Lack of humor

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Lack of humor is no less frightening than lack of mercy.

Stanislaw Lem letters to Michael KandelCertain elements of my work inevitably come from the „Zeitgeist”: in our era the baroque seems more appropriate than radical new ideas. In other words things should be more complicated: persiflage, parodistic, ironic and grotesque variations of already present themes, settled for good in art, annexed a long time ago, are required. My rage at science fiction results inter alia from the fact that the same motifs without humor (mit tierischem Ernst) are repeated over and over again, which should (but doesn’t) result in a storm of laughter. For me lack of sense of humor is not less frightening than lack of mercy. The KIND of humor present in SF (if present at all) seems related to — I fear to say — Nazism and its concept of a „sense of humor”. Hence the grotesque in my texts has been simply forced upon me by Genius Temporis. One could write speculative volumes on where this Geist comes from and why, full of hypotheses, since nothing certain is known. (In the introduction to „Imaginary Magnitude” you may find what I think about the subject…)

Fame and Fortune. Stanislaw Lem’s letters to Michael Kandel 1972-1987

Chlorian Theoreticus the Proph

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cyberiadStanislaw Lem’s works can be roughly divided into fiction, essays, apocrypha (texts about non-existent texts) and complains about the literary critique. It may seem strange that a popular writer, whose books have been published all over the world, grieved that reviews did not do him justice. Over time, on both sides of the Iron Curtain enthusiastic, in-depth, competent articles started to appear, such as the extensive texts of „The New York Times Book Review”. However there were few general overviews combining elements shared by a number of works and presenting universal attributes of Lem’s literary output. Most lemologists — usually humanists — were somewhat crestfallen by the spectrum of knowledge and erudition of an author who „like an intellectual bulldozer with astonishing ease dug through all possible fields of human cognition”1. Lem’s reception was also disturbed by the stigmatizing „science fiction” label.

Chlorian Theoreticus the Proph, a character from Lem’s „Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines of King Genius,” is an ironically bitter self-portrait2 of the author himself — a writer and thinker ignored and underestimated by his contemporaries. The unfortunate Chlorian created works of art „saturated with the absolute,” brilliant masterpieces reaching the very core of the essence of things. After the (self) publication of his first book the philosopher expected to be welcomed by enthusiastic crowds:

As soon as this treatise appeared in print (at my own expense), I rushed out into the street, certain that the people would lift me up on their shoulders, crown me with garlands, shower me with gold, but no one, not even so much as a lame cybernerian, approached with words of praise.

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