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Stanisław Lem

Stanisław Lem (1921 - 2006) - writer and journalist, theoretician and science-fiction literary critic. Studied medicine at the Jagiellonian University in Cracow. He made his debut in 1946 with the 'Man from Mars' and in 1951 released a sci-fi story titled 'Astronauts'. His work became critically acclaimed, for example: 'Dialogues' (1957) and 'Summa technologiae' (1964). Today his work is among the top rank of sci-fi work in the world, translated into many languages and many times awarded. His works include: 'Solaris' (1961), 'Robots' fairy tale' (1964), 'Cyberiada' (1965) 'Stories about Pirx the pilot" (1968), 'Local vision' (1982), 'Peace on earth' (1987).
He is the winner of many awards both in Poland and abroad (including the State Prize First Class in the field of culture and art; the Austrian state prize in the field of European culture; the Franz Kafka Austrian state prize in the field of literature), and distinctions (Order of the White Eagle), and honorary doctorates.

Stanisław Lem is widely regarded as the most prominent figure in Polish science fiction – but his legacy is far richer than that. Born in 1921 in the city of Lwow (today’s Lviv), Lem studied medicine first in his home city and then in Krakow, when he was forced to leave the place of birth after the Second World War. His first attempts at literary work was a short novel "A Man from Mars", published in a popular magazine. Since then until the end of 1980s, Lem wrote a number of fictional works in which he employed science fiction as a vehicle to study human character and present his philosophical concepts. Over the years, many of the books gained him international acclaim and recognition on both sides of The Iron Curtain, among people who shared his love for paradox, wit, intelligent irony and moral insight.

Such novels as 'The Star Diaries', 'The Invincible', 'Solaris', 'The Cyberiad', and 'His Master’s Voice' made him one of the most influential science fiction writers of the twentieth century, awards for literary achievement and, an honorary membership in the Science Fiction Writers of America in 1976, a society from which he was expelled in 1979 for his criticism of most of science fiction, which he considered “ill thought out, poorly written, and interested more in adventure than ideas or new literary forms”. Lem himself never stopped developing in his style – gradually steering towards philosophical and futurological essays, always retaining his paradoxical dry wit and brisk creativeness. To the end Lem cooperated with the weekly newspaper Tygodnik Powszechny where his essays were published.

Having a vast background knowledge in natural sciences and humanities, a true Renaissance mind of his time, Lem proved to be acutely accurate in his predictions of the future. “We all live in one of Lem’s novels”, stated one of Polish newspapers, and not without reason – deep in the Cold War era he was the one to forecast the coming of the age of information, the Internet, virtual reality, genetic engineering, and the threats these phenomena carry along. His life achievements brought him honorary degrees from numerous universities, as well as an honorary citizenship of Krakow, Kafka Prize for literature and one of the most distinguished marks of national recognition including the Medal of White Eagle.

His works inspired other authors. His most renowned and influential work, 'Solaris', inspired two acclaimed film directors on both sides of the Atlantic, USSR Sergei Tarkowski and US Steven Sonderbergh, who tried to translate this novel into the language of the cinema, neither of them fully succeeding. In total, 15 films were based on his prose. His works were translated into over 40 languages, with 27 million copies sold over the world.

Until the end of his life, Lem never ceased to be concerned with the direction that human civilization has chosen. His first and most important attempt at grasping the future of humankind was 'Summa Technologiae', written in 1964. His approach to the future was pessimistic, yet sober. “The confrontation of my idealistic futurological ideas with reality somewhat resembles a crash”, he stated later. “Things that I dreamed of were not created, instead the world chose what I considered feasible and what turned out to be profitable”.

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