The Beautiful Mind-Bending of Stanislaw Lem

Paul Grimstad in The New Yorker:

The science-fiction writer and futurist Stanisław Lem was well acquainted with the way that fictional worlds can sometimes encroach upon reality. In his autobiographical essay “Chance and Order,” which appeared in The New Yorker, in 1984, Lem recalls how as an only child growing up in Lvov, Poland, he amused himself by creating passports, certificates, permits, government memos, and identification papers. Equipped with these eccentric toys, he would then privately access fictional places “not to be found on any map.” Some years later, when his family was fleeing the Nazis, Lem notes that they escaped certain death with the help of false papers. It was as if the child’s innocent game had prophesied a horrific turn in history, and Lem wonders if he’d sensed some calamity looming on the horizon—if his game had sprung “perhaps from some unconscious feeling of danger.”

The idea of a private world spilling over unsettlingly into reality is also at the heart of his novel “Solaris,” from 1961, about a sentient ocean with the power of “seeing into the deepest recesses of human minds and then bringing their dreams to life,” as the Lem fan Salman Rushdie once described it.

More here.

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