A Stanislaw Lem Reader

A Stanislaw Lem Reader

by Peter Swirski, Stanislaw Lem
     
 

This collection assembles in-depth and insightful writings by and about, and interviews with, one of the most fascinating writers of the twentieth century. Anyone interested in Lem's provocative and uncompromising view of literature's role in the contemporary cultural environment, and in Lem's opinions about his own fiction, about the relation of literature to

Overview

This collection assembles in-depth and insightful writings by and about, and interviews with, one of the most fascinating writers of the twentieth century. Anyone interested in Lem's provocative and uncompromising view of literature's role in the contemporary cultural environment, and in Lem's opinions about his own fiction, about the relation of literature to science and technology, and the dead ends of contemporary culture, will be fascinated by this eclectic collection.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
With books translated into 40 languages, sales of more than 25 million copies (some seven million in Eastern Europe) and over 20 titles in print with Harcourt, Brace, Polish-born Lem is one of the best-selling unknown writers of science fiction in the U.S. Swirski, a lecturer at Montreal's McGill University, is a sympathetic and admiring reader of such books as Pirx the Pilot and Summa Technologiae. He begins with an overview of Lem's writing (both fiction and nonfiction), much of which is cerebral and imbued with a Swiftian despair that distinguishes it from the more optimistic strain of Anglo-American SF. Two interviews are separated by Lem's own 1991 essay in which he surveys in detail 30 years of his earlier prognoses, most of which is contained in nonfiction never translated into English. Outside of Jules Verne, no foreign SF writer has gained real recognition in this country and Lem, who stopped writing fiction in 1988, is no different. It probably wasn't helped by the contentious cancellation of his honorary membership in the SF Writers Association in 1976, caused in large part by Lem's harsh dismissal of most of the genre. Swirski is content to elucidate rather than evaluate Lem's ideas, which are often fascinating, even when presented in a somewhat Olympian manner. The book is not disfigured by the clotted prose favored by many academics, but most, save Lem buffs, will find this short reader fairly heavy going. A better introduction to Lem's thought is his 1985 collection of 10 essays, Microworlds: Writings on Science Fiction and Fantasy. (Oct.)
Kirkus Reviews
Contrary to what the title suggests, this is not so much a sampler of Lem's writings as an introduction to and overview of the Polish writer's work.

Swirski, a lecturer at McGill University (Canada), opens with an essay summarizing Lem's career and the major themes of his writings. Then comes a long 1992 interview with Lem, "Reflections on Literature, Philosophy and Science." Lem contributes a retrospective essay primarily devoted to examining the accuracy of his 1964 book, Summa Technologiae, an essay in futurology in which he forecast (among other things) computer virtual reality. Another interview from 1994 consists of Lem's written responses to various broad questions on his thought and writings. The overall effect is to give an excellent, if very condensed, view of Lem's special concerns, particularly on the relationships between fiction and the real world. He comments in detail, for instance, on several writers who have attempted to portray Poland during the Nazi occupation, finding most to have missed the mark (Jerzy Kosinski in The Painted Bird overplays the peasants' sexual promiscuity, for instance). His observations on the ephemeral nature of much political satire (from Huxley's Brave New World to the Strugatsky brothers' attacks on Stalinism) draw attention to the rarely examined question of the place of the predictive element in fiction. While he has kept at arm's length from popular science fiction, Lem remains one of the few writers of fiction who is deeply conversant with scientific thought and who makes a point of getting his science right. His interest in philosophy is also genuine and wide-reaching, as numerous comments indicate.

Densely written, with something to think about in almost every paragraph, this is probably the best quick introduction to the main currents of the large body of work Lem has produced over the last half-century.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810114951
Publisher:
Northwestern University Press
Publication date:
11/28/1997
Series:
Rethinking Theory Series
Edition description:
1
Pages:
129
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.60(d)

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