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September 12: Stanislaw Lem

September 12, 2014

Stanislaw-Lem-6Stanislaw Lem, the philosophical science fiction writer and polymath whose 1961 novel, Solaris, has been made into a film three different times, was born in Lvov, Poland/Ukraine, on this date in 1921. During the World War II Nazi occupation, Lem worked in a German auto shop as a mechanic while at night working with the anti-Nazi resistance. “During that period,” he wrote in< em>The New Yorker in 1984, “I learned in a very personal, practical way that I was no ‘Aryan.’ I knew that my ancestors were Jews, but I knew nothing of the Mosaic faith and, regrettably, nothing at all of Jewish culture. So it was, strictly speaking, only the Nazi legislation that brought home to me the realization that I had Jewish blood in my veins. We succeeded in evading imprisonment in the ghetto, however. With false papers, my parents and I survived that ordeal.” Before his death in 2006, Lem's books had sold close to 30 million copies and been translated into 41 languages. Between 1956 and 1968, as Poland underwent a process of partial de-Stalinization, he wrote 17 books, including the kind of non-fiction, philosophical, and speculative-science works that eventually overtook science fiction in his output.

“We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don't know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is.” —Stanislaw Lem