Im Folgenden ein Artikel [englisch], den ich anno 2009 für den damals noch existierenden „American Chronicle“ verfaßt habe.
„Having read science fiction since my teens, my favorite author is still Stanisław Lem who died in 2006.
Actually, I got my first book of his („The Invincible“; 1964) merely by accident: it was a Christmas present sent to me by my grandmother who lived in the then GDR (this was in in early 1970s). Since the author was unfamiliar to me (and I have to admit that I was skeptical about books published in the GDR in general), I started reading with some reservation, but to my surprise, I found myself being more and more taken in by the story as well as the (for science fiction, for that matter) surprisingly good style the book was written in.
The story: The author describes the adventures of the starship „The Invincible“, which is on its way on a rescue mission to an apparently unpopulated desert planet in the star system Lyra, where the sister ship of „The Invincible“, „Condor“ went missing. The main character of the book is the sympathetically characterized navigator Rohan, whom we follow as the story progresses.
About the first thing that impressed me from the very first page were the very convincing, lively described technical details, which is imho one of the strong points of Lem’s prose in general: he had this knack of making the most advanced technical achievements look completely casual. The way he does this adds very much to the atmosphere of his novels. (He has written about a variety of subjects, of which science fiction is only one—albeit substantial—part.)
Another strong point are—in the case of „The Invincible“, but in other novels as well—the often fascinating stories as well as his ability to describe alien environments and alien creatures equally convincing; so convincing that they really are alien. Especially here his amazing, often nothing but breathtaking imagination comes into play. In this respect, he is (that’s at least my personal opinion) without peers throughout the entire genre.
While especially his novel „Solaris“ (1962) was made twice into a movie, none of those attempts really does the book justice. On the movie by Steven Soderbergh, Lem himself complained that, to his knowledge, the novel was definitely not about erotic problems in outer space. (Readers of the novel will quickly realize the truth of this statement.) Atmospherically, I find the (b/w) movie (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky (which Lem criticised as being a „chamber play“) more convincing. At least this attempt manages to preserve much of the somewhat „provisional“ atmosphere of the space station where most of the plot is situated.
My personal favorites of Lem’s science fiction novels are „Eden“ (1959) and „Return from the Stars“ (1961). The former deals with a terrestrial space ship that crash-lands on an alien planet („Eden“) and the efforts of its crew to repair the ship and to explore the surroundings of the desert where the ship has crashed; the latter describes the adventures of an astronaut, who, after a space excursion to Fomalhaut, returns, due to time dilatation, more than one hundred years later back to a dramatically changed earth, where he tries to find a place for himself. (The description of the „station“ alone where the main character arrives from Luna at the beginning of the story is simply breathtaking.)
One thing I like about Stanisław Lem’s science fiction prose is that he makes his characters vulnerable. They are (luckily, I feel) far from being perfect—on the contrary: I think that their very vulnerability is what makes them sympathetic and human. Another, more subtle, twist is that in the drawing of Lem’s characters there’s a noticeable Eastern European influence present (Lem himself was Polish).
Besides his science fiction writing, for whom he probably is best known for, Stanisław Lem has written about a number of other subjects, such as essays on a variety of topics, crime, philosophy, cybernetics, a book about (among other things) fictitious weapons systems in the future, futuristic fairy tales, an reviews of fictitious books.
Stanisław Lem’s official website is a very recommendable resource with detailed descriptions of his writings, with photographs of the author, an online forum as well as a collections of (often humorous) futuristic drawings by Mroz and Lem himself.“
© Copyright 2009 by Claus Cyrny. Alle Rechte vorbehalten.