Prelinger Library Blog

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Location: San Francisco, California, United States

An appropriation-friendly, image-rich, experimental research library. Independent and open to the public.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Remembering Stanislaw Lem

The literary presence of Stanislaw Lem will be missed very, very much. He passed away on March 27 at age 84. Most writers work within the genre conventions of their chosen literary traditions. Lem exploded the boundaries of his. The hands of his imagination worked the clay of science fiction, satire, and socialist realism and made brilliantly fired, wholly new creations.

Since building our library I've appreciated his works all over again for the way they re-imagine books and peoples' relationships to them. His anthology of reviews of imaginary books, A Perfect Vacuum, envisions a digital library of the future; in Imaginary Magnitude he created complete, and staggeringly absurd, introductions to more such books. Each chapter of those volumes is a different remark on what we imagine when we wish for a book to read -- or what we declaim of the absurdity of some real books that are published. And the old glue smell of the dusty library and the insanity of the librarian in Memoirs Found in a Bathtub strikes, well, a little close to home.

Some of his work was interpreted into film...let's hope he's not remembered for the Hollywood version of Solaris. The 1970 Andrei Tarkovsky film of that melancholy book needed no improving upon: It is a perfect movie. For twenty years, and probably for the rest of my life, images from Tarkovsky's Solaris flood my mind whenever I put a sweet-and-sour candy in my mouth because I nibbled on a roll of the same all the way through my first viewing of it.

Most of Lem's books can only be enjoyed through the classic mode of reading; they describe worlds so dense, elastic, and fantastic they can only come to life in a reader's pure imagination. If you've never read the stabbing satires of The Futurological Congress or Microworlds or Tales of Pirx the Pilot, it's not too late. It's only too late to send a fan letter. --MSP