Stanisław Lem

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  • fot. Ela Lempp

Born in Lwow in 1921, Lem died in 2006 in Cracow. He is the Polish writer who is the most popular and the most frequently published abroad.

A classic of science fiction, Lem was nevertheless atypical of the writers in that genre - perhaps because he chose it less than freely in the 1940s, when the political oppression of Stalinism made it impossible for him to express himself openly in contemporary novels. Educated as a physician and scientific theorist, Lem possessed expert knowledge of the theory of evolution, mathematics, robotics, astronomy and physics, as well as of literature and many other fields. He became a universal "seeker of wisdom," a philosopher and blazer of the ways opened to mankind by the development of science and technology. His first novel, The Hospital of the Transfiguration, had a contemporary setting. Even here, we can see his central themes: the nature of human thought and human identity, and the ethical problems facing science. Lem then went on to write several score of science fiction novels, stories and plays. In his space exploration stories, Lem poses questions about the role of necessity and accident in physics, biology and human culture; about the future development of technology and its human consequences; about the existence and nature of God and transcendence; about the possibility of communicating with other forms of intelligent life. Taking up basic problems of biology, ethics, and politics, Lem analyzed the paradoxes associated with social progress as new barriers of technological capacity are crossed. The plots of his novels and stories are sometimes positive and sometimes grotesquely funny, making use of and playing games with literary styles and conventions. While always rich in philosophical subtexts, Lem's fictions are always engrossing and suspenseful. After all, they are always the stories of individuals (either humans or fantastic robots) and are steeped in emotions stemming from true contact with the Other and acquaintance with the limits of one's own nature. All of these are among the best-known works of twentieth-century science fiction. Outside Poland and Germany, Lem's collections of essays are less well known: Dialogues, Summa Technologiae, The Philosophy of Accidents, Fantasy and Futurology, The Sex Wars and The Mystery of the Chinese Room. Yet these are the works that most fully reflect Lem's philosophical system and ideas, his fascination with broad horizons and his talent for correct predictions about the directions that the development of science and technology will take. Although he stopped writing fantastic tales in recent years, Lem remained a prolific writer of essays and short stories that continued to reach an established and enthusiastic audience.

"We have failed, my dear, to appreciate the role of error as a fundamental Category of Existence. Don't think in Manichaean terms! According to that school, God creates order and Satan keeps trying to trip Him up. Not so! If I can get my hands on some tobacco, I shall write about the final chapters found in books of philosophy, namely an anthology of Apostasy, or a theory of existence based on error, since errors is stamped on error, error uses error, creates error, until probability changes into the Fate of the World."
Professor A. Donda, From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy

Bibliography

Prose and Plays:

  • Człowiek z Marsa, I edycja książkowa: Warszawa: Nowa, 1994. Astronauci. Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1951.
  • Jacht Paradise. Sztuka w czterech aktach (współautor: Roman Husarski). Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1951.
  • Sezam i inne opowiadania. Warszawa: Iskry, 1954.
  • Czas nieutracony. Kraków: WL, 1955; cz. I: Szpital Przemieienia wydawana osobno od edycji: Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1975.
  • Obłok Magellana. Warszawa: Iskry, 1955.
  • Dzienniki gwiazdowe. Warszawa: Iskry, 1954.
  • Eden. Warszawa: Iskry, 1959.
  • Śledztwo. Warszawa: MON, 1959.
  • Inwazja z Aldebarana. Kraków: WL, 1959.
  • Powrót z gwiazd. Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1961.
  • Solaris. Warszawa: MON, 1961.
  • Pamiętnik znaleziony w wannie. Kraków: WL, 1961.
  • Księga robotów. Warszawa: Iskry, 1961.
  • Noc księżycowa. Kraków: WL, 1963.
  • Niezwyciężony i inne opowiadania. Warszawa: MON, 1964.
  • Bajki robotów. Kraków: WL, 1964.
  • Polowanie. Kraków: WL, 1965.
  • Cyberiada. Kraków: WL, 1965.
  • Głos Pana. Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1968.
  • Opowieści o pilocie Pirxie. Kraków: WL, 1968.
  • Doskonała próżnia. Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1971.
  • Bezsenność. Kraków: WL, 1971.
  • Wielkość urojona. Warszawa: Czytelnik, 1973.
  • Głos Pana; Kongres futurologiczny. Kraków: WL, 1973.
  • Katar. Kraków: WL, 1976.
  • Maska. Kraków: WL, 1976.
  • Suplement. Kraków: WL, 1976.
  • Powtórka. Warszawa: Iskry, 1979.
  • Golem XIV. Kraków: WL, 1981.
  • Wizja lokalna. Kraków: WL, 1982.
  • Prowokacja. Kraków: WL, 1984.
  • Biblioteka XXI wieku. Kraków: WL, 1986. Fiasko. Kraków: WL, 1987.
  • Pożytek ze smoka i inne opowiadania. Chotomów: Verba, 1993.
  • Zagadka. Warszawa: Interart, 1996.

Essays:

  • Dialogi. Kraków: WL, 1957.
  • Wejście na orbitę. Kraków: WL, 1962.
  • Summa technologiae. Kraków: WL, 1964.
  • Filozofia przypadku. Kraków: WL, 1968.
  • Fantastyka i futurologia. Kraków: WL, 1970.
  • Rozprawy i szkice. Kraków: WL, 1975.
  • Lube czasy. Kraków: Znak, 1995.
  • Sex Wars. Warszawa: Nowa, 1996.
  • Tajemnica chińskiego pokoju. Kraków: Universitas, 1996.
  • Dziury w całym. Kraków: Znak, 1997.
  • Bomba megabitowa. Kraków: WL, 1999.
  • Okamgnienie, Kraków: WL 2000.
  • Autobiografia: Wysoki Zamek. Warszawa: Wyd. MON, 1966.
  • Stanisław Bereś, Rozmowy ze Stanisławem Lemem. Kraków: WL, 1987.
  • Świat na krawędzi. Rozmowy ze Stanisławem Lemem. Kraków: WL, 2000.
  • Tako rzecze Lem. Kraków: WL, 2002
  • Listy albo opór materii. Kraków: WL, 2002.
  • DyLEMaty. Kraków: WL, 2003.
  • Rasa drapieżców. Teksty ostatnie. Kraków: WL, 2006.
  • Świat na krawędzi. Rozmowy ze Stanisławem Lemem. Kraków: WL, 2007.