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After the premiere of this remake of the Tarkovski movie I read a number of critical reviews, which appeared in American press.  The divergence of opinions and interpretations was enormous.  The Americans in a somewhat childish manner "grade" films just like children's papers in school.  Hence there were critics who gave Soderbergh's "Solaris" an "A", the majority agreed on a "B" and some gave it a "C".

Some reviewers, like the one from the "New York Times", claim the film was a "love story" - a romance set in outer space.  I have not seen the film and I am not familiar with the script, hence I cannot say anything about the movie itself except for what the reviews reflect, albeit unclearly - like a distorted picture of one's face in ripply water.  However, to my best knowledge, the book was not dedicated to erotic problems of people in outer space...

I cannot say anything reasonable about its creation - the book somehow "poured out of me" without any previous planning and I even had difficulties with the ending.  However since I wrote it over forty years ago, from today's perspective I perceive it in a much more objective and rational way.  I am also capable of finding analogies to other works, located in high regions of the world literature.  Melville's "Moby Dick" could serve as an example; on the surface the book describes the history of a whaling ship and Capitan Ahab's pernicious quest for the white whale.  Initially the critics destroyed the novel as meaningless and unsuccessful - after all why care about some whale the captain most likely would have converted into a number of cutlets and barrels full of animal fat?  Only after great analytical efforts the critics discovered that the message of "Moby Dick" was neither animal fat nor even harpoons.  Since much deeper, symbolic layers were found, in libraries Melville's work was removed from the "Adventures at Sea" section and placed elsewhere.

Had "Solaris" dealt with love of a man for a woman - no matter whether on Earth on in Space - it would not have been entitled "Solaris"!  Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, an Americanized Hungarian specializing in literary studies called his analysis "The Book is the Alien".  Indeed, in "Solaris" I attempted to present the problem of an encounter in Space with a form of being that is neither human nor humanoid.

Science fiction almost always assumed the aliens we meet play some kind of game with us the rules of which we sooner or later may understand (in most cases the "game" was the strategy of warfare).  However I wanted to cut all threads leading to the personification of the Creature, i.e. the Solarian Ocean, so that the contact could not follow the human, interpersonal pattern - although it did take place in some strange manner.  The method I used in the novel to demonstrate this was the particular outcome of the interest of people, who for over one hundred years have been studying the planet "Solaris" and the ocean covering its surface.

One should not speak of a "thinking" or a "non-thinking" Ocean, however the Ocean certainly was active, undertook some voluntary actions and was capable of doing things which were entirely alien to the human domain.  Eventually, when it got the attention of little ants that struggled above its surface, it did so in a radical way.  It penetrated the superficial established manners, conventions and methods of linguistic communication, and entered, in its own way, into minds of the people of the "Solaris" Station and revealed what was deeply hidden in each of them:  a reprehensible guilt, a tragic event from the past suppressed by the memory, a secret and shameful desire.  In some cases the reader remains unaware of what has been revealed; what we know is that in each case it was capable of incarnation and physical creation of a being the hidden secret was connected to. Ocean's actions lead one of the scientists to an emotional distress that ended in a suicide, others isolated themselves.  When Kris Kelvin initially arrived at the Station he was unable to understand what was going on: all were hiding and in the corridor he encountered one of the phantoms - a giant Black woman in a reed skirt with whom the suicide Gibarian presumably had been conflicted.

Kelvin's recklessness and imprudent behavior in the past had not prevented the suicide of his beloved woman Harey.  He buried her on Earth and in a sense he buried her in his mind as well - until the Ocean made her come back at the "Solaris" Station.  

The Ocean appears quite stubborn in his ways:  the creatures, a kind of remorse of the Station's scientists, cannot be gotten rid of - even those sent into space come back...  Kelvin initially tried to kill Harey; later he accepted her presence and tried to play the role he had to abandon on Earth - of her beloved man.

The vision of the Planet "Solaris" was very important for me.  Why was it important?  The Solarian globe was not just any sphere surrounded by some jelly - it was an active being (although a non-human one).  It neither built nor created anything translatable into our language that could have been "explained in translation".  Hence a description had to be replaced by analysis - (obviously an impossible task) - of the internal workings of the Ocean's ego.  This gave rise to symetriads, asymetriads and mimoids - strange semi-constructions scientists were unable to understand; they could only describe them in a mathematically meticulous manner, and this was the sole purpose of the growing Solarian library - the result of over a hundred years' efforts to enclose in folios what was not human and beyond human comprehension; what could not have been translated into human language - or into anything else.

One of the reviewers admitted he would prefer to see Tarkovski's "Solaris" one more time.  Others speculated that while the producer won't make a lot of money and there will be no crowd at the box office, the film belongs to the genre of a more ambitious science fiction - since no one got murdered and neither star wars, nor space-werewolfs nor Schwarzenegger's Terminators were present.  In the US an atmosphere filled with very concrete expectations usually accompanies the release of every new film.  I found it interesting that although my book is quite old - almost half a century means a lot in present times - someone wanted to take the risk despite the fact that the plot did not meet the abovementioned expectations. (Along the way he might have gotten scared a bit, but the latter is a pure speculation on my part.)

The book ends in a romantic‑tragic way; the girl herself wished to be annihilated, not wanting to be an instrument with the help of which the one she truly loves is being studied by some unknown power.  Her annihilation takes place unbeknownst to Kelvin - with the help of one of Space Stations' residents.  The Soderbergh movie supposedly has a different, more optimistic finale.  If this were the case this would signify a concession to the stereotypes of American thinking regarding science fiction.  It seems that these deep, concrete ruts of thinking cannot be avoided: either there is a happy ending or a space catastrophe.  This may have been the reason for the touch of disappointment in some of the critics' reviews - they expected the girl created by the ocean to turn into a fury, a witch or a sorceress who would devour the main character, while worms and other filth would crawl out of her intestines.

"Solaris" was submitted to the next year's Berlin film festival and in Poland the film will be shown only after the festival is over.  Polish distributors obtained a copy of the movie, however I am not that eager to see it.

The information that Soderbergh started filming my novel (although no one knew what the film would be like) crated an increase in publishers' interest from different countries.  In Germany Bertelsmann took over "Solaris", while the Danes, Norwegians, Koreans and an Arabic publishing house (from Syria) - also expressed interest in that title.  Publishers also enquire about my other works.  However all of this is only a side effect and has nothing to do with the novel itself.

Summing up, as "Solaris"' author I shall allow myself to repeat that I only wanted to create a vision of a human encounter with something that certainly exists, in a mighty manner perhaps, but cannot be reduced to human concepts, ideas or images.  This is why the book was entitled "Solaris" and not Love in Outer Space.

Stanislaw Lem, December 8th, 2002