SOLARIS, A NOVEL BY STANISLAW LEM (READING RECOMMENDATION)
Hello readers! I suffered a shoulder injury a few days ago and it's not getting better, so I will probably be a bit absent in the immediate future and slow to answer to comments. I cannot use my right hand, so typing is difficult. The new year hasn't started too well for me. On a more positive note, I did listen to a lovely audiobook. Therefore, today I'll share a book review. The book in question is a philosophical science fiction classic Solaris. Written by Polish author of Jewish origin Stanislaw Lem and published in 1961, Solaris has remained popular to this day. This novel has been a subject of many adaptations in various media, from radio dramas, a play, a TV serial, several films to even ballet (in different countries and languages). Solaris also inspired songs, music and multimedia projects. What is the secret of Solaris' success? First of all, it is a beautifully complex work, philosophical science fiction at its best. Secondly, the themes it explores are still relevant and interesting. Thirdly, the novel is well written and plotted. Fourthly, it is a book that inspired reader's interest and imagination. Finally, it is a book that asks all the right kind of questions, engaging both the heart and the mind of its reader. Scroll down to read a more detailed review (that might include some minor spoilers).
This is a novel that I have heard much about. When I finished it, I remember thinking to myself: ' So, Solaris really is a masterpiece. ' My reading experience was quite intense. While listening to an audio version of this book, I felt like I was myself trapped on Solaris planet. Throughout the novel, there is much talk about the planet Solaris and the research being conducted there, giving the setting an authentic feel. The philosophical aspect of the book is well developed and the characters are interesting. Although as readers, we have insight only in the mind of the protagonist, the other characters remain somewhat shred in mystery- a writing choice that makes sense as it adds to the overall lonely and isolated emotion and atmosphere captured by the book.
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all a sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past. At the same time, there is something inside us which we don't like to face up to, from which we try to protect ourselves, but which nevertheless remains, since we don't leave Earth in a state of primal innocence. We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us - that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence - then we don't like it anymore.”
It doesn't surprise me that the film version seem to center on love story as it is easier to adapt to film then the philosophical aspect of the novel. That being said, I cannot seem to remember anything from the newer movie version I saw years ago and I haven't seen the Russian adaptation (although from what I understand, it is a rather long one and brings new elements into the story). I think the issue is not so much directors focusing on the love story, but on not presenting a wider perspective of it. I myself found the entire book quite fascinating. I particularly enjoyed the long descriptions of the planet, something that I imagine won't be interesting to everyone but it serves a purpose in making the planet seem real. I happen to share the author's pessimistic view of a possible contact with alien culture. As humans, we often cannot effectively communicate with one another within the same culture. As humans we have failed to comprehend each others. We find it impossible to communicate with someone from a culture radically different from our own. How could we possibly hope to communicate with alien beings? But at the same time- wouldn't we just have to try? That answers the question to me why these scientist cannot leave the station even when the planet seems to torture them. They just have to try.
* EDIT (28.1) In this post, I reviewed the Stanislaw Lew's SF classic Solaris. What I forgot to write down was that the photographs from my last post were taken in a local café in Mostar. Although, it seem that I do own every book that was on that shelf in the background (expect for the Harry Potter one) so no wonder I felt at home there. Those hardcover classical editions that were on the shelf of that Aldi café are pretty standard editions, something most Croatian families own. Another note: I have never actually finished reading a Harry Potter novel, although I started reading quite a few of them but always abandoned them before the end. I actually prefer the film versions to the novels. Not that there is anything wrong with the novels, but the film versions are so visually stunning and so well casted that the books seem a bit pale in comparison. However, for the time being I won't talk the Harry Potter series (that I hope to actually read in full some day) so I've just wanted to clarify that.
As always, thank you for reading and stopping by. Have a nice day and take care!