

    , Between Literature and Science: Poe, Lem, and Explorations in Aesthetics, Cognitive Science, and Literary Knowledge, McGill-Queen's UP, 2000, ISBN 0773520783
  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

    , From Lowbrow to Nobrow, CHAPTER 6, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2005, ISBN 0773530193
  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

     (ed), The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem, McGill-Queen's University Press, 2008, ISBN 0773530479
  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

    , Of Literature and Knowledge: Explorations in Narrative Thought Experiments, Evolution, and Game Theory", CHAPTER 5, Routledge, 2007, ISBN 0415420601
  • Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski
    Peter Swirski is a Canadian scholar and literary critic listed in Canadian Who's Who. Specialist in American literature and American Studies, he is the author of twelve books, including the National Book Award nominated Ars Americana, Ars Politica and the staple of popular culture studies From...

    , "A Taste of Lem—Early Works by the Polish Writer and Polymath Who Has Given His Name to an Asteroid.” Times Literary Supplement April 17 (2009): 14-15.
  • Acta Lemiana Monashiensis ed. Lech Keller, „Acta Polonica Monashiensis" 2002, vol. 2, nr 2 Monash University 2003, 207 p., ISSN 1326-8562 review in Polish
  • Lech Keller, Visions of the Future in the Writings of Stanislaw Lem (Volume 1, "Visions of the Future") Saarbrücken, Germany: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010, 392 p., ISBN 978-3-8383-5900-7
  • Lech Keller, Visions of the Future in the Writings of Stanislaw Lem (Volume 2, "Annotated and Cross-Referenced Primary and Secondary Bibliography of Stanislaw Lem") Saarbrücken, Germany: LAP Lambert Academic Publishing, 2010, 696 p., ISBN 978-3-8383-6942-6
  • Jameson, Fredric
    Fredric Jameson
    Fredric Jameson is an American literary critic and Marxist political theorist. He is best known for his analysis of contemporary cultural trends—he once described postmodernism as the spatialization of culture under the pressure of organized capitalism...

    . "The Unknowability Thesis." In Archaeologies of the Future: This Desire Called Utopia and Other Science Fictions. London and New York: Verso, 2005.
  • Suvin, Darko. "Three World Paradigms for SF: Asimov, Yefremov, Lem." Pacific Quarterly (Moana): An International Review of Arts and Ideas 4.(1979): 271-283.

External links


- maintained by Lem's son and secretary

Obituaries:
  • Life after Lem, Warsaw Voice
    Warsaw Voice
    Warsaw Voice: Polish and Central European Review is an English language newspaper printed in Poland, concentrating on news about Poland and its neighbours. First released in October 1988, it is a general news magazine with sections on political, economic, social and cultural news and with opinions...

     5 April 2006 (cover story)
  • To Solaris and beyond, Philosopher's Zone Australian Broadcasting Corporation discussion about Lem's works; MP3
    MP3
    MPEG-1 or MPEG-2 Audio Layer III, more commonly referred to as MP3, is a patented digital audio encoding format using a form of lossy data compression...

  • Times Online Obituary