#40 = Volume 13, Part 3 = November 1986
ON STANISLAW LEM
L. A. Anninski
On Lem's The High Castle
Abstract.--Lem's autobiographical novel, The High Castle, appears on
the surface to be a juvenile memoir in the realistic mode. It must instead be read as a
philosophical novel narrating the story of a talented child of the technological era, who
suddenly experiences the yearning for ideals. At the outset, the child is enamored of the
"little wheels" of his toys and the mechanical "malleability of matter.
" He fears the unpredictable and illogical world of living things. In his school
years, the child "reconstructs himself" to fit perfectly into the construct of
the school's social system. But the child retains individuality through his constant
thirst for "the absolute"--a thirst satisfied by many disparate things,
including a tower in his town (the "high castle" of the title) and an imaginary
land for which he produces identity cards and documents. The obsession with documents
leads him to experience "the tragic farce of existence."
This corresponds to Lem's adult view that humanity is playing a game with Nature, in
which the latter makes only minimally sufficient moves. Humanity is therefore given a
certain freedom to grow in "crevices" overlooked by nature. At the same time,
Lem damns the "terrifying freedom" of technological civilization, in which the
quest replaces revelation and identity cards replace the absolute.
Fluid Worlds: Lem's Solaris and Nabokov's Ada
Abstract.--Stanislaw Lem and Vladimir Nabokov, having shown a lifelong
interest in science as well as art, both recognize the importance of imagination for
knowledge: according to Lem, tomorrow's science can seem like fantasy today, and Nabokov
acknowledges that the perception of all reality requires creative imagination. The role of
imagination in all perception means that the boundaries between the observer and the
observed are not fixed because the observer's imagination connects him or her to the
natural world. The boundaries between observer and nature thus become fluid, and fluidity
becomes an important metaphor for the nature of all perception. The risk of such fluid
imaginative strength is insanity because as reality seems most fluid, the characters'
imaginations can transform all reality into a self-reflecting mirror. Thus the more they
are connected to the fluid world, the more they become isolated from that world and each
Lem's and Nabakov's major works, Solaris and Ada, both deal with
fluid worlds--the sentient ocean of the planet Solaris, and the water-dominated world of
the planet Antiterra. Solaris's ocean can penetrate the inmost thoughts of its observers
and precipitate them out in strange formations or exact replicas of its observers'
memories, and water serves as the chief source of power and communications on Antiterra.
However, there is danger in these fluid worlds. The more intensively they study Solaris,
the more the Solarists become mesmerized by the ocean's replicants of their own
imaginations and see mere reflections of their own minds. They cannot escape
anthropomorphizing the fluid planet, preventing contact with it, and making communication
with each other more difficult. In a similar way, those characters with the most vivid
imaginations on Antiterra find themselves remaking reality in their own images.
Lem and Nabokov join with scientists in recognizing the importance of some agreed-upon
reality principle to make possible a sane world of communication. Lem emphasizes that a
knowledge of scientific facts is vital to his fiction, and Nabokov claims that imagination
without knowledge can only produce primitive art. In Solaris and Ada, we
see worlds consistent on their own terms, worlds where certain hypotheses more nearly
coincide with reality--however qualified that concept might be.
Nevertheless, the rational characters in both novels seem sane at the cost of a
crippling inability to interpret what they see and to intuit the nature of foreign worlds.
Only when the characters can achieve a tension-filled balance between certain shared
principles of reality and the imaginative capacity to infer the existence of other worlds
can they begin to understand nature or discover love. Lem and Nabokov thus join in their
conviction that science, art, and love all depend upon a balance between imagination and a
sense of reality.
N. Katherine Hayles
Space for Writing: Stanislaw Lem and the Dialectic
"That Guides My Pen"
Abstract.--Lem's writing is characterized by a curious division between
closure and openness. His critical essays speak of literature as though it were merely the
clothing used to dress up ideas, and seek closure through clear-cut, rationally justified
judgment; yet his fiction is written with so little conscious planning of the ideas it
will use that it gives him, Lem says, the feeling that he does not know what will happen
next. The division has deep roots in Lem's past. When his secure and privileged childhood
was disrupted by World War II, he turned as an adolescent to the invention of texts to
give him "full power of authority. " Writing thus appears to have been a way to
mediate between the secure enclosures of childhood and the dangerous but exciting openness
of a war-torn country. Both Lem's criticism and his fiction manifest a consistent concern
with creating spaces that are neither too open nor too closed. If closed too tightly, the
space stifles creation; if open to the void, it is so loosely defined that creation cannot
begin. The goal is to create a space which is paradoxically both open and closed, which
can then become the space of writing.
To create such a space, Lem's employs a circular dialectic that operates to enfold
openness into closure, chance into necessity, chaos into order. The richly configured
spaces that result I explore through two representative texts, The Cyberiad and His
Master's Voice. As a grotesque work, The Cyberiad foregrounds the emergence
of its language from the void, emphasizing its creation ex nihilo. It then introduces
successive constraints to help control this space and make ethical judgments possible. By
contrast, His Master's Voice validates its language as a referential symbol
system, appearing to locate its subject in reality rather than in language. But the closed
system it begins with is successively opened until judgment has been so contaminated with
hermeneutics that closure is impossible. Beginning at opposite ends of the open/closed
spectrum, the dialectics of these two texts meet in the middle, resulting in the
characteristic space of writing--a space at once open and closed, rational and intuitive.
Stanislaw Lem's STAR DIARIES
Abstract.--Lem's STAR DIARIES have a special place among
his story-cycles, since they span most of his career and reflect his changing concerns.
Still, they have a common theme: the presumptuousness of the intellect. The cycle begins
in the farcical mode of the Münchhausen tales, parodying the typical attitudes of
Earthlings claiming the status of general truth for their subjective opinions. Ijon Tichy
here is mainly the comic victim of these opinions; the true protagonists of the first STAR
DIARIES is the spirit in search of a formula for defining reality. In the later
"Memoirs of Ijon Tichy," Tichy discards the Münchhausen costume, becoming the
passive witness mainly to misunderstood geniuses of cybernetic technology. Most of these
tales revolve around the problem of the construction of artificial intelligence or the
transference of humans personality to a machine. In its purest form as in "Professor
Corcoran's Boxes"--the tales lead to the idea that human beings can only achieve
self-knowledge by repeating the act of creation, constructing a reality in the inventor's
own image, but absolutely separate ontologically from the creator's world. In the
subsequent Voyages--the 18th, 20th, and 21st--Tichy himself participates in trying to
create a perfect universe, only to discover that error is a necessary part of things. Lem
develops this theme again in the later tale, "Professor A. Donda. " The crowning
point of the whole cycle is the "21st Voyage," in which Lem writes a parable of
the philosophical and civilizational consequences of technological omnipotence. Lem's main
targets in the STAR DIARIES are positivism and Hegelianism, which he
attacks from a "scientific" variation of Schopenhauerian pessimism, in which
chance and error create a necessary indeterminacy in the order of things.
Two Meditations on Stanislaw Lem
Abstract.--Lem's fiction depicts the "human element" in two ways.
Viewed optimistically (as in The Cyberiad, Solaris, and "The
Mask"), human personality is a system sufficiently complex to be unpredictable and
autonomous. Viewed pessimistically, the same system of consciousness is fundamentally
flawed, since it is doomed to annihilation and enslaved by its physicality. (The
resentment against Nature for creating humankind mortal and animal is something that Lem
shares with the 18th-century Enlightenment.) In the past several years, Lem's pessimism
has been winning over his optimism, a development exemplified by his catalogue of
"ungranted wishes," A Perfect Vacuum--the text motivating this first
meditation on Lem and one wherein the classical Enlightenment hopes for a full realization
of humanness are represented ironically in a human world lacking any meaning-giving God.
Fiasco shows us the most pessimistic Lem to appear thus far. With it, he is
returning to the space-adventure of the 1960s from his years of writing essayistic
fiction. The novel follows the pattern of Solaris's and The Invincible's
human-alien contact story, but with some significant changes. Fiasco rejects the
sense of wonder and positive excitement of the encounter, for it is a story with a cruel
twist and no redemption. Moreover, and in contrast to all of Lem's previous work, the
artificial intelligence of the fiction is no longer invested with moral virtue, but
instead has a bureaucratic character. The villain is human biology, and the novel can be
read along Freudian lines (despite Lem's conscious rejection of Freudianism).
Abstract.--Futurologists aspire to be experts "above the
specialties," constructing their predictions by correlating the information provided
by other disciplines. But contemporary futurology, especially in the US, is seriously
compromised by three related flaws. First, futurologists are insufficiently neutral with
regard to their prophecies; they confuse their role as describers of objective tendencies
with their role as advisers to agents of power. As a result, they are often politically
opportunistic and they construct self-fulfilling prophecies. Secondly, futurologists
generally concentrate only on the material-technological base of civilization, ignoring
the "imponderables," the values and norms that motivate authentic human action.
As a result, the influence of futurologists' predictions contributes to the
instrumentalization of cultural norms. Thirdly, futurologists have not developed a
sufficiently rigorous theory to control their pragmatic tendency to value only what can be
most easily measured.
There is a great need for a metafuturology--which will study the limits and
possibilities of scientific prediction. Each discipline should have a branch to deal with
its future, to counteract the instrumental-pragmatism of futurology with a humanistic
counterweight. As a whole, metafuturology should deal with the two sets of factors that
make the future indeterminate: the freedom of human collectives and the as yet
unrecognized qualities of the universe. It should combine the work of conventional
futurology with the work of the "second futurologists"--primarily
astrophysicists studying the possibility of astrotechnical civilizations. Metafuturology
must also actively imagine discoveries that might enable humanity to "leap out"
of its antecedent history--as for example the breakdown of the "somatogenetic
boundary" between the genotype and the cultural phenotype. Finally, metafuturology
must consider the effect of actually existing norms on the development of material
On Stapledon's Last and First Men
Abstract.--Stapledon's monumental novel creates a fantastic model for the
future history of humanity. The originality and greatness of the book lie in Stapledon's
total design, in which the successive rises and declines of human civilizations are
depicted as an aperiodic fluctuation governed by probability, not by an immanent law of
Although it is filled with prescient technological predictions, Last and First Men rises
far above most works of SF that come after it. Most SF ignores the social-civilizational
aspects of material-technical change and especially the dilemmas created for civilization
by such changes. SF tends only to extrapolate existing trends. Last and First Men's
superiority to most SF ultimately lies in Stapledon's individual conception of humanity as
a whole: a unity of opposites whose potentiality is so great that each civilization can
realize only a part of it. Stapledon shares with Borges the status of a master of
fantastic philosophy. He has been unjustly ignored by serious critics of literature
because of the essayistic character of his book and a certain stylistic crudeness.
The book has many flaws. The most dubious part of Stapledon's design is the way each
human civilization is reduced completely to its bare biological seed, thus allowing only
the genetic and evolutionary aspect of humanity to link the various evolutionary
incarnations. Further, Stapledon is ignorant of the law that instrumental phenomena grow
at an exponential rate, and that the discovery of a technology cannot be long separated
from its application. Consequently, he does not describe civilizations in which global
regulation of technological development is necessary to control "techno-orgiastic
escalation." Instead, Stapledon views humanity as a lonely Sisyphus in the universe,
constantly emerging from the void with great effort, only to plummet back again each time.
Stapledon's book also points out some of the inherent problems of futurological
prediction. Stapledon envisions many socio-technical innovations over the span of two
billion years which have already been realized in the few decades since the book's
publication. At the same time, he was unable to appreciate some others. The book's value
is ultimately not predictive, but retrodictive, depicting through ethical and aesthetic
paradigms a humanity with all its characteristics intact. This image of human history is
correct in that it asserts the openness of the world and denies the possibility of both an
automatized utopia and a final decline into hedonism. Even so, finished historical
paradigms will become less and less useful for prediction as more and more new information
is injected into civilization.
Robert M. Philmus
Futurological Congress as Metageneric Text
Abstract.--Virtually all of Lem's fictions can be read as generically
self-reflexive texts. Futurological Congress, however, stands out from the rest
of them as demanding that kind of metageneric interpretation if it is to be understood in
its integrity. By its self-examination of its own possibility as SF, it is perhaps the
logical successor to The Time Machine. The latter, working on a principle of
self-extrapolation, is finally what its title announces it to be: a vehicle for
transporting the reader out of the ideological, or conceptual, prison of the present
moment (dramatized in Wells's frame narrative). Futurological Congress is
likewise a fiction which finally lives up to, or is governed by, its title as it presents
as the type of all such symposia a particular gathering devoted to venting futurological
As Tichy's hallucinatory episodes elaborate upon the specific topic of the Eighth World
Congress (viz., the problems attendant upon overpopulation), they are continuous with his
waking perceptions; and in that way, among others, the text operates upon the distinction
which it principally invokes: between the "real," or "actual," and the
"hallucinative," or "oneiric." Futurological Congress's
"actualytic" project is elsewise furthered through the gradual absorption of
"reality" into Tichy's hallucinations. These, moreover, become increasingly
self-reflexive once they noticeably begin to generate their successors. Tichy's
"reality"--fundamentally associated with the sewer--does, to be sure, apparently
return at last with his seeming realization that the 21st-century Utopia of Plenty psychochemically masks an Anti-Utopia of Scarcity; but that discovery, based as it is on
his ingesting of a "dehallucinide," turns out to be as delusive as any of his
(other) hallucinations. The revelation of the "truth" about 2039 thus proves to
be a trompe-l'esprit, and one which again subverts the distinction between the real and
At its most basic, the process of "actualysis" takes place on a linguistic
level, thanks to the neologisms mediating between the "real" Costa Rican present
and the hallucinative future. It is unmistakable from Professor Trottelreiner's discourse
on "linguistic futurology" that this neologizing is self-conscious. As such, it
not only serves as another means (indeed, the ultimate one) for breaking down the
distinction between the "real" and the "imaginary"; it also points--in
effect if not in fact--to the principle generating this particular text (and perhaps SF
generally), a principle which SF shares with futurology. Futurological Congress thus
resumes (via Ubik) The Time Machine's project of investigating its
generic origins; and pursuing that matter to SF's modular foundations in language, it
extends Wells's discoveries in a way that confirms his original metageneric insight.
Two Faces of Stanislaw Lem: On His
Abstract.--His Master's Voice, one of Lem's most complex and personal
fictions, reveals two aspects of Lem's art. On the surface it is an example of SF
"pamphleteering," a cautionary tale. The tale of the project to decode the
"message from the stars" is a realistic analogy for the situation of the
contemporary scientist, compromised by being entangled in the military-political
establishment. The inability of this establishment to turn the "letter" into a
weapon indicates to the protagonist, Hogarth, that it was sent by a superior intelligence
able to separate the life force from death. Yet Hogarth's agonized concluding words of the
novel seem to betray this faith in the Senders' faultless ethics.
Although the conclusion is surprising, it is part of a design. Lem attempts to resolve
the conflict between reality's lack of order and art's "excess of order"--and to
depict the "philosophy of chance" in fiction. For Hogarth, a mathematician of
probabilities, chance acquires the ethical connotation of death, destruction, and decay.
His consciousness is split between his belief in statistical, scientific explanations and
the mystery of his own person, which tries throughout his life to liberate him from evil.
Lem is not Hogarth, however, and His Master's Voice is not philosophy of
science, but a philosophy of life. This philosophy is the familiar one of the
"absurd." The hero's rejection of the absurdity of chance is a tragic expression
of nonacceptance and minimal hope.
On the Genesis of Wizja Lokalna (Eyewitness Account)*
Translated by Franz Rottensteiner & Istvan Csicsery-Ronay, Jr.
August 10, 1979. I have been writing a long story for several days....
I have tried to tackle its subject matter perhaps seven times in the past few years. The starting point is the "14th Voyage" of my Ijon Tichy. That story serves as a stepping stone to my new tale, which I have tentatively entitled "Rebuttal." Two Enteropian ambassadors accuse Tichy of having reported everything about their planet in a biased way. Now I am approaching the writing more seriously, since I want to treat certain problems in depth, even if in a grotesque form—perhaps in the same way as the "21st Voyage."
I intend the tale to be both an allegory on terrestrial conditions (i.e., the East-West conflict), and an attempt to describe how a liberal society might look, which "breeds" a "synthethics"—a synthetic ethics—in the environment, to counter the collapse of ethical norms. That is to say, to cope with problems of anarchy, terrorism, etc. Beyond the borders of this society there is a crazy country of macabre-comical poverty; for the so-called squamp [introduced in the "14th Voyage"] prove to be pseudo-animals, colonized by the human beings in that country; while in the first super-state, the young people dream of a marvellous life in a natural environment, if one becomes part of the wonderful giant squamp of the second country. Tichy is abducted and reabducted, and he is instructed in the two different kinds of civilizations by scholars, politicians, and theologians. The inferno of the one state becomes the counterpart of the hell in the other—the difference being that in one, it is a case of dismal superabundance, and in the other of equally dismal squalor. Regrettably, this does not lend itself to easy summation, mainly because many of the important terms have been specifically invented by me—encyclopedias are quoted, as well as various handbooks, etc.
Tangentially, it is shown that the process of understanding an alien world cannot be any more conclusive than the interpretation and explication of our own terrestrial history. (All of the great powers in the tale have their own versions of the given history, and there are even special doctored versions for aliens, to distort certain shameful historical and contemporary events. )
I did not start writing the tale from the beginning, but rather in the way one digs a gallery or a tunnel—from several directions at once. There are "original alien concepts" and their translations into "terrestrial" language; there are attempts to project the alien things on Enteropia into human terms of understanding; and of course there is a lot of nonsense, as is only natural in a highly developed society. The principal dilemma in "Lusania"—which is something like the US 500 years hence—is whether or not to resist the "ennobled environment" that absorbs all evil deeds; people try to kill other people, not because they have any interest in the deaths of their victims, but because everyone wants to triumph over the environment that forces one to do good. Under such circumstances, one can become free only if one succeeds in outwitting the perfection of an environment that has been endowed with reason. Since the motto in this state is "Live and do whatever you will," suicide attempts hold a special attraction. On this level, the subject matter is a projection of what would happen if there were no crises of need to put the brake on the welfare state before it realizes its implicit ideal: the human being that has finally been made happy. (The nation is ruled according to "hedomatics"—i.e., the administration is busy measuring the maximum amount of ecstasy that can be channeled through the nerve-paths of an individual in the course of his or her life—and since the supply of available pleasures far surpasses the capacity of the individual, new technologies are employed to increase those capacities; but the beneficiaries of this maximum amount of joy behave not quite unlike people undergoing torture.
August 24, 1979. All I have to report is that I'm continuing to write my new Ijon Tichy story; only now I notice that I have never told the truth to those who wanted to learn from me how my stories come about. As it turns out, I don't know myself. To sharpen the point a little: in this case I took old stuff, some fragments from old manuscripts, that originally I wanted only to patch together. But gradually I noticed that what I had patched together appealed less and less to me. I gradually removed the old patches, and began new ones—the new patchwork has grown in length and width. Curiously, I am not working on any specific point in the story but, as it were, in several spots at the same time, because there are many different points of view according to which the whole must be organized. The starting point for this story was the "14th Voyage," which was simply comical stuff with squamps, etc. Now, the entry "Enteropia" from the "Cosmic Encyclopedia" and the squamp are just linguistic play invented for the fun of it, without any inner coherence, and I am not happy with it any more. There has to be a biological (i.e., natural) history of the planet, a political history, histories of its civilization, its power struggles, its philosophy, its theology, its customs, its ethics, in short its culture, and all of it must be neither too serious nor too grotesque, but balanced in just the right way, as was the "theological robot voyage" ["The 21st Voyage"]. Whenever the serious predominates, I am forced to invent grotesque countermeasures. Then, when it becomes too absurd and irreal, I do the opposite. This is how I am proceeding, and the material that existed at the beginning—those fragments to be patched—is becoming less and less important. I am in the middle of the whole thing and don't knowwhat will come of it. I can't even exclude the possibility that everything I have already written will end up in the waste-paper basket. The main point is that I will write neither a circus lacking all depth, nor an unequivocal allegory. Because of this, the whole edifice I am designing seems to be hovering, so to speak, somewhere high up in the air, tilting sometimes to one side, sometimes to the other. The fantastic is not a close-fitting mask (that is to say, a camouflage consisting only of individual words referring to some terrestrial—for instance, political—conditions) that covers the real; it has to be several different designata at once, and, moreover, it has to confront certain problems head on, problems which I take quite seriously since I consider them to be problems that humanity will have to solve in its real future.—But I may not discuss such problems in the abstract way I did in my Summa Technologiae; no, everything must be presented as a story, as something that has already happened somewhere. Now then, this is the nature of my work, this is how it looks. I never know in the evening what I will be working on the next day, and when I wake up in the morning I have new ideas to try out, and so on.
November 9, 1980. After careful preparation, I have begun working with a new subject; I hope it will become a long story or a small novel similar in length to The Futurological Congress. I have collected too much material rather than too little, but I am confident of mastering this embarrassement de richesse. The guiding motif, or rather the "basic idea," is quite serious, even though it will be a Tichy story; it is about the unrecognized connections between the biology of all reasonable beings and their culture. But that is only one among many other strands.
November 24, 1980. Mountains of paper lie around me because I am writing in a manner quite incredible even to myself—not in a linear way, but on several frontiers of the story at the same time. Somehow it is possible, and I have even promised the new Cracow literary monthly (which doesn't exist yet, but which will in 1981—for now you have only to demand something and the government will concede it at once) to give them a fragment of the new story—a small essay about the religious beliefs on the planet Enteropia (from Ent, Entus, Latin Entia, Entien in German, and the inhabitants are called Entianer, les Entiens, the Entsians). (I have been quite interested in the sorts of cultural values that arise when individuals have no outer sexual organs and procreate without copulation.)
December 13, 1980. I have already written nearly 100 pages; without a doubt, the story looks like a short novel. It refers partly to the "14th Voyage" with the squamps (called in Polish "Kurdle," from Kurdel, a fictitious Polish word). During his holidays, Tichy visits Switzerland, and a Swiss admirer gives him a palace as a gift. This admirer turns out to be a millionaire who wants to save his fortune from being seized after a court decision. Tichy is forced to remain in Switzerland for several months, and makes the acquaintance of a professor at the "Institute of Historical Machines," which is concerned with simulating the histories of far-off civilizations in the universe.Of course, as a result of the General Theory of Relativity it cannot be known what is happening there NOW; but terrestrial foreign policy must be based on what is (politically) the case there now. The purposeful Historical Machines simulate the course of the alien cultures' histories. The results have little in common with Tichy's "14th Voyage" (as far as the planet described in that Voyage is concerned). Tichy gets permission to use other archives of the Ministry of Extraterrestrial Affairs (located in Geneva), and only then do his studies of the history, culture, politics, and theology of the Entsians begin. Of course, there are several "histories" of the planet, written by various historians (just as there are "Marxist" and "Capitalist" ones, etc., but the doctrines there are different). I am keeping myself busy with the library.
December 23, 1980. I've progressed to page 120 in my Tichy, not so bad when you consider the circumstances. First I broke out a front tooth while I was biting something, and a new one was screwed in on the sub-nail in the root. The next day I had to have another tooth chiselled out from my jaw— there was no alternative—and for a full five days I have been running around filled to the brim with pain-killers. Then the electricity was turned off for hours, just at the time of the morning when I usually write. But as it happens with writing, a new chapter has opened up, of which I had no idea four days ago. There's the first chapter (that is, Switzerland); the second—The Institute of Historical (Historiosophical) Machines; the third—"The Sources," i.e., the whole library of the stellar constellation Tauri in the Ministry of Extraterrestrial Affairs; and now comes the journey proper to Enteropia, a "rectifying" expedition. But it seemed to me there might be a hitch somewhere, for Tichy has made such nice new acquaintances in Zurich—his lawyer, Sputnik Finkelstein, for instance—that to drop all of them and have them disappear did not seem proper. Now they will accompany Tichy, not as living persons, but in the form of cassettes, as programs that he feeds into the ship's computer. And, this being the case, he has taken additional cassettes, namely Sir Karl Popper and Lord Bertrand Russell, and William Shakespeare, too—and I am just writing th~ussions of those eminent people now. But I'm not responsible for the things they say, and I can't do anything to prevent Shakespeare from talking in iambic pentameter. The book continues to grow of its own will. After all this comes the planet itself. No doubt, this has grown into a novel, and I have come to an agreement with Wydawnictwo Literackie; the book will appear in 1982 if I deliver the manuscript before the end of July 1981, which I consider a realistic deadline. I can't say anything about the as yet unwritten parts, but what I have done so far is not bad at all. There will certainly be a crazy translation problem, since I am including documents translated into "terrestrial usage" by both machines and men; to say nothing of Shakespeare....
January 9,1981. I have arrived at 170 (page 170, I mean) and I'm at a crossroads: I could finish the novel in a few pages, but I feel an obligation to enter into the unknown, or else the whole thing will end too abruptly.
January 20, 1981. I have an idea for a small volume, consisting of reviews of books that do not exist, but "ought to exist"—one volume, made up entirely of statistics, will show with tables and diagrams all the things that happen simultaneously in a few minutes on this globe; the pains, the agonies, the births, the murders, the orgasms. This has to be done very well. Not now, however.
My problems with the new novel are similar to those of a composition in the musical sense: I must create a transition from the scurrilous-grotesque to the bleak-serious. To achieve this, certain leitmotifs that sounded ironical and comical in the first part must appear later in a darker light, or else there will be a fiasco, an abrupt change of tone, that would be fatal. At the same time, form and content must form a unity, they must be adapted to each other.
February 6, 1981. The novel isn't finished yet, the last chapter is still missing, since I am not sure how the whole thing should be concluded. That's frequently the case with my work. Also, the continuing tensions are not conducive to a creative mood.
February 17, 1981. Unfortunately, I've had to put aside the last chapter of my novel to write the essays I promised the new Cracow literary monthly, Pismo. But not much remains to be changed or completed in the novel.
February 24, 1981. My novel has taken unexpected turns, since the mass of data—about another world, another culture, religion, philosophy, etc.—has resulted in new facts that I have to put in proper order and insert into the flow of events. Also, I have read the whole thing now, which really was necessary, since I have to orient myself well in this "other world"...that has grown very big....
I have put practically everything else aside, but even so I can't finish the thing because of a certain autonomy I neither can nor intend to restrict, for new horizons have been opened up. Aside from that, very little is happening, thank God!
March 11, 1981. I have a few pages to write to finish the novel. It's already being retyped in legible form.
March 19, 1981. The translation difficulties will be enormous. There are so many neologisms, I may add a small "Polish-Polish Dictionary" to the novel. In that appendix I could make a statement, through the mouth of Ijon Tichy, about why a language crammed full with neologisms is necessary, and not just a perverse game with fantastic sounds....Coming up for air, I can now answer several letters that I had put aside during the frantic battle at the end of the novel. This has really grown into something like a triptych, with The Star Diaries in the middle; one wing formed by The Futurological Congress (the terrestrial future, let's say), and the other by an alien future that is, or can become, a reference system for us.
*The following compilation was excerpted from a series of letters by Lem to Franz Rottensteiner. The title of the novel concerned has been alternatively Englished elsewhere in this issue as The Scene of the Crime.
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