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User Rating: 5 / 5

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„Memoirs Found in a Bathtub” is one of the most intriguing books by Lem.  The ostensibly funny satire of contemporary intelligence, scarred by betrayal of trust, in reality is  – as is the case with everything in spies' world – an encrypted text. Attentive reader will discover critique of a totalitarian state, but also a parable of a man lost in the cosmos of signs generated by society, culture, literature, the physical world and biology.  Hence grotesque softly turns to philosophy.

 

5.00 out of 5 based on 2 ratings2 user reviews.
Beware of the Complexity Reviewed by J. Janko on . Not for the casual reader, this devilishly complicated book will have you stumped in the end. So unless you wish to re-read it (in order to finally figure out what it was all about) don't bother with this one. But for those of you searching for that rare book that leaves you wondering and puzzled for days, weeks, years... well, this is it. From the brilliant mind of the best Polish sci-fi writer comes a satire and a comment on those wonderful societies of ours (take your pick: socialism, communism, etc.) and the methods of their tyranny. The plot is simple: An innocent, foolishly loyal aspiring agent enters his new occupation only to find out that those in power have plans of their own (which he just can't discover). Searching the confines of a "Building", a futuristic military-like establishment hidden underground, he seeks his mission, his purpose and the meaning of his existence. Ultimately, all those disappear before his eyes and turn into code. This skillfully written tale where not one word lacks meaning or purpose (or does it?) attempts to understand methods of population control. Could it be that political systems have, are and will rule their population through skillful semantics-control? (think NEWSPEAK) Lem posits that political rhetoric color not only our judgment but also our ability to perceive the world around us. Concentrating on the cold war tension between the US and CCCP, Lem explores systems which convert all their resources and their entire populations to one task: the destruction of the enemy. To accomplish their goal, they convert the minds of their subject. Much like a child who learns to adhere to the principles of society through the careful teaching of parents, teachers, TV, and others, a member of these societies learns to relinquish to his superiors the ability to judge his surrounding. The Building's plan is simple: Through a carefully planned mission, our hero learns to loose trust in himself, loose his ambition and the ability to choose how and to whom to be loyal. He learns that he is a tool. He discovers that his only responsibility is to the Building, and that the Building alone can think for him, tell him what, how, and why to think. He learns that he is a part of the Building and that his duty is to serve a predetermined function which he himself can't alter. He learns that he can only make sense of the insane world around him, if he unconditionally adapts the strategies of his surrounding. In the end, he discovers that a system like the Building has developed into a new life-form (who smiles and leads a life of its own), an organism whom we humans must ultimately serve and whose survival we must guaranty if we ourselves wish to live on. If you can deal with an unorthodox plot (if there is one), and like your books heavy on ideas, this is the book for you. Otherwise, stick with Jordan or Simmons - they're good, too. J. Janko Rating: 5 5
Kafka on Prozac Reviewed by Alan Marchant on . Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanslaw Lem follows the adventures of an agent-in-training as he wanders in search of a mission through the vast bureaucracy of a purposeless intelligence agency. The agent is anonymous. But we can call him K - because the story, the style, and the absurdist message are drawn directly from Kafka (esp. The castle]. K is an everyman, and his agency is an allegory for society. Ostensibly, the agency is the post-apocalyptic remnant of America, but it feels entirely European. The theme of the Memoirs is that one's search for individual identity (i.e. the mission) is distracted by reflections of the self in other people. Social interaction discloses layer upon layer of identity (like the numberless floors of the agency's building) but no essential purpose. Such a search wraps the individual tighter and tighter in a web of conformity. In the end, K can no longer imagine leaving the building. He becomes incapable of even attempting a mission, should he ever find one. Even his human rebelliousness turns into tragically reflexive conformity. Lem's narrative style conveys serious ideas using a simple narrative prose and pervasive, but understated humor. In this respect, Lem writes like Kafka on Prozac - with clearer ideas, faster pace, and more fun. For me, this is the best aspect of the book. The worst aspect of the book is the introduction. I advise the reader to skip it; with the intro included, my recommendation drops by at least one star. It places the Memoirs in a sophomoric (and entirely unnecessary) SciFi context and draws the connection with America. I speculate that the introduction was added to satisfy censors in 1961 Poland. Rating: 5 5