Are you a communist?

Stanislaw Lem, Moscow 1965

Stanislaw Lem, Moscow 1965

Feoktistov and I were answering questions during the meeting at the Gorky Library. Then we went backstage and were given coffee by a lady constantly bowing in front of us. Somewhat surprisingly we talked about „ The Trilogy” [by Henryk Sienkiewicz] which Feoktistov had read. He was a truly smart man (and he shared my criticism with respect to Tarkovsky’s „Solaris”). At one point the door opened and the chauffeur entered, who was to take me to a TV studio for an interview. When I sat in his car I noticed he was sweating profusely.

„What’s wrong? Are you sick?” I asked.
„No. It is just that for the first time in my life I saw a cosmonaut”.

Elevated position gave me various opportunities. I once had a meeting with students of the Lomonosov University in a giant building in Leninskie Gory. There were over one thousand people in the grand auditorium. I received questions written on little cards. A professor of laser technology, an outstanding specialist, quietly asked whether he should forward all the questions, or should some of them be omitted.

„I shall answer all the questions!” I declared bravely.

And then someone asked: „Are you a communist”?

I read out the question aloud and thought for a while. I intended to answer along these lines: „I am not a communist, however the vision of the future presented by the communist ideology seems beautiful”. Yet I managed only to say: „I am not a communist,” since there was such a thunder of applause that I could not finish the sentence. Youths pushed so hard at the podium behind which I was standing that I started to move slowly to the blackboards. The professor caught me by the collar and dragged me out through a little door. Later backstage we drank coffee brewed in glass flasks. It seemed that the Komsomol organization that arranged the meeting was not particularly impressed by my answer, however they could not openly criticize me — I was untouchable.

„The World on the Edge”, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2007, p. 120, transl. by Tomasz Lem