Lem at Amazon

Stanislaw Lem at Amazon

NOTE! This site uses cookies and similar technologies.

If you not change browser settings, you agree to it. Learn more

I understand
5 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 5.00 (4 Votes)

Ivan Finotti: One of the levels that "Solaris" can be understood is about a world where all our desires could came true and how this would be bad, instead of being good. Was this idea the motivation behind your book or there are others?

Stanislaw Lem: I do not engage in interpretation of my books - I leave this task to the reader. And I never sat down at my writing desk with a complete plan of the entire book. The last chapter of Solaris was written after a year's break.  I had to put away that book, since I did not know what to do with my hero.  Today I cannot even recall why I was unable to finish it for such a long time...  I recall only that the first part was written in one spurt, fluently and with ease, while the second was finished after a long time on some lucky day.

The thing is that I do not possess a finished picture of the whole piece. When I led Kelvin to the Solaris station and made him see the frightened, drunken Snaut, I did not know myself what made him so anxious. I had no idea why Snaut was so afraid of a totally innocent stranger. At that time I didn't know - but soon I was to find out, because I kept on writing.

In one of the Brazilian's edition of "Solaris" (edited by Círculo do Livro in the eighties), there's a postface by Darko Suvin, where he writes this: "Does Mr. Lem exists? We denied rumors that he was a computer who was using the initial letters for Lunar Excursion Module (L.E.M.)" This is very curious. This rumor really happened or it is only a joke from Mr. Suvin? If it happened, tell something about it.

On September 2, 1974 Philip K. Dick sent the following letter to the FBI:  

What is involved here is not that these persons are Marxists per se or even that Fitting, Rottensteiner and Suvin are foreign-based but that all of them without exception represent dedicated outlets in a chain of command from Stanislaw Lem in Krakow, Poland, himself a total Party functionary (I know this from his published writing and personal letters to me and to other people). For an Iron Curtain Party group - Lem is probably a composite committee rather than an individual, since he writes in several styles and sometimes reads foreign, to him, languages and sometimes does not - to gain monopoly positions of power from which they can control opinion through criticism and pedagogic essays is a threat to our whole field of science fiction and its free exchange of views and ideas.

Their main successes would appear to be in the fields of academic articles, book reviews and possibly through our organization the control in the future of the awarding of honors and titles. I think, though, at this time, that their campaign to establish Lem himself as a major novelist and critic is losing ground; it has begun to encounter serious opposition: Lem's creative abilities now appear to have been overrated and Lem's crude, insulting and downright ignorant attacks on American science fiction and American science fiction writers went too far too fast and alienated everyone but the Party faithful (I am one of those highly alienated).

It is a grim development for our field and its hopes to find much of our criticism and academic theses and publications completely controlled by a faceless group in Krakow, Poland. What can be done, though, I do not know.

(Please keep in mind Mr. Dick was most probably suffering from schizophrenia)

I read that you said, ten years ago, that you were very pessimist with the human civilization. And because of that you should stop writing. Are you still writing, Mr. Lem? What kind of books?

In 1989 I stopped writing fiction.  This was caused by many factors; although I preserved many ideas for new projects, I came to the conclusion that it would not be worthwhile to make use of them in the face of the new situation of the world.  The very coming true of some of my concepts (i.e. the transfer from the phantasmagoric category into reality) paradoxically turned out to be an obstacle in further indulging in SF.  This was a typical sorcerer's apprentice situation - the demons were already let loose.

Now I am better and better aware of the fact that I do not know anything.  I am not even able to familiarize myself with all the new scientific theories.  Sometimes I get the impression that universities grow at a faster rate than the universe itself while professors multiply even faster; every two years each of them has to publish a new book (obviously describing a new theory).  Mad ideas are not uncommon in the sciences, but who will read all these books?  Who shall separate the nonsense from what is valuable?  Who shall put it all together in a right perspective?  There may be some geniuses out there - I am no longer capable of doing it.  I no longer believe that I - even if I tried to scream at the top of my voice - might change anything.  This exponential growth will not stop. It will keep on developing it its own direction - whether we like it or not, just like a whirlwind, a tornado no man can stop.  So what - if my books were translated into forty languages and the total print-run reached 27 million copies?  They will al vanish, since streams of new books are flooding everything, washing down was had been written earlier.  Today a book in a bookstore does not even have the time to gather some dust.  It is true that we live longer now - but the life of everything around us became much shorter.  This is sad, but no one can stop this process.  The world around us is dying so quickly that one cannot really get used to anything.

Although your books were translated for forty languages and are very popular, a lot of people know your work because of the movies. Do you agree with that? What do you think about it?

Hollywood only recently "discovered" my books, hence it would be difficult to talk about any serious influence of film adaptations on the reception of my works.  Apart from Tarkovsky's "Solaris" Soderbergh's movie was the first high-budget Hollywood adaptation of my works.

I don't know if it's true, but I read that you didn't like Tarkovsky's "Solaris" when it was released. Is that right? Why didn't you like it (or why did you like it)? Since then, did you change your mind?

I definitely did not like Tarkovsky's "Solaris".  Tarkovsky and I differed deeply in our perception of the novel.  While I thought that the book's ending suggested that Kelvin expected to find something astonishing in the universe, Tarkovsky tried to create a vision of an unpleasant cosmos which was followed by the conclusion that one should immediately return to Mother-Earth.  We were like a pair of harnessed horses: each of them pulling the cart in the opposite direction.

What about the Soderbergh's film? What are the good and the bad points of the movie?

Although I admit that Soderbergh's vision is not devoid of ambition, taste and climate, I am not delighted with the prominence of love.  "Solaris" may be perceived as a river basin - and Soderbergh chose only one of its tributaries.  The main problem seems the fact that even such a tragic-romantic adaptation seems too demanding for mass audience fed with Hollywood pap.  If in the future someone else dared a faithful adaptation, I am afraid the effects would be understood only by a tiny audience.