One of the most respected thinkers and Science Fiction writers of the past century. The works of this futurologist and essayist have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. In 1976, Lem was claimed to be the most widely read science-fiction writer in the world. Born in Lviv in 1921, Lem lived in Kraków from 1946. He died there March 27, 2006.
One of the most respected thinkers and Science Fiction writers of the past century. Born in Lviv in 1921, died in 2006 in Kraków.
Life and Work
Lem was the son of the successful laryngologist, Samuel Lehm and Sabina Woller, a relative of Marian Hemar (he recalls his childhood in the autobiographical, High Castle). He attended the Karol Szajnoch second Grammar School and planned to study at Lviv Technical University but this proved impossible in a city occupied by Soviet troops. Thanks to his father's connections, he was accepted for studies in medicine but they were interrupted during the German occupation, when he worked as a mechanic's assistant and a welder. Lem continued his studies after the war but he did not take his final examinations because he wanted to avoid being drafted. In 1946, the whole family moved to Kraków as they did not wish to accept citizenship of the USSR.
13 Things Lem Predicted About The Future We Live In
Lem's literary career began with periodicals - Kuźnica, Tygodnik Powszechny, Nowy Świat Przygód. Initially, he published poems, later included as an appendix to Wysoki zamek, as well as stories about the occupation. In Nowy Świat Przygód, he also published, in extracts, his first science fiction novel, Man from Mars.
Educated as a physician and scientific theorist, Lem possessed expert knowledge of the theory of evolution, mathematics, robotics, astronomy and physics, as well as a deep acquaintance with literature and many other fields. He became a universal "wisdom seeker", a philosopher, and - at first - a proponent of the developments of science and technology. A master of science fiction, Lem was nevertheless atypical of the writers in that genre. He chose the form in the late 1940s, when the political oppression of Stalinism made open expression in contemporary novels impossible for him. Perhaps due to this conditioning, the world presented in Lem's works differs from the reality known in typical science fiction. Many elements of his reality are constructed in such a way as to create the impression of future normality and daily routine.
The first novel, which faced constant publishing problems due to censorship, was entitled The Hospital of the Transfiguration. Within a contemporary setting of this early work we can already see themes fundamental to Lem's oeuvre: the nature of human thought and identity, and the ethical problems facing science. He continued developing these issues within the genre of science-fiction in subsequent writings, comprising novels, stories and plays. In his space exploration stories, Lem poses questions about the role of necessity and accident in physics, as well as the relation between biology and human culture.
From 1947-50, the writer worked in the Scientific Conservatory headed at that time by Dr Mieczysław Choynowski. After this institution was closed, he found himself in difficult circumstances. The unexpected success of The Astronauts, the first of Lem's science fiction works to be published in book form, meant that the writer decided once and for all to devote himself to science fiction. On the one hand, this allowed him to write about the role of technology in the lives of human beings; on the other, it made evading censorship easier.
In 1953, Stanisław Lem married Barbara Leśniak, a radiologist; their son, Tomasz, was born in 1968. From 1983-88, the writer lived abroad (Berlin, Vienna) before settling again in Kraków. .
As early as in 1961 Jan Błoński drew attention to the multiplicity of shapes in Lem's creative work in Życie Literackie no. 497. Lem touched upon almost all the possibilities afforded to a writer by contemporary science fiction. It could even be said that in his creative work, chronologically compact but quantitatively abundant, he repeated the evolution of the genre: in essence, he began with tales that were simple, trusting and encouraging (The Magellanic Cloud) in order to arrive quite soon at parody (The Star Diaries) and at an apocalyptic and concentrated vision of "the worst of all possible worlds" (Eden). What is more, he systematically tested the literary opportunities that science fiction offers.
He envisions the future development of technology and its consequences for human kind. And finally, he reflects upon the existence and nature of God and transcendence as well as the possibility of communicating with the alien - understood both as unknown forms of intelligent life and as the Other. In his reflections on the basic problems of biology, ethics, and politics, Lem analysed paradoxes which arise within social progress, simultaneously with the mastering of technological barriers. The plots of his novels and stories are at times positive or grotesquely funny, playing with various literary styles and conventions. While rich in philosophical subtexts, Lem's fictions are always engrossing and suspenseful. Stories of individuals (whether humans or fantastic robots) engage the reader with emotions stemming from true contact with the Other, and the confrontation with the limits of one's own nature.
The Many Masks & Faces of Stanisław Lem
Lem's work can be provisionally divided into several groups. After the early stories that were optimistic in tone (and later criticised by the writer himself as "socialist realist"), in the 1960s Lem created works that had the most to do with science fiction while at the same time introducing a specifically understood realism to the genre. I am referring here to novels such as Return from the Stars (1961), Solaris (1961), The Invincible (1964), His Master's Voice (1968) and also to the tales that were published in various collections, and finally together, in Tales of Pirx the pilot (1968). After 1968, Lem returned to this writing formula only once, in his last novel Fiasco (1987).
A somewhat longer life was lived by his works of a grotesque hue that were sometimes even perversely outmoded and linked in a series by their distinctive protagonists, such as the stellar traveller, Ijon Tichy, or the constructors, Trurl and Klapaucjusz. Texts of this kind are characterised by great linguistic invention. They feature technical-feudal neologisms, rhymes, and grotesque terms for the tools of the future world.
The world presented in Lem's works differs from the reality known in typical science fiction primarily because, as a rule, the author does not encourage us to believe he is presenting remarkable things. On the contrary, many elements of Lem's reality are constructed in such a way as to create the impression of future normality and daily routine. Tales of Pirx the pilot is characteristic; here, the Solar System is described as a tamed space, subjected to scientific research and economic exploitation, and even able to sustain tourist activity. This does not mean, however, that it is a safe space
The cover for the American edition of Solaris and still from Steve Soderbergh's 2002 film adaptation. Photo: Tumblr / 20TH CENTURY FOX / East News
Another comparison comes to mind here: the space flights in Tales of Pirx the pilot are presented more or less like long sea voyages at the end of the era of great sailing ships. This feature is underlined, for example, by the stylised decorations of the rocket from the story, Terminus: round, brass, pseudo-windows, in which the lighting has been placed, light-blue maps imitating the colour of marine maps, and finally the half-legendary story about shipwrecked people fighting for survival. In Pirx reality, however, the romanticism of the cosmonaut's profession gradually gives way to routine and that in turn leads to numerous shortcomings. Both the procedures and the equipment leave much to be desired, being a mixture of the newest, and the most outdated, technologies (all of this, obviously, from the point of view of the future).
This combination of experimental novelty and inevitable obsolescence is reflected by the material objects presented in the tales. On the one hand, prototypes of equipment often appear (which, of course, does not guarantee their reliability) and, on the other, there are very precise descriptions of discomfort, destruction, wear and tear, or even flawed construction decisions. The greatest threat to people, however, is not constituted by unreliable technology but by their own limitations. In Ananke, the cause of the spectacular catastrophe is the programmer's pathological perfectionism; in Conditioned Reflex, the error, fatal in its consequences, appears several times when the readings of the unreliable alarm equipment are misinterpreted by the people working there. If the main protagonist usually finds a way out of similar situations, this does not occur as the result of superhero features: Pirx the pilot is presented as an absent-minded dreamer, but, due to intuition, he goes beyond the schematic way of acting. What is more, this daydreaming, an apparently negative feature, conditions the practical effectiveness of Pirx's actions. This model of heroism, strictly connected with a weakness, and attained by a person who is in essence average (which from the point of view of the rules of science fiction writing is a novelty) gives the figure of Pirx a somewhat Conradian nature.
The price of the reader feeling at home in Lem's fantastic worlds is the presence of certain anachronisms. In Eden, where the technology allows for not only inter-planetary travel but also inter-stellar journeys, one of the protagonists uses a petrol lighter. Yet, such situations should be differentiated from obviously humorous anachronisms, such as those that appear in Mortal Engines or The Star Diaries.
Another somewhat paradoxical manifestation of realism is the very artistic and detailed presentation of a reality that appears to the protagonists as alien. Interestingly, these could be manifestations of an extra-terrestrial civilisation or the situation seen on earth by a person from another time. This person can be the victim of physical paradoxes connected with travelling at near light speed Return from the Stars or the beneficiary of being revived after many years The Futurological Congress, which illustrates the same problem in a light-hearted way.
Ari Folman on The Genius of Stanisław Lem
In all these cases, the alienness presented by Lem is convincing; human cognitive schemata are put to the test by a blurring of the distinctions between the living and the dead, the natural and the artificial, the organic and the inorganic. Another sign of strangeness typical of Lem is the degeneration or perversion of the construction conception, usually bringing about a catastrophe, after which only fragments remain to be interpreted. This motif appeared first of all in The Astronauts and then underwent numerous modifications.
Władimir Borisow draws attention to the strength and nature of Lem's images of alienness:
The highest degree of the expressiveness of the linguistic means used by him are testified to by the descriptions of at least two fantastic landscapes. You could look through even a thousand science fiction books and never find such spectacular descriptions of invented phenomena as in the stories about the creations in Solaris - puzzling symmetriads, mimoids, tree-mountains etc. or about Birnam Wood on Titan which, admittedly, did not go anywhere in contrast to Shakespeare's but is constantly changing nevertheless.
One can also talk about Lem the realist from a completely different perspective. He began his exercises in presenting alienness at the end of his early novel, Hospital of the Transfiguration, set during the German occupation. In Jarzębski's opinion, this work presents the same philosophical problems that we know from Lem's mature and canonical works (partly neutralised, however, by the fact that the most difficult questions are asked in this novel by a negative character, the man of letters, Sekułowski).
The remark about the philosophical precedence of The Hospital of the Transfiguration ought to be supported by examples. Let me say, then, that the conflict between cold scientific rationality and human nature, presented in The Hospital of the Transfiguration in the form of a discussion among psychiatrists, will return, for example, in the tale Debate, in the utterances of the rebellious humanoid robot, Calder, and in the thoughts of Pirx, who confronts him. The humanist aspects of the doctor's mission will, in turn, resonate in the figure of the Doctor in Eden and the disturbing descriptions of madness will affect, more often than people, the robots caricaturing our awareness.
Science Fiction Films Adapted from Lem
Poster for Andrei Tarkovsky's 1972 science-fiction film Solaris based on Stanisław Lem's novel, photo: Getty Images
Just as the appearance of Pirx the pilot is a serious reflection on the meeting-point of technology and human nature, so the presence of Ijon Tichy almost always indicates the grotesque character of a work (the exceptions are the untitled but numbered tales about mad inventors added to The Star Diaries and stylised rather on intimate technological horror stories). To the improbable tales of Ijon Tichy, Jerzy Jarzębski attributed features of the tales of Baron Münchhausen (Lem himself, however, stated that any similarity was absolutely unintentional). The whole series makes use of ideas that no longer appear to have any place in "serious" science fiction - time travel (the inconstant numbering of successive voyages is explained by the possible existence of such types of incidents), cases of being lost in a time loop, aliens very similar to humans. This suggests that The Star Diaries is not in essence science fiction sensu stricto but a philosophical tale (on the pattern of Diderot's Jacques the Fatalist), merely making use of an unusual set of props.
Stanisław Lem: Did the Holocaust Shape His Sci-Fi World?
Among the works of philosophical tales, a sizeable group is comprised of texts that are a kind of speciality of Lem's output: anti-utopias presented in a comical way. Degenerate other-planet societies can be allegories of totalitarianism, such as the planet Pinta, where attempts are made to force people to breathe under water, an action supposedly the consequence of an excessive growth of bureaucratic structures responsible for the irrigation of a once-dry globe. At other times, these stories are allegories of chaos and the aimlessness of history, like the globe on which Ijon Tichy sets up a machine to speed up the passage of time so that he can observe successive revolutions and changes of system. Sometimes, texts of this kind become completely serious intellectual experiments, as in the case of the description of a rational race that gains the opportunity to shape, freely, the bodies of its representatives.
The comical features of the Ijon Tichy series ensue as much from the futuristic situational comedy and the ideas going beyond the borders of probability as from the finesse of the linguistic jokes. Both kinds of humour enliven the text of Let's Save the Cosmos attached to some editions of The Star Diaries The open letter from Ijon Tichy calls into existence various grotesquely dangerous or distasteful forms of extra-terrestrial life that nevertheless have to be protected in accordance with the highest standards of ecology.
Ijon Tichy also appeared in the relatively late works, Observation on the Spot, and Peace on Earth, that, under the mask of humour, talk about extremely serious problems: the former about possible future societies, juxtaposing ethics with technology, and about the civilisational implications of non-human anatomical construction (the Entians presented here are a rational race descended from flightless birds). Peace on Earth, meanwhile, talks about disarmament. Here, the similarity to a philosophical tale, or to an allegorical fantasy in the style of Swift's Gulliver's Travels, is even clearer.
Lem's jokes generally have a hidden agenda. The idea in The Cyberiad of a unit connected with the metric system to measure happiness (one hed is the measure of happiness felt by a person taking off a shoe in which there was a nail that had been tormenting him for one kilometre) seems to be purely grotesque. It takes on a deeper meaning, however, when we recall the mathematical apparatus and statistical tools used in psychology and sociology. If, on the other hand, someone is looking to Lem's work for a greater dose of absurd humour, then Mortal Engines is recommended. The structure of the joke is as follows: technologically advanced beings live in feudal societies because it is only there that fairy-tale characters can appear: a cruel tyrant, a brave knight, a king's false adviser or a princess waiting to be married. The list of fairy-tale characters has been changed in only one place, the wizard is replaced by a constructor. This substitution seems to be in accordance with Stanley C. Clarke's thinking, according to which each sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic, whereas the constructor, on the side of good, gives the impression of praising rationalism and science, both of which cope well even in a world of absurd rules. Such a vision would, however, be an oversimplification; rationalism is mercilessly mocked in Automatthew's Friend. The eponymous hero buys a small piece of equipment to be worn in the ear that is capable of maintaining a friendly conversation. When, however, Automateusz accidentally finds himself on a desert island, his electronic friend keeps on suggesting the most rational way out of the situation, suicide.
At the same time as Mortal Engines and The Cyberiad , Dictation Exercises appeared, short and absurd texts full of difficult spellings supposed to help teach his wife's nephew. The texts had to wait until 2001 to be published in book form. Dictation Exercises is characterised by a black, sometimes even quite macabre, humour, for instance, this method of obtaining a vital organ:
In order to prepare it, you should buy a car and race around in it until you run somebody over. The liver, no longer needed by the victim, should be taken out of his insides and placed in the fridge.
The discursive and non-fictional character of Lem's writting is first seen in the relatively early novel, The Astronauts, that considers the Tunguska catastrophe and rocket technology, and is characterised by a relatively small measure of fiction. The aforementioned tendency to present scientific deliberations in an almost unprocessed manner was stronger because Lem chose, as his protagonists, people for whom science and technology constituted an inseparable element of their lives: engineers, doctors, scientists, explorers, pilots. In effect, his novels do not attempt to exploit an alternative compositional scheme in which the main protagonist is a child or a lay-person who could ask questions, naturally and naively, on the subject of the world surrounding them.
The above-mentioned choice is symptomatic because Lem's protagonists, specialising in the cognition of reality, sooner or later find themselves in situations that in fact make lay-persons of them. The author is interested in topics on the borderline of human cognition. The plots of his novels are generally scaffolding for thoughts. It is not strange, therefore, that after a certain time Lem switched to a form expressing those thoughts without fictional additives.
The book crowning the series of canonical works from the 1960s, His Master's Voice, can be somewhat paradoxically called "a novel in the form of an essay". The main protagonist, Peter Hogarth, is an outstanding mathematician who is prone to anthropological deliberations and attempts to read "a letter from the stars" that, despite the commitment of the finest minds, becomes contaminated by typically human militarism. The project, uniting scientists selected to decipher the mysterious message, begins to resemble the Manhattan Project, on account of the location of the research complex in the desert, interference from the authorities, and the hopes nurtured by the state founders of discovering new technologies that could be used as weapons of mass destruction. The last point, however, does not materialise, not even because of the "conspiracy" of Professor Hogarth but because of the random nature of the TREX effect (Transport Explosion). Hogarth sees in this fact the effect of extraordinary carefulness on the part of the Aliens, who had foreseen and prevented all possible destructive readings of the "letter".
Against the background of other novels about contact, The Word of God is different because it expresses complete cognitive failure. Everything that the novel's protagonists can do, despite their undoubted scientific genius, is the creation of another mythology about Contact, making it almost The Word of God and, in addition, protecting it from interpretations that could have fatal consequences for humanity.
An often overlooked aspect of Lem's work is the biting satire of the universalistic claims of humanism in the 1960s. It is not without reason that the key words repeated many times by the protagonists include: communiqué, context, code, transmitter and receiver, terms originating in Jacobson's structuralist teachings about language. The humanists taking part in the Project are, therefore, presented as quite unnecessary, because even if some of their ideas can be regarded as interesting, they do not refer at all to the presupposed aims of the research.
Another text straddling the border between fiction and essay is Golem XIV. Among the fictional elements is an artificial intelligence that far exceeds human intelligence. The rest is a series of lectures presented as the fruit of the thoughts of the eponymous super-computer. It is interesting that Golem suggests a description of evolution consistent with that found in Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene (1976).
Finally, The Philosophy of Chance is also a specific text, arising from a revolt against structuralism (confirming the reading of His Master's Voice suggested above). Admittedly, Lem begins his deliberations about chance from a literary point of view but he moves away from them by formulating a concept of culture as the domain of random processes and then teaches us how to recognise random factors when we instinctively expect to see a cohesive construction set towards a defined aim.
The Philosophy of Chance may not be a particularly expressive continuation of Lem's philosophical writings but two anti-crime stories may serve as such, The Investigation and The Cold (regarded by the author as an improved version of The Investigation ). The two works differ from classical crime stories in that they lack the most important element, a perpetrator. In both cases, he is replaced by a sequence of strange coincidences and, in The Cold, even the solving of the mystery is brought about by chance.
A singular form of Lem's creative output is the description of non-existent books, taking on the form of a review or an introduction to a fictional publication. A perfect vacuum contains mainly reviews of future fictional works while Library of the 21st Century discusses non-existent popular scientific publications. Stanisław Bereś summed up this kind of creative work in a concise sentence:
The literature of fantasy has become transformed into the fantasy of literature.
Lem himself explains the reason for writing these works:
I think that with the passing of the years there grew within me a certain impatience with regard to conscientious, craftsmanlike and slow fictionalisation. In order to change the illumination of an idea into narration you have to work terribly hard, including in extra-intellectual categories. That was one of the main reasons why I took such horrible short-cuts as these books were.
It would be appropriate here to discuss a few of the literary ideas presented in A perfect vacuum. Some of them can be regarded as sketches from which full-length novels might germinate. The longest, "Gruppenführer Louis XVI", describes a mad attempt to create a state, patterned on feudal France but based in Argentina, by a group of refugees from defeated Nazi Germany. There are also parodies of experiments conducted under the banner of roman nouveau, such as You, a torrent of abuse directed at the reader, or Gigamesh. It is worth mentioning a third group of works, related to Library of the 21st Century, projects of future essays, prognoses of future cultural processes or ideas corresponding to Lem's non-fiction writing. For example, there are texts attributed to one Kouska who, with grotesquely exaggerated meticulousness, describes the role of coincidence in human life.
Philip K. Dick: Stanisław Lem is a Communist Committee
Fiasco, or Pessimism
Lem talked reluctantly about his earliest novels, seeing in them too many concessions to socialist realism. The matter turns out to be more complex, however, because none of these supposedly "law-abiding" books offers the smallest mention of future governments of the Communist party, and Lem's praise of science, rationalism and technocracy does not fit in at all well with those ideologised times. It is possible, therefore, to attribute the writer's scepticism towards his earlier works to the fact that they contain an optimism that later he could no longer share.
Lem the pessimist appears most clearly in his last novel, Fiasco, a recapitulation of the motifs included in earlier works. The main protagonist is, in a certain sense, Pirx the pilot ("in a certain sense" because he was resurrected from two bodies, one of which belonged to Pirx, the other to a young pilot who hurried to his aid). The voyage's aim, to make contact with an alien civilisation, recalls The Magellanic Cloud, the planet's inhabitants who "bag themselves up" are like those in Eden, and their military technology resembles the necrocytes from The Invincible. The difference is that in the aforementioned books the people do not have such a destructive instinct, and their desire to make contact with the other side is stronger (Lem directly refers to the concept of a "contact window" - a short period - on the cosmic scale - between civilisation's achievement of a technological level enabling inter-stellar communication and self-destruction or an abandonment of expansion). In Fiasco, both the people and the other side ratchet up the spiral of suspicion, as a consequence of which the planet is destroyed.
The meaning of this fictional solution is clear: Lem thinks that the genetic conditioning of the human race towards violence is so strong that it can become active in even the most inappropriate situations. The myth about progress and joyous expansion is substituted, irreversibly, by a tale about the dark sides of humanity.
Lemistry: A Celebration of the Work of Stanisław Lem
The writing of Stanisław Lem can also be characterised by his favourite motifs. Ideas such as thinking jellies or the miniaturised and mobile weapons moving around in herds like insects, or even robots taking over or parodying the mystic needs of humanity - all of these are visible to everyone who has read several of the writer's most important works. There are also a whole series of subjects repeated with somewhat less intensity but which are also important for the overall picture of his creative work.
One of these is the activity of various kinds of secret services. The childhood game of fabricating fictitious and usually secret documents in Wysoki zamek can be seen as an indication of the writer's early interest in this subject matter. The author himself recalls:
As a pupil I used to produce a lot of important documents: identity cards, certificates, passports, diplomas and legal acts, on the strength of which I received uncounted wealth, noble titles and authority, or else the highest plenipotentiary powers, permits, encoded proofs and cryptograms of the greatest importance - and all of this from a country for which it would be futile to search on a map.
A similar reality, consisting almost exclusively of ranks, documents and secret codes, materialised in the grotesque, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, the fundamental difference being that the protagonist of this tale is only just learning the rules binding the world of secret hierarchies. What's more, the centre of gravity has been moved from joy at the structure of the bureaucratised world into an individual attempt to become alienated from it through a mystically understood Betrayal.
Another often and eagerly repeated motif is a worldwide catastrophe, prompted by humanity's loss of artificially stored information. In Memoirs Found in a Bathtub the cause is extra-terrestrial bacteria that decompose paper. In Peace on Earth , it is a weapon that is the effect of artificial evolution deprived of human control. On this occasion, the catastrophe concerns all the information stored electronically, effectively reversing human development. Finally, Professor A. Dońda's tale, added to The Star Diaries, suggests a humourous supplement to the theory of relativity, postulating the equivalence of matter, energy and information. The effect is such that after crossing a defined threshold beyond which the world is saturated with information, the knowledge created by humanity disappears, leading to the creation of a new universe.
Lem also expressed his obsession with a surfeit of information in another way. In A perfect vacuum , there appears, for example, a text entitled Perycalypsis, that proposes a system of grants to those creators who would refrain from any unnecessary multiplication of the achievements of humanity. In Observation on the Spot , the highly developed civilisation of the Luzanians has to cope with the problem of losing orientation around its own scientific achievements, periodically undertaking the so-called investigation of science (broad-scale research into the resources of their own knowledge).The motif signalled above makes us wonder about the image of science in Lem's writings. The author, who came from a background of firm rationalism, began to turn his attention to its inevitably human and, therefore, limited character. Hence, in the descriptions of the sociological background of research works, there is often an element of the grotesque. This happens not only in the novels of a satirical bent, Stanisław Bereś comments on the parts of Solaris devoted to a description of the state of research:
Impressing with his erudition and his inventiveness, creating hypotheses (a post-modern game with scientific concepts) and at the same time critical towards the mechanisms governing the development of science (the pamphlet tone of the reconstruction of the state of research into the planet), the writer shows the helplessness of humanity in the face of the mysteries of the universe and the inability to go beyond one's own categories and logic
Lem's theological fascinations are also interesting and little discussed. They are often fulfilled in grotesque forms, such as the description of the order of robots (Destructionist Fathers) included in The Star Dairies. However, it's difficult to consider as a joke the title of the aforementioned Summa Technologiae or else His Master's Voice . The latter is particularly interesting: if the undecoded message from the stars is identified with the Gospel, then it constitutes a utopian project of a Holy Book that cannot be exploited for evil purposes (technological novelties arising from partial readings of the "letter" cannot be used as weapons). In this sense, His Master's Voice would suggest a Word of God that would be more human, more humanitarian.
In time, Lem's creativity moved more in the direction of essays and philosophical deliberations. His collections of essays are not as well known as his novels outside of Poland. These works include The Dialogues, Summa Technologiae, The Philosophy of Chance, Fantasy and Futurology, The Sex Wars and The Mystery of the Chinese Room. Yet they do seem to be works that reflect Lem's philosophical system and ideas in the most explicit way.
It is especially in these essays that the reader can enjoy the broad-minded nature of Lem's fascinations and their universal perspective, as well the genius of his predictions about technological and scientific development. In his late years, Lem gave up writing fantastic tales and remained a prolific writer of essays and short stories, continuing to reach an established and enthusiastic audience. Then, he cooperated intensively with Tygodnik Powszechny and Odra. These feature articles concerned the present and future of broadly understood civilisation, and the form was quite traditional and, therefore, far from the bravura of some of his earlier works. The brilliance of his ideas, however, remained the same; for example, in his remark that it is natural that before artificial intelligence there should appear something called "the artificial cretin".
Stanisław Lem was awarded several honourable PhDs (including from Wrocław Technical University, the Jagiellonian University in Kraków, Lvov University and the University of Bielefeld). In 1973, the writer was granted honorary membership of the Association of Science Fiction Writers of America but, because of procedural worries, he refused the ordinary membership that he was offered in 1975. The planetoid, 3836 Lem, was named after the writer.
He died on March 27, 2006 and the urn containing his ashes was laid at the Salwatorski Cemetery. Although he declared himself an agnostic, Lem's funeral, at his family's request, was conducted in accordance with Roman Catholic rites.
Source: Stowarzyszenie Willa Decjusza/Culture.pl & Paweł Kozioł, English translation: Tadeusz Z. Wolański. Edited by Olga Tyszkiewicz, March 2019.
Avatars, Spacemen and Mad Scientists – Poland's Vintage Sci-Fi Treasures
The first Polish Editions of Lem's Works
Man from Mars, 1946.
The Astronauts, 1951.
Sesame and other Tales, 1954.
The Magellanic Cloud, 1954.
Time Not Lost, 1955.
The Star Diaries, 1957.
The Investigation, 1959.
The Invasion from Aldebaran, 1959.
Return from the Stars, 1961.
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, 1961.
The Book of Robots, 1961.
Going into Orbit, 1962.
A Moonlit Night, 1963.
The Invincible and other tales, 1964.
Mortal Engines, 1964.
Summa Technologiae, 1964.
The Cyberiad, 1965.
His Master's Voice, 1968.
Tales of Pirx the Pilot, 1968.
The Philosophy of Chance, 1968.
Fantasy and Futurology, 1970.
A Perfect Vacuum, 1971.
Imaginary Magnitude, 1973.
Essays and Sketches, 1975.
Hospital of the Transfiguration, 1975.
The Cold, 1976.
The Mask, 1976.
Golem XIV, 1981.
Observation on the Spot, 1982.
Man from Mars, 1985.
Library of the 21st Century, 1986.
Peace on Earth, 1987.
The Usefulness of the Dragon, 1993.
Man from Mars, 1994.
Delightful Times, 1995.
Sex Wars, 1996.
Tajemnica chińskiego pokoju, 1996.
Picking Holes, 1997.
The Megabit Bomb, 1999.