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Polish science-fiction author Stanislaw Lem, author of The Cyberiad, Solaris and His Master’s Voice, died on March 27. His ashes have been buried in the Salwatorski Cemetery in Krakow.

Link to a short article on, here.

Born in 1921 in Poland, Lem began training as a medical student in Krakow in 1946. Afterwards, he worked in a science lab and took up writing on the side.

His 1961 novel Solaris was made into a film by Andrei Tartovsky in 1972 (and remade, with the addition of George Clooney, by Steven Soderbergh in 2002).

According to Wikipedia,

“[Lem] wrote about human technological progress and the problem of human existence in a world where technology development makes biological human impulses obsolete or dangerous. He became increasingly critical of modern technology in his later life, criticizing inventions such as the Internet.”

I wonder how he would have felt about the news of his death making BoingBoing.

In a small but uncanny coincidence, just last night (in yet another agitated search for reading material), I pulled Lem’s diminutive book One Human Minute off of my roommate’s over-stuffed shelves, and opened it up. I had never heard of Lem before, let alone known that he died last week. My roommate believes that my selection indicates “a serious disturbance in the force.”


  1. #1 Christopher M
    April 7, 2006

    For those of you who don’t know, Stanislaw Lem is a jaw-droppingly good writer – literally the only SF writer who I also respect as a literary talent. He wrote his stuff in a vacuum (behind the iron curtain), and when it finally fell, he ridiculed his western colleagues in the field of SF for, well, writing crappy genre fiction. Not that his stuff isn’t pretty heavy on the science. Anyway check out his short fiction – some of his longer works, like Solaris, aren’t very good in translation (in the case of Solaris it’s because the only English language version of that book is actually a translation from the French – which was itself translated from Polish).

  2. #2 Lee Billings
    April 7, 2006


    Wow. Stanislaw Lem is the *only* SF writer you also respect as a literary talent? I’m a bit flummoxed how you managed to overlook authors like Ray Bradbury, Gene Wolfe, J. G. Ballard, or Mary Dorsia Russell. The list goes on.

    I sense a post brewing…

  3. #3 Matt McIrvin
    April 8, 2006

    I think that Lem’s infamous criticisms of American SF were at least 40% unfair, but nevertheless he himself was probably the greatest SF writer of all time. He was relentlessly inventive, impossibly educated, and capable of writing both in a somber and an outrageous comic style, sometimes at the same time. His Cyberiad in particular is a mind-boggling piece of work, not quite like anything else you’ve ever read.

    In English, some of his works have also benefited from the brilliant translation work of Michael Kandel (unfortunately Solaris wasn’t one of those, but Cyberiad, The Star Diaries, His Master’s Voice and Fiasco are all available in great Kandel translations).

  4. #4 LesliedaProf
    April 16, 2006

    One book of Lem’s that no-one seems to have commented on is his “The Futurological Congress”. This slim volume about a mythical scientific conference is SF, but really ought to be required reading for any scientist attending conferences!