Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future

BookStanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future

Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future

Liverpool Science Fiction Texts and Studies, 51


May 26th, 2015



Other Formats



Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future brings a welter of unknown elements of Lem’s life, career, and literary legacy to light. Part One traces the context of his cultural influence, telling the story of one of the greatest writers and thinkers of the century. It includes a comprehensive critical overview of Lem’s literary and philosophical oeuvre which comprises not only the classics like Solaris, but his untranslated first novels, realistic prose, experimental works, volumes of nonfiction, latter-day metafiction, as well as the final twenty years of polemics and essays. The critical and interpretive Part Two examines a range of Lem’s novels with a view to examining the intellectual vistas they open up before us. It focuses on several of Lem’s major but less studied books. “Game, Set, Lem” uses game theory to shed light on his arguably most surreal novel, the Kafkaesque and claustrophobic Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (1961). “Betrization Is the Worst Solution… Except for All Others” takes a close look at the quasi-utopia of Return From the Stars (1961) and at the concept of ethical cleansing and mandatory de-aggression. “Errare Humanum Est” focuses on the popular science thriller The Invincible (1964) in the context of evolution. “A Beachbook for Intellectuals” is a critical fugue on Lem’s medical thriller cum crime mystery, The Chain of Chance (1976). Stanislaw Lem: Philosopher of the Future closes with a two-part coda. “Fiasco” recapitulates and reflects on the literary and cognitive themes of Lem’s farewell novel, and “Happy End of the World!” reviews The Blink of an Eye, Lem’s farewell book of analyses and prognoses from the cusp of our millennium.


'An indispensable contribution to Lem studies. No critic is ever likely to do a better job of summarizing Lem’s entire oeuvre and meting out cognitive justice to this philosopher of the future than Swirski.'
Nicholas Ruddick

'A worthy addition to Lem criticism. Divided in three parts, a biographical section, essays on Lem’s work and a coda, and featuring eleven photographs, the work offers a panoramic view of Lem’s oeuvre and ideas.'
Bodhisattva Chattopadhyay, Foundation: The International Review of Science Fiction

'Peter Swirski’s book is impressive: it demonstrates a grasp of a very large body of knowledge… Swirski conveys Lem thoroughly yet in the most entertaining way. This marriage of the heavy and the light, the profound and the playful, is a great achievement and mirrors the Polish master.'
Michael Kandel, translator of major works of Stanislaw Lem including Fiasco, His Master's Voice, and The Cyberiad

'An indispensable contribution to Lem studies. No critic is ever likely to do a better job of summarizing Lem’s entire oeuvre and meting out cognitive justice to this philosopher of the future than Swirski.'
Nicholas Ruddick, author of Fire in the Stone: Prehistoric Fiction from Charles Darwin to Jean M. Auel

'Swirski does an amazing job… must-read not only for the admirers of Lem but for all who see literature and philosophy as relevant for what they tell us about ourselves.'
Philosophy in Review

'A great road map into the technological new world… Swirski added another layer to the portrait of the artist… conclusively seals his status as a world-wide leading expert on Lem.'
The Montreal Review

'Swirski does an admirable job bringing a wide range of disciplines to bear on the work of a thinker whose importance to fields as diverse as literature, science, and philosophy cannot be overestimated.'
Science Fiction Studies

‘Swirski approaches Lem’s fiction with accuracy, originality, and nuance, providing an inquisitive blueprint for further explorations into Lem’s work and into wider Science Fiction from a finely tuned, more practically minded, perspective.’
Joe Howsin, Fantastika Journal

‘It should also appeal to readers who have admired his work for a long time. In this sense, the monograph is both an introduction to and a thorough exploration of Lem’s oeuvre and intellectual legacy: a wonderful place for any scholar new to Lem to start.’
Michael Godhe, Fafnir – Nordic Journal of Science Fiction and Fantasy Research

Author Information

Peter Swirski is Professor of American Literature and American Studies at the University of Bahrain and Honorary Professor in China.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures6
Cogito Ergo Lem9
1. Life and Times16
2. In the Kaleidoscope of Books35
3. Game, Set, Lem78
4. Betrization Is the Worst Solution… Except for All Others105
5. Errare Humanum Est127
6. A Beachbook for Intellectuals149
7. Fiasco174
8. Happy End of the World!189
Appendix: Stanislaw Lem Books195
Works Cited198