Stanisław Lem

Stanisław Lem (1921–2006), a writer called “worthy of the Nobel Prize” by the New York Times, was an internationally renowned author of novels, short stories, literary criticism, and philosophical essays. His books have been translated into forty-four languages and have sold more than thirty million copies.

  • Dialogues

    Stanisław Lem

    The first English translation of a nonfiction work by Stanisław Lem, which was “conceived under the spell of cybernetics” in 1957 and updated in 1971.

    In 1957, Stanisław Lem published Dialogues, a book “conceived under the spell of cybernetics,” as he wrote in the preface to the second edition. Mimicking the form of Berkeley's Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous, Lem's original dialogue was an attempt to unravel the then-novel field of cybernetics. It was a testimony, Lem wrote later, to “the almost limitless cognitive optimism” he felt upon his discovery of cybernetics. This is the first English translation of Lem's Dialogues, including the text of the first edition and the later essays added to the second edition in 1971. For the second edition, Lem chose not to revise the original. Recognizing the naivete of his hopes for cybernetics, he constructed a supplement to the first dialogue, which consists of two critical essays, the first a summary of the evolution of cybernetics, the second a contribution to the cybernetic theory of the “sociopathology of governing,amending the first edition's discussion of the pathology of social regulation; and two previously published articles on related topics. From the vantage point of 1971, Lem observes that original book, begun as a search for methods “that would increase our understanding of both the human and nonhuman worlds,” was in the end “an expression of the cognitive curiosity and anxiety of modern thought.”

    • Paperback $34.95
  • The Truth and Other Stories

    Stanisław Lem

    Twelve stories by science fiction master Stanisław Lem, nine of them never before published in English.

    Of these twelve short stories by science fiction master Stanisław Lem, only three have previously appeared in English, making this the first “new” book of fiction by Lem since the late 1980s. The stories display the full range of Lem's intense curiosity about scientific ideas as well as his sardonic approach to human nature, presenting as multifarious a collection of mad scientists as any reader could wish for. Many of these stories feature artificial intelligences or artificial life forms, long a Lem preoccupation; some feature quite insane theories of cosmology or evolution. All are thought-provoking and scathingly funny.

    Written from 1956 to 1996, the stories are arranged in chronological order. In the title story, “The Truth,” a scientist in an insane asylum theorizes that the sun is alive; “The Journal” appears to be an account by an omnipotent being describing the creation of infinite universes—until at the end, in a classic Lem twist, it turns out to be no such thing; in “An Enigma,” beings debate whether offspring can be created without advanced degrees and design templates. Other stories feature a computer than can predict the future by 137 seconds, matter-destroying spores, a hunt in which the prey is a robot, and an electronic brain eager to go on the lam. These stories are peak Lem, exploring ideas and themes that resonate throughout his writing.

    • Hardcover $39.95
  • His Master's Voice

    His Master's Voice

    Stanisław Lem

    Scientists attempt to decode what may be a message from intelligent beings in outer space.

    By pure chance, scientists detect a signal from space that may be communication from rational beings. How can people of Earth understand this message, knowing nothing about the senders—even whether or not they exist? Written as the memoir of a mathematician who participates in the government project (code name: His Master's Voice) attempting to decode what seems to be a message from outer space, this classic novel shows scientists grappling with fundamental questions about the nature of reality, the confines of knowledge, the limitations of the human mind, and the ethics of military-sponsored scientific research.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • Highcastle

    Highcastle

    A Remembrance

    Stanisław Lem

    A playful, witty, reflective memoir of childhood by the science fiction master Stanisław Lem.

    With Highcastle, Stanisław Lem offers a memoir of his childhood and youth in prewar Lvov. Reflective, artful, witty, playful—“I was a monster,” he observes ruefully—this lively and charming book describes a youth spent reading voraciously (he was especially interested in medical texts and French novels), smashing toys, eating pastries, and being terrorized by insects. Often lonely, the young Lem believed that he could communicate with household objects—perhaps anticipating the sentient machines in the adult Lem's novels. Lem reveals his younger self to be a dreamer, driven by an unbridled imagination and boundless curiosity.

    In the course of his reminiscing, Lem also ponders the nature of memory, innocence, and the imagination. Highcastle (the title refers to a nearby ruin) offers the portrait of a writer in his formative years.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • The Invincible

    The Invincible

    Stanisław Lem

    A space cruiser, in search of its sister ship, encounters beings descended from self-replicating machines.

    In the grand tradition of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, Stanisław Lem's The Invincible tells the story of a space cruiser sent to an obscure planet to determine the fate of a sister spaceship whose communication with Earth has abruptly ceased. Landing on the planet Regis III, navigator Rohan and his crew discover a form of life that has apparently evolved from autonomous, self-replicating machines—perhaps the survivors of a “robot war.” Rohan and his men are forced to confront the classic quandary: what course of action can humanity take once it has reached the limits of its knowledge? In The Invincible, Lem has his characters confront the inexplicable and the bizarre: the problem that lies just beyond analytical reach.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • Return from the Stars

    Return from the Stars

    Stanisław Lem

    An astronaut returns to Earth after a ten-year mission and finds a society that he barely recognizes.

    Stanisław Lem's Return from the Stars recounts the experiences of Hal Bregg, an astronaut who returns from an exploratory mission that lasted ten years—although because of time dilation, 127 years have passed on Earth. Bregg finds a society that he hardly recognizes, in which danger has been eradicated. Children are “betrizated” to remove all aggression and violence—a process that also removes all impulse to take risks and explore. The people of Earth view Bregg and his crew as “resuscitated Neanderthals,” and pressure them to undergo betrization. Bregg has serious difficulty in navigating the new social mores.

    While Lem's depiction of a risk-free society is bleak, he does not portray Bregg and his fellow astronauts as heroes. Indeed, faced with no opposition to his aggression, Bregg behaves abominably. He is faced with a choice: leave Earth again and hope to return to a different society in several hundred years, or stay on Earth and learn to be content. With Return from the Stars, Lem shows the shifting boundaries between utopia and dystopia.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • Hospital of the Transfiguration

    Hospital of the Transfiguration

    Stanisław Lem

    An early realist novel by Stanisław Lem, taking place in a Polish psychiatric hospital during World War II.

    Taking place within the confines of a psychiatric hospital, Stanisław Lem's The Hospital of the Transfiguration tells the story of a young doctor working in a Polish asylum during World War II. At first the asylum seems like a bucolic refuge, but a series of sinister encounters and incidents reveal an underlying brutality. The doctor begins to seek relief in the strange conversation of the poet Sekulowski, who is posing as a patient in a bid for safety from the occupying German forces. Meanwhile, Resistance fighters stockpile weapons in the surrounding woods.

    A very early work by Lem, The Hospital of the Transfiguration is partly autobiographical, drawing on the author's experiences as a medical student. Written in 1948, it was suppressed by Polish censors and not published until 1955. The censorship of this realist novel is partly what led Lem to focus on science fiction and nonfiction for the rest of his career.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • Memoirs of a Space Traveler

    Memoirs of a Space Traveler

    Further Reminiscences of Ijon Tichy

    Stanisław Lem

    The travels of Ijon Tichy, a Gulliver of the space age, who encounters faulty time machines, intelligent washing machines, suicidal potatoes, and other puzzling phenomena.

    Memoirs of a Space Traveler follows the adventures of Ijon Tichy, a Gulliver of the space age, who leads readers through strange experiments involving, among other puzzling phenomena, faulty time machines, intelligent washing machines, and suicidal potatoes. The scientists Tichy encounters make plans that are grandiose, and strike bargains that are Faustian. They pursue humanity's greatest and most ancient obsessions: immortality, artificial intelligence, and top-of-the-line consumer items.

    By turns satirical, philosophical, and absurd, these stories express the most starkly original and prescient notions of a master of speculative fiction.

    • Paperback $17.95