On Both Page and Screen, Polish Master Stanislaw Lem Makes You Question Reality

Isaac Butler in The Village Voice:

Stanislaw_Lem_1-1Like a lot of kids, I was hipped to Stanislaw Lem, the Polish master of genre fiction, by a bespectacled, pony-tailed fellow-traveler amongst the self-segregated literary geeks who congregated at one end of my high school’s third floor. By then, I was already heavy into Neuromancer and Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep and Dune, but reading Stanislaw Lem for the first time was like discovering a secret treasure chest hoarding everything I loved. Here was where Terry Gilliam got the mixture of laughter and terror that makes Brazil so vital; here was Philip K. Dick’s paranoia stripped of its psychedelic wallpaper and painted over with a droll half-smile. Whether reading about The Cyberiad’s Trurl and Klapaucius, hapless robot inventors traveling the universe solving problems that they usually had caused in the first place, or Eden, in which a Star Trek–like interstellar mission discovers a planet with a domineering and invisible totalitarian government, each successive Lem work felt like it was expanding the idea of the possible.

Lem is probably best known in the United States for his novel Solaris, which inspired films of the same name by directors on the order of Andrei Tarkovsky and Steven Soderbergh. Had he only done that, dayenu, but Lem’s dozens of novels and short stories have proven massively influential — an influence that’s now on full view at “Stanisław Lem on Film,” a series of screen adaptations of the author’s work running through November 11 at Anthology.

Although known first and foremost as a science-fiction writer, Lem dabbled in a variety of modes: horror, detective procedurals, semi-autobiographical realism. But there are certain hallmarks that recur throughout his novels and the films inspired by them.

More here.