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Paradise Lost

Stephen Bann

17 March 1983
Deadeye Dick 
by Kurt Vonnegut.
Cape, 224 pp., £7.50, February 1983, 0 224 02945 2
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Bluebeard 
by Max Frisch, translated by Geoffrey Skelton.
Methuen, 142 pp., £5.95, February 1983, 0 413 51750 0
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The Entropy Exhibition: Michael Moorcock and the British ‘New Wave’ in Science Fiction 
by Colin Greenland.
Routledge, 244 pp., £11.95, March 1983, 0 7100 9310 1
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More Tales of Pirx the Pilot 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Louis Iribarne, Magdalena Majcherczyk and Michael Kandel.
Secker, 220 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 9780436244117
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Yesterday’s Men 
by George Turner.
Faber, 234 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 571 11857 7
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Rebel in Time 
by Harry Harrison.
Granada, 272 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 246 11766 4
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Three Six Seven: Memoirs of a Very Important Man 
by Peter Vansittart.
Peter Owen, 236 pp., £8.95, February 1983, 0 7206 0602 0
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... the context of an old-fashioned, morally weighty dilemma; endow your central character with an appropriate range of human hopes and fears; and you will have the recipe for a Science Fiction story by StanislawLem. But what you will not have, at this stage, is the extraordinarily supple and vivid narrative style of Lem himself, which has required the services of no less than three translators for More ...
7 January 1988
The Sea and Summer 
by George Turner.
Faber, 318 pp., £10.95, August 1987, 0 571 14846 8
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The Dragon in the Sword 
by Michael Moorcock.
Grafton, 283 pp., £10.95, July 1987, 0 246 13129 2
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Fiasco 
by Stanislaw Lem, translated by Michael Kandel.
Deutsch, 322 pp., £11.95, August 1987, 0 233 98141 1
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... The Dragon in the Sword might be a candidate. It looks terribly like a book designed for ‘loners’. Between these two extremes of involvement and withdrawal one might consider the puzzling case of StanislawLem’s Fiasco. There ought not to be any doubt about this. In the transstellar expedition which forms the main part of the story, the UN heroes come upon a planet which appears to have undergone a ...

At the Duveen Galleries

Brian Dillon: ‘The Asset Strippers’

18 July 2019
... whom the word ‘uncanny’ has been most used, or misused. There is often, perhaps always, a science fiction strain in his work, informed by the films of Andrei Tarkovsky, the fiction of Stanisław Lem and J.G. Ballard. Take his installation The Coral Reef, which won him a Turner Prize nomination in 2001: the visitor had to navigate a claustral labyrinth of 15 more or less grotty and unsettling ...

The Nazis were less harsh

Mark Mazower: Mischka Danos

7 February 2019
Mischka’s War: A Story of Survival from War-Torn Europe to New York 
by Sheila Fitzpatrick.
I.B. Tauris, 336 pp., £20, June 2017, 978 1 78831 022 2
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... population at large: no preponderance of bosses, or members of formerly privileged classes, or party members, or anything. Democratic to the hilt. Like his contemporary the Polish writer Stanisław Lem, another survivor of both Soviet and Nazi occupations, Danos seems to have understood the sheer randomness of totalitarian terror as evidence of the impossibility of social theorising. (The contrast ...
21 February 1985
Garden, Ashes 
by Danilo Kis, translated by William Hannaher.
Faber, 170 pp., £8.95, January 1985, 9780571134533
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Star Turn 
by Nigel Williams.
Faber, 314 pp., £9.95, January 1985, 0 571 13296 0
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On Glory’s Course 
by James Purdy.
Peter Owen, 378 pp., £9.95, January 1985, 0 7206 0633 0
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... bourgeois world, than to interpret the injunction to ‘Live all you can!’ as meaning ‘Travel and see as much as you can’? The ultimate timetable is an intellectual fantasy worthy of Borges or StanislawLem: but Danilo Kis shows us not only Eduard and his brainchild but their devastating effect on Andreas and the other members of his immediate family. Eduard, like most geniuses, is comprehensively ...

Forty Thousand Kilocupids

Marina Warner: The Femfatalatron

30 July 2014
The Erotic Doll: A Modern Fetish 
by Marquard Smith.
Yale, 376 pp., £35, January 2014, 978 0 300 15202 9
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... But this ultimate sex doll machine fails to cure the prince, who ‘emerges from it pale, faint and with the name of his beloved on his lips’. The femfatalatron was originally imagined by StanislawLem in a story from The Cyberiad, published in 1967 in Krakow – in times when, as in Baudelaire’s, entertainments could seem innocent. Pygmalionist attempts to re-create the dream of a perfect ...

Diary

Jonathan Lethem: Theatre of Injury

15 December 2016
... we’d all been instantly thrust into Iron Curtain Europe, where the only safe dissidence came in the form of marginal genres – dystopian literature like that written by the Brothers Strugatsky and StanislawLem, or Czechoslovak animated films. At one in the morning, as Trump claimed victory, a friend texted: ‘I feel like Charlton Heston on the beach.’ He meant that the ruined Statue of Liberty had ...

Not to Be Read without Shuddering

Adam Smyth: The Atheist’s Bible

20 February 2014
The Atheist’s Bible: The Most Dangerous Book That Never Existed 
by Georges Minois, translated by Lys Ann Weiss.
Chicago, 249 pp., £21, October 2012, 978 0 226 53029 1
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... it continues in the fictions of Italo Calvino, Douglas Adams, Roberto Bolaño and Mark Z. Danielewski, among many others. The Polish science fiction writer and author of Solaris, Stanisław Lem, wrote long introductions to four imaginary books in Imaginary Magnitude (1973) and a whole volume of reviews of non-existent books, A Perfect Vacuum (1971). The journal Underneath the Bunker ...

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