Friday, February 6, 2009

Gryzmaki, pćmy, murkwie*

We're reading Lem's Cyberiada. It's terribly cold outside and although it's not like I don't have other things to read for class, I really prefer reading this.

Back when I was younger and more naive, I thought more people realized that Solaris was not merely a movie in which George Clooney doesn't play a doctor, but, primarily, good book. One that makes you think twice before you swim in the ocean again, lest it should be a god of some kind.

Stories in The Cyberiad don't seek to provoke theological fears. They're daunting in a different way: the linguistic ingenuity of the inventors Trurl and Klapaucius makes my head spin. After reading "Trurl's Electronic Bard" I sat down to write my final paper in the literature and theory course (last semester). Barthes, Kristeva, and a poetry machine that made planets explode. On the whole, I find most attempts at weaving pop-lit into a theoretical argument forced, because it's usually too formulaic to propose any novel perceptions of reality. After all, The DaVinci Code didn't start a religious schism. It only made the claims about Jesus' potential marriage more dubious, if anything.

With Lem, the label sci-fi complicates things more than explains them. You can of course find some guys in spacesuits in Lem. If you're looking for them. But in his fables of artificial intelligence you'll also find intimations of present-day technology dilemmas, the internet, and post-humanism (if you give the thinking ocean in Solaris some more thought).

In the 1990s, Lem became more skeptical of technological progress and switched to non-fiction. He would say that he was living in a state of constant amazement that the world became what he had unintentionally prophesied in his fiction.

You can read a good bit of The Cyberiad here and think about what he possibly could have meant. I don't really know.

*Sadly, the story featuring those creatures was not included in the google books excerpts, so I have no idea what they're called in English.

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