Tuesday, May 28, 2024

About Lem

Stanisław Lem in 1966 (Source:Wikimedia Commons/Courtesy of his secretary, Wojciech Zemek/https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en)

Piotr Gociek

In the official Year of Stanisław Lem1 (centennial anniversary of his birth), the newest issue of the quarterly New Inscription” (Nowy Zapis) brings a block devoted to the writer, who still remains one of the most valuable goods that was ever exported from Polish culture. The block touches on a range of topics: from the five-text part of “The Universe of Lem” to two articles devoted to visual art. Paweł Chmielewski looks at the famous illustrations by Daniel Mróz (who hated fantasy, but loved illustrating Lem’s books), and Łukasz Maciejewski describes the difficult relationship between the master and those who dreamed converting his prose into film (the title says it all: “I can’t stand these films. Stanisław Lem and cinema”.

In the main block there is a surprise by an unexpected change of places. Łukasz Kucharczyk and Paweł Zaborowski wrote two articles on metaphysics and religion in Lem’s works. And yet the issue also contains a text by Marek Oramus, who struggled with these topics in his great book The Gods of Lem. However, this time Oramus is looking from a different perspective: Futurological Lem” is about how the author adored futurology at first and then rejected it. Well, as one American Sci-Fi writer once wrote (the lot of whom Lem hated, by the way), you cant write about the future because it doesnt exist yet.

Science fiction is therefore primarily a metaphor and a method of creative analysis of the world, and here the most unobvious text draws our attention: Piotr Urbanowicz looks at the writing of the author of Solaris through the glasses of the French anthropologist Bruno Latour in his famous book, The Politics of Nature. And since Lem was the precursor of all kinds of Matrixes, that is, virtual worlds, there had to be a discourse on posthumanism, the prophets of which would like to rewrite our souls on hard drives of electric paradises. This was dealt with in a separate article by Zuzanna Berendt, albeit in a non-obvious context.

There’s certainly a lot of material, intriguing and well-written, and yet the reader is left feeling hungry for more. This is because the feeling of being unsatisfied is justified not with regard to the efforts of the editors and authors of the New Inscription, but more broadly, of all kinds of Lemology2. In recent years, we have been given a biography from the pen of Orliński, we have received an extremely interesting, though sometimes controversial book by Gajewska, The Holocaust and the Stars, but still Polish critics confront Lems most important deliberations too rarely. Probably because its not an easy task.

The article was published in July 2021 in the Do Rzeczy weekly

1 Stanisław Lem was a Polish writer, mainly of science-fiction. His works have been translated into 50 languages and have sold in over 45 million copies. He is most known for his 1961 novel Solaris

2 a reference to Lem’s works as wells as the themes and motifs that stem from them