S.LEM

perfectvacuum

a big shout out to the Mudd Up! commentors who recommended Stanislaw Lem — I finally found time to read him, and the title I’ve begun, A Perfect Vacuum (Amazon|Google Books), is incredible. It’s a collection of reviews of nonexistent books, erudite and extremely funny. (The best bookstore in Barcelona takes its name from one of the books here discussed: Gigamesh.)

As explained in the A Perfect Vacuum’s opening review of A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem (tip of the iceberg, this):

Reviewing nonexistent books is not Lem’s invention; we find such experiments not only in a contemporary writer, Jorge Luis Borges (for example, his “Investigations of the Writings of Herbert Quaine”), but the idea goes further back – even Rabelais was not the first to make use of it. A Perfect Vacuum is unusual in that it purports to be an anthology made up entirely of such critiques. Pedantry or joke, this methodicalness? We suspect the author intends a joke; nor is this impression weakened by the Introduction – long-winded and theoretical – in which we read: “The writing of a novel is a form of the loss of creative liberty. . . . In turn, the reviewing of books is a servitude still less noble. Of the writer one can at least say that he has enslaved himself – by the theme selected. The critic is in a worse position: as the convict is chained to his wheelbarrow, so the reviewer is chained to the work reviewed. The writer loses his freedom in his own book, the critic in another’s.

8 thoughts on “S.LEM”

  1. Excellent! You made the start. I am still thinking about the best place to go with Gene Wolfe …

  2. If you liked this then you will also love “The Cyberiad”, “Star diaries”, “One human minute” and “His master’s voice” among others. Also his book “Solaris” was made into a movie, first by Andrei Tarkovsky and a couple of years ago by Steven Soderberg.
    Look for Michael Kandel translations, he preserves the poetic and philosophical style of Lem without being unfaithful to the literal meaning of his writings.
    You have embarked on a great journey, Lem was a philosopher, a scientist and a visionary, committed to a humanism that is very rare in literature or in scientific thought. He was also really funny!
    I am now reading “Microworlds”, a book that contains some of his literary criticism and a very short autobiography. Very, very interesting stuff!

  3. I love Lem. Even though I had no intentions of making an animated film, I have had more than one artistic acquaintance work up character designs for Trurl & Klapaucius from ‘The Cyberiad’.

    Best stuff is the Ijon Tichy stories – ‘Star Diaries’ and its sequel, ‘The Futurological Congress’… the character also returns in ‘Peace On Earth’. & if it’s not translated by Kandel, it’s probably not that great in english.

  4. ive only read the futurological congress, but i found it to be amazing. highly reccomend it

  5. speaking of reviews of non existant records, nick tosches has a few of those which are hilarious. They are in “the nick tosches reader”

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