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Stanislaw Lem

Today on www. there is a doodle commemorating Polish Science Fiction author Stanislaw Lem, who has been Described as the most widely read science fiction writer in the world, and 23rd November 2011 is the 60th Anniversary of the publication of his first novel “The Astronauts”.

Stanislaw Lem was born on September 12 1921 in Lwow, Poland (Which is now Ukraine), and was brought up as a Roman Catholic but became Athiest for moral reasons.  During World War II, Lem,  due to being a Polish citizen with Jewish ancestry,  had to survive using fake papers, and worked as a car mechanic and welder.  After the war he relocated to Krakow,  where he studied medicine, but purposely failed so as not to be obliged to become a military doctor.

In 1946, Shortly after the war , a selection of Lem’s  poetry, was first published as well as a series of US popular fiction ‘dime novels’. In that same year, Lem’s first science fiction work, Czlowiek z Marsa (The Man from Mars), was also serialised in the magazine Nowy Swiat Przygód (New World of Adventures).

His first novel, Astronauci (The Astronauts) was written in 1951, during the Stalinist era, and he was forced to include many references to the “glorious future of communism” in order for his published work to be approved by the Communist authorites, later in 1961 he published the novel Solaris, which focuses on the ultimate inadequacy of communication between human and non-human species. Since then, this novel has  been made into a feature film three time, most recently in 2002 starring George Clooney.

In 1973, he was made an honorary member of the Science Fiction Writers of America, despite being technically ineligible and openly critical of American science fiction, and in 1974 His novel The Cyberiad was  first published in English. It featured a series of humorous short stories from a mechanical universe inhabited by robots. Particularly the exploits of two constructor robots named Trurl and Klaupacius, who try to out-invent each other, and travel to the far corners of the cosmos to take on freelance problem-solving jobs, which ends up having dire consequences for their employers. The Cyberiad also featured many wierd and wonderful Illustrations by Polish artist Daniel Mroz and led to Lem being internationally recognised for his literary work. A selection of drawings by Daniel Mroz can be seen here:

In 1996, Lem was made a Knight of the Order of the White Eagle, Poland’s highest decoration award for both civilians and the military. Sadly On March 27, 2006  Lem  passed away due to heart disease, at the age of 84, in Krakow, Poland, .

To this day, Stanislaw Lem has sold over 27 million copies of his popular science fiction books, which have also been translated into 41 different languages, making Use of Lem’s elaborate word formation, puns and alien/robotic language.