Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Stanislaw Lem, eminent writer of sci-fi, is no more.

"We don't want to conquer space at all. We want to expand Earth endlessly. We don't want other worlds; we want a mirror." - Dr. Snaut, a character in Lem's most famous novel Solaris.
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Stanislaw Lem. Born Sept 12 1921. Died March 27 2006, aged 84. Lem was born in a town named Lwow which was in Poland at that time. It is presently in Ukraine and is known as Lviv. He wanted to become a doctor like his father but his medical studies were interrupted by the German invasion of 1941.He became a garage mechanic who specialised in sabotaging German Army vehicles in such way that it would take some time for the faults to be discovered.He resumed his medical studies in 1944.

He wrote his debut novel Czlowiek z Marsa (A Man from Mars) in 1946. It was published in several episodes in a magazine. In 1946 he took admission at the Jagiellonian University to study medicine. In 1948 he started writing his novel starts writing his first novel Szpital Przemienienia (Hospital of the Transfiguration). He tasted literary success for the first time through his first published work Astronauci (The Astronauts, 1951). In 1953 he married M.D. Barbara Lesniak, a radiologist. His novel Czas nieutracony (Time not lost) was a well written account of life in Poland under the Nazis. It was through his work Solaris (1961) that his genius was discovered. This was translated into English in 1970.

Two movie versions were made of this book. One by the Russian genius Andrei Tarkovsky(1972) and the other by Stephen Soderbergh (2002). Soderbergh described Solaris as a combination of “2001” and “Last Tango in Paris.” Lem himself was amused by the "childish" manner in which American film critics grade films as if they were checking term papers of American school kids. On December 8th 2002 he had written that "the book was not dedicated to erotic problems of people in outer space... " He had concluded his article with these words "...as Solaris' author I shall allow myself to repeat that I only wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images. This is why the book was entitled Solaris and not Love in Outer Space."

Lem's books were translated into forty languages and sold over 27 million copies. All his works were not translated into English.According to philosopher and science writer Douglas Hofstadter, Lem used the vehicle of well written fiction to convey deep philosophical truths. Lem was able to fool the authorities with his fiction. What they thought to be simple and innocent fiction was in fact highly subversive writing.
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Links
Click here to read his obituary in TimesOnline .
Stanislaw Lem's official site .
Biographical information from kirjasto.
Link to imdb entry on Solyaris (Tarkovsky).
Link to imdb entry on Solaris (Soderbergh).