Mark 14:26–31
Skating on thin ice had always
been my forte, cursive figure
eights my specialty. I’d never
stubbed my toe, never eaten
crow. Four leaf clovers lined
my path with Irish luck. I thought
sin a dark age fiction banished
by the Galilean’s golden
rule. Later and luckless, my amulets
up in smoke in the holocaust,
I and all my friends were loved.

Stanislaw Lem is a “major writer and one of the deep spirits of our age,” wrote critic Theodore Solotaroff. After reading six of Lem’s novels, a number of short stories, and an essay, I am convinced that Solotaroff is right. Yet few American readers have ever heard of Lem. I keep asking my friends if they have read The Futurological Congress (1974) or The Investigation (1974) or Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1973) or The Cyberiad (1974) or The Invincible (1973) or Solaris (1971) or Star Diaries (1976) or Mortal Engines (1977). Their blank expressions tell it all.

Nonetheless, Stanislaw Lem is a giant of Eastern European literature: his work has been commended by well-known American writers and critics. Six of the titles listed above have appeared in mass-market editions in the United States (Seabury has published the bulk of these titles in hardback; Avon is the paperback publisher of these). Remaining yet untranslated from the Polish are numerous articles and nonfiction works on culture, medicine, cybernetics, and philosophy, especially the philosophy of science.

Stanislaw Lem was born in Lwow in 1921. In 1944 he moved to Krakow, Poland, where he now lives. During the Nazi occupation he was forbidden a university education, but he subsequently studied medicine and, following in his parents’ footsteps, became a doctor. Writing, however, has always been his first love.

There ...

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