Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Departing for the stars

Solaris is a masterful piece of writing -- science fiction at its best, one that wrestles not with lightsabers and aliens but something far more dangerous: ideas.
In 1981 the philosophers Douglas R. Hofstadter and Daniel C. [D]ennett included three extracts from Lem’s fiction in their important annotated anthology The Mind’s I. Paying tribute to Lem’s regular translator Michael Karlen for his “ingenious conversions of sparkling Polish wordplay into sparkling English wordplay”, Hofstadter commented that Lem’s “literary and intuitive approach . . . does a better job of convincing readers of his views than any hard-nosed scientific article . . . might do”.

This was taking Lem at the level at which he ought to be taken. There are few dissenters from such a high estimate of his reputation, and no one who usually eschews science fiction need be put off Lem. He was a fully fledged writer who chose — in part because he had to in the circumstances of Soviet domination of Poland — the science-fiction form.

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