Stanisław Lem: Three voices on “Solaris”

  • Łukasz Tischner, Jagiellonian University in Kraków:
    A ‘Retro’ Futurologist. On Stanisław Lem’s Solaris
  • Ireneusz Piekarski, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin:
    On an Idea of Crippled God in Solaris
  • Maria Zadencka, Stockholm University:
    Lem’s Cosmos and Conrad’s ocean

Språk: engelska

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Seminariet organiseras i samarbete med Polska institutet

Recommended chapters to be read: “The Solarists”, “Rheya” (in Polish: “Harey”), “Thinkers”, “The Old Mimoid”. 

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Łukasz Tischner, Jagiellonian University in Kraków: 

A ‘Retro’ Futurologist. On Stanisław Lem’s Solaris

Solaris, arguably the most remarkable of Stanisław Lem's works, was published in 1961. It belongs to the canon of the science-fiction genre, and strictly speaking to its version that uses the motif of encounter/contact with an alien.  Although it is already 60 years old, it does not cease to fascinate successive generations of readers. Could it be due to the fact that it is surrounded by the nimbus of modernity and technological advancements? The problem of conquering the cosmos and penetrating its mysteries still belongs to the category of science-fiction, perceived as a contemplation of possible futures. The issue, however is more complex, because the novel is at the same time new or even avantgarde, and ‘retro’. In my presentation I would like to highlight some surprising inspirations that fuelled Lem’s imagination. I mean especially short story by Stefan Grabiński “Szamota’s Mistress” and some philosophical ideas by Arthur Schopenhauer. I consider such influences surprising because they do not fit the popular image of Lem as an advocate of philosophical naturalism and a ‘cerebral’, anti-Romantic artist. My guess is that Solaris is so successful because it is both futuristic and well rooted in tradition. Such is the visionary power of Lem’s imagination.

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Ireneusz Piekarski, The John Paul II Catholic University of Lublin:

On an Idea of Crippled God in Solaris

I’d like to draw an intriguing parallel between the plasmic Ocean, godlike creature from the Lem’s story, and a vision of Godhead proposed by philosopher and expert in the field of gnosis Hans Jonas, who constructed a neokabbalistic myth to explain God’s silence during the Shoah (The Concept of God after Auschwitz: A Jewish Voice).

Although Solaris was interpreted in multiple ways (sociopolitical, psychoanalytic etc.), the perspective of Jewish theology after Auschwitz had not been used yet to understand the impossibility of getting in touch with the planet and with the completely Other in general. In this view, Solaris can be placed in context of Provocation – apocryphal review of non-existent book on genocide Der Völkermord published by Lem in 1984.

I am not going to argue that a man of science and atheist, Stanisław Lem, built his story on mystical foundation or with religious tools and aims, but I’d like to show that there are imaginative correspondences – like for example in Bruno Schulz’s or Julian Stryjkowski’s works – between his visions or ideas and the visions and ideas of Jewish mystics.

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Maria Zadencka, Stockholm University

Lem’s Cosmos and Conrad’s Ocean

Several parallels have already been observed between Stanisław Lem’s and Joseph Conrads novels. I would like to pay attention to these scenes and motifs in Conrad's Lord Jim and Lem's Solaris that could be related to the notion of the "freedom of the sea beyond the line" (Hobbes).