"Shargh" daily newspaper

Peyman Esmaeili: Are you a postmodern writer? What is the relation between postmodernism and your novels? What is your opinion about postmodern theories (deconstruction)?

Stanisław Lem: I generally tend to disregard dissertations in literary studies that present my writing as "model postmodernism". The very idea is quite amusing, since when I was writing my books no "postmodernism" existed. When I was keen to find out what an intelligent and rational computer might have to say, I had to "turn myself into one". However I have little interest for all these classifications.The works of the Derrida and Lacana schools do not seem particularly clear to me: they resembles ideology presented in a talmudic way combined with splitting hairs.

A German encyclopedia calls you "a philosopher". Are you a philosopher? What is your opinion about the presence of philosophy in your novels?

I consider it worthy to uncover what is hidden even though I am aware of the high risk and the inevitability of simplifications, mistakes and occasional nonsense. The reason for many of my worries, disappointments and bewilderments - that have not ceased yet ‑ is the fact that many people consider philosophizing to be a boring and idle pursuit. Well, one has to be fascinated and make a personal use of it: philosophizing should be a matter of strong passion. Those who do not feel this passion will certainly feel disappointed by some of my works.

What does science fiction mean for you? What is your opinion about future of science fiction? You state that you want to see "more realism in science fiction". What does this idea mean? In Microworlds you state that science fiction belongs to the genre of trivial literature (such as western, detective stories or romantic fiction) - despite claims to the contrary. Why do you think that? A lot of people believe that you are the greatest living science fiction writer. What is your opinion about this notion?

I gave up reading science fiction in general, because I was unable to "digest" it - mostly because of its total lack of cognitive values. Authors do not seem to be interested in them, since all they want is sell their novels. Being a fool I wasted a lot of time writing and explaining - particularly in America - for which I was only sworn at. I once quite justly wrote to an Australian comforter that "I simply had to leave" - after having played the role of a missionary in a brothel for a few years and "trying to convert fallen women". I never had the notion that my existence on Earth had anything to do with the saving of our species. There is some thoughtlessness in the fact that some of my books - even "The Cyberiad" and "Mortal Engines" - are assigned to the genre of science fiction; this also proves an enormous inertia of classification diagnoses. Why is "The Cyberiad" a science fiction book? With some good will one might argue that this is the case with "The Chain of Chance", since the latter is a mixture of science fiction with a detective story, where the perpetrator turns out to be chance. But why "Mortal Engines"? This is far-fetched!Let us understand this phenomenon: when Kellermann wrote his "Tunnel" - about the construction of a tunnel between Europe and America - no one called it science fiction, because the author was lucky to have been born in times when this concept had not existed. The same applies to Ćapek, Swift and Voltaire's philosophical tales. I think that some fragments of my "Cyberiad" and "Mortal Engines" are closer to Voltaire than anything else; this seems to be the next incarnation in the post-Enlightenment era. An American author called them "fairy tales of the cybernetic age". However placing a big "science fiction" label on them is indeed a pitiful procedure. How about "The Perfect Vacuum"? Does this book resemble science fiction? It is made up of mockery of nouveau roman and similar things. With such assumptions one might argue that science fiction is everything that does not concern events taking place in Krakow orManhattan. I think this is a major misunderstanding. I wrote a few poor science fiction novels in my youth. After realizing this fact I started to move toward other regions, however all critics push me back into that "s-f pit". My reaction to science fiction resembles that of my body with respect to pollen (I suffer from hay fever). Why do people read science fiction? I can imagine what they get from reading "The War of the Worlds" or "It is Difficult to be God", but not from other "works". If all an author has to offer is a "fantastic story", I am able tocome up with a dozen of my own. I never read to kill time. Killing time is like killing someone's wife or a child. There is nothing more precious for me than time.