Stanisław Lem

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If man had more of a sense of humor, things might have turned out differently.

Stanisław Lem (12 September 192127 March 2006) was a Polish satirical, philosophical, and science fiction writer.

See also : Solaris


  • My pass had disappeared. Not that I believed for a moment that this was an accident; in fact, I had suspected for some time now that the Cosmic Command, obviously no longer able to supervise every assignment on an individual basis when there were literally trillions of matters in its charge, had switched over to a random system. The assumption would be that every document, circulating endlessly from desk to desk, must eventually hit upon the right one. A time-consuming procedure, perhaps, but one that would never fail. The Universe itself operated on the same principle. And for an institution as everlasting as the Universe — certainly our Building was such an institution — the speed at which these meanderings and perturbations took place was of no consequence.
    • Pamiętnik znaleziony w wannie (1961), translated as Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1973)
  • Faith is, at one and the same time, absolutely necessary and altogether impossible.
  • The whole plan hinged upon the natural curiosity of potatoes
    • The Star Diaries (1976)
  • Oh, I read good books, too, but only Earthside. Why that is, I don't really know. Never stopped to analyze it. Good books tell the truth, even when they're about things that never have been and never will be. They're truthful in a different way. When they talk about outer space, they make you feel the silence, so unlike the Earthly kind — and the lifelessness. Whatever the adventures, the message is always the same: humans will never feel at home out there.
    • "Pirx's Tale" in More Tales of Pirx The Pilot (1983)
  • "And do you believe in God?"
    "I do."
    "But you didn't think a robot would, right?"
    • "The Inquest" in More Tales of Pirx the Pilot (1983)
  • In an extreme instance, in which there is a Propervirt of less than 0.9%, the TEXT OF THE PRESENT PROSPECTUS may likewise undergo an ABRUPT change. If, while you are reading these sentences, the words begin to jump about, and the letters quiver and blur, please interrupt your reading for ten or twenty seconds to wipe your glasses, adjust your clothing, or the like, and then start reading AGAIN from the beginning, and NOT JUST from the place where your reading was interrupted, since such a TRANSFORMATION indicates that a correction of DEFICIENCIES is now taking place.
    • Imaginary Magnitude (1984), p. 86
  • The war of good and evil present in all religions does not always end, in every faith, with the victory of good, but in every one it establishes a clear order of existence. The sacred as well as the profane rests on that universal order...
    • One Human Minute (1986)
  • Starożytni mawiali: 'mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur'. Świat łaknie oszustw, więc jest oszukiwany.
    • The ancients used to say: mundus vult decipi, ergo decipiatur — the world wants to be deceived, so let it be deceived.
    • "A Blink of an Eye", Okamgnienie (2000)
    • The phrase "Mundus Vult Decipi" has been used as a motto by the American satirist James Branch Cabell and is said to have originated with the Roman consul Gaius Petronius.
  • A man who for an entire week does nothing but hit himself over the head has little reason to be proud.

Podroze miedzygwiezdne, trip 3

Solaris (1961)

  • You are only a puppet. But you don't realize that you are.
  • Really, one of us ought to have the courage to call the experiment off and shoulder the responsibility for the decision, but the majority reckons that that kind of courage would be a sign of cowardice, and the first step in a retreat. They think it would mean an undignified surrender for mankind— as if there was any dignity in floundering and drowning in what we don't understand and never will...
  • If man had more of a sense of humor, things might have turned out differently.
  • Everything is explicable in the terms of the behavior of a small child.
  • Finis vitae sed non amoris
    • Life ends but not love.

The Cyberiad (1967)

The Cyberiad : Fables for the Cybernetic Age (1967) online excerpt

  • One day Trurl the constructor put together a machine that could build anything beginning with the letter 'n'.
    • In How The World Was Saved
  • Take a good look at this world, how riddled it is with huge, gaping holes, how full of Nothingness, the Nothingness that fills the bottomless void between the stars, how everything about us has become lined with it, how it darkly lurks behind each shred of matter. This is your work, envious one! And I hardly think the future generations will bless you for it...
    • In How The World Was Saved
  • He who must be what he is, may curse his fate, but cannot change it; on the other hand, he who can transform himself has no one in the world but himself to blame for his failings, no one but himself to hold responsible for his dissatisfaction.
    • In Tale of the Three Storytelling Machines of King Genius

Love and Tensor Algebra

  • Come, let us hasten to a higher plane
    Where dyads tread the fairy fields of Venn,
    Their indices bedecked from one to n
    Commingled in an endless Markov chain!
  • I'll grant thee random access to my heart,
    Thou'lt tell me all the constants of thy love;
    And so we two shall all love's lemmas prove,
    And in our bound partition never part.
  • Cancel me not — for what then shall remain?
    Abscissas some mantissas, modules, modes,
    A root or two, a torus and a node:
    The inverse of my verse, a null domain.

On Solaris screening

Stanisław Lem talking about the filming of Solaris (1972) by Andrei Tarkovsky. Stanisław Bereś, Rozmowy ze Stanisławem Lemem, Wydawnictwo Literackie, Cracow 1987, ISBN 8308016561 English translation
  • I have fundamental reservations to this adaptation. First of all I would have liked to see the planet Solaris which the director unfortunately denied me as the film was to be a cinematically subdued work. And secondly — as I told Tarkovsky during one of our quarrels — he didn't make Solaris at all, he made Crime and Punishment. What we get in the film is only how this abominable Kelvin has driven poor Harey to suicide and then he has pangs of conscience which are amplified by her appearance; a strange and incomprehensible appearance. [...]
  • The whole sphere of cognitive and epistemological considerations was extremely important in my book and it was tightly coupled to the solaristic literature and to the essence of solaristics as such. Unfortunately, the film has been robbed of those qualities rather thoroughly. [...]
  • My Kelvin decides to stay on the planet without any hope whatsoever while Tarkovsky created an image where some kind of an island appears, and on that island a hut. And when I hear about the hut and the island I'm beside myself with irritation... This is just some emotional sauce into which Tarkovsky has submerged his heroes, not to mention that he has completely amputated the scientific landscape and in its place introduced so much of the weirdness I cannot stand. [...]
  • I have to make it clear, however, that I haven't seen the whole film except for 20 minutes of the second part although I know the screenplay very well because Russians have a custom of making an extra copy for the author.
  • Tarkovsky reminds me of a sergeant from the time of Turgenev — he is very pleasant and extremely prepossessing and at the same time visionary and elusive. One cannot "catch" him anywhere because he is always at a slightly different place already. This is simply the type of person he is. When I understood that I stopped bothering. This director cannot be reshaped anymore, and first of all one cannot convince him of anything as he is going to recast everything in his "own way" no matter what.


  • Dopóki nie skorzystałem z Internetu, nie wiedziałem, że na świecie jest tylu idiotów.
    I didn't know that there are so many idiots, until I began using Internet.

Quotes about Lem

  • The theme he stresses in most of his work is that machines will someday be as human as Homo sapiens and perhaps superior to him. Mr. Lem has an almost Dickensian genius for vividly realizing the tragedy and comedy of future machines; the death of one of his androids or computers actually wrings sorrow from the reader.
  • 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.

External links

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