This year we celebrate the 100th birth anniversary of Stanisław Lem, Polish science-fiction writer, futurologist and philosopher. A man of an extremely inquisitive mind and rare literary talent whose creativity ignites the imagination of readers all over the world.
On this occasion, the Embassy of the Republic of Poland in Singapore has the privilege to present you a virtual exhibition of selected illustrations depicting characters from Lem’s book and short science-fiction comedy based on one of Lem’s work – “Pokój (The Room).
Graphics presented in “Lem’s Bestiary” were created by Polish artist, Daniel Mróz. It is said that among all the illustrators of Lem’s work, Mróz best captured the spirit of the writer’s story and translated his literature, rich both in literary and philosophical terms, into the world of disturbing and mysterious images.
Join us for the virtual trip to discover how D. Mróz, using a pen and ink conjured the unique images of robots and machines.
Remaining an immensely popular author among his countrymen, Lem is also one of the best-known Polish writers in the world, translated into 41 languages and published in millions of copies. The choice of the year 2021 is not accidental – Stanisław Lem was born in Lviv 100 years earlier. was born in 1921 in Lviv. He passed his high-school exams in 1939 and started studying medicine.
After Lviv was taken over by the Nazi army in 1941, had to do physical work to survive. The Lem family decided to leave Lviv in 1946, and the choice fell on the city of Kraków where Stanisław Lem continued his medical studies.
After graduation, the future writer started working at the scientific conversatory of Jagiellonian University assistants, which gave him access to the most recent scientific works from various fields.
Already during his studies, he began to publish poems and short stories in magazines. The unexpected success of his science-fiction novel Astronauci (The Astronauts) encouraged Lem to devote himself to writing full-time.
The writer began his career using conventional plots, subsequently developing them into brilliant, visionary and formally innovative works, ending his writing career with essays on the verge of philosophy and futurology.
He gained worldwide fame, some of his books have been adapted onto the screen, the most prominent examples being: Przekładaniec, directed by A. Wajda (1968), Solaris, directed by A. Tarkowski (1972) and then by S. Soderberg (2000) and The Congress directed by A. Folman (2013), which became an inspiration for the next generation of artists.
Stanisław Lem died in Kraków in 2006.
The literary genre in which Lem has been most successful, the one he gracefully employed, ennobled and elevated to its literary heights, is the science-fiction novel. The author frequently clashes the condition of the human as a biological and thinking entity, with the world of artificial intelligence, robotics, and other inanimate beings.
His work evolved over time.
It began with cosmic adventure novels but written in accordance with the requirements of social realism.
After the death of Stalin, and with it the relaxation of the pressure put on artists to produce social realistic art, Lem published further novels and collections of stories, which helped him secure a place among the classics of the genre.
At this time he has written Opowieści o pilocie Pirxie (Tales of Pirx the Pilot) and Solaris – a novel about a thinking ocean, popularly regarded as Lem’s greatest work – and one which made him a world-famous writer. Later came Bajki robotów (Mortal Engines) and Cyberiada (The Cyberiad) – collections of short, grotesque parables, the most popular of which became the stories of the two fiercely competing inventors: Klapaucius and Trurl.
Despite the seemingly light, fairy-tale-like form, the stories raise deep philosophical questions, their archaized language working to enthrall the reader even more.
The work of Stanisław Lem is now a global phenomenon, and its culture-shaping impact remains profound.
Within Lem’s field of interest are questions of such philosophical importance as the ethical considerations regarding self-conscious robots and artificial intelligence, or issues generated by the achievements of contemporary medicine (is a man whose most organs have been transplanted still the same person?).
In his novels, which retain their vast popularity to this day, Lem was able to incorporate a whole arsenal of issues arising from the clash of the humanities and medicine with engineering and futurology.
The Kraków artist Daniel Mróz gave the perfect graphic form to the heroes of Lem’s works. For a great number of the literary fans of the writer, Mróz’s illustrations and Lem’s texts have become an inseparable whole.
He was born in 1917 in Kraków and lived there all his life till 1993.
He graduated from the Set Design Study (1951) and Graphic Arts Faculty (1953) at the Kraków Academy of Fine Arts.
While still a student, he joined the Kraków cultural and social weekly magazine “Przekrój” and work there till his death.
At that time, it was the most opinion-forming magazine in Poland. “Przekrój” strove to convey socially significant content in a light form, featuring also the less serious, fashion- or lifestyle-related content, as well as smuggling news from the West.
Mróz played an important role in the success of the magazine as a full-time creator of the original, instantly recognizable graphic design, full of ornaments, vignettes, surreal illustrations, at the same time old-fashioned and vitally modern.
He gave “Przekrój” its recognizable graphic shape. Apart from the superb technical quality, his works were characterized by ambiguity, unrestrained imagination and a great dose of grotesque and absurd humor.
Mróz’s illustrations were published in many countries across the world. The artist also worked on set designs for theater performances.
He created illustrations and graphic designs for books of Jules Verne and Sławomir Mrożek among others.
However, he is best known for his collaboration with Stanisław Lem, which brought him recognition on an international level – editions of Lem’s works featuring
Mróz’s illustrations are not subservient to Lem’s prose – they build a world that is compatible with Lem’s but at the same time create a world of their own.
For the sake of accuracy, let us add that Mróz illustrated relatively few of Lem’s books: The Book of Robots, The Cyberiad and Mortal Engines, designed ten covers and illustrated several stories printed in magazines. And that was enough for Mróz’s work to become embedded in the delighted readers’ memory for years to come.
Its underlying thought, whose author is the professor of the Gdańsk Academy of Fine Arts, Janusz Górski, is a reference to medieval albums showing to the astounded audience beasts such as the elephant, camel and, on equal footing, the griffin, unicorn or the two-headed inhabitants of the Antipodes.
In our bestiary, we present emancipated machines, somewhat ominous, and simultaneously grotesque, carefully drawn by Master Mróz and combined with their descriptions found in the novels and short stories of Master Lem.
One day Trurl heard distant reports of two mighty constructor-benefactors, so wise and so accomplished that they had no equal; with this news he ran to Klapaucius, who explained to him that these were not mysterious rivals, but only themselves,
for their fame had circumnavigated space.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 161
As they looked, someone stuck his face in the opening- a face so huge, that it was clearly out of the question for the rest of the body to climb in after it, and not only huge, but unspeakably hideous, studded up and down and every which
way with bulging eyes, and the nose was a saw, and an iron hook served for the jaw. The face didn’t move, pressed up against the open hatch, only the eyes darted back and forth, avidly examining everything, as if appraising whether
or not the take was worth the trouble.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 147–148
In those good old days it was the custom for constructors, once they had received their Diploma of Perpetual Omnipotence with distinction, to sally forth ofttimes and bring to distant lands the benefit of their expertise. And so it happened
that, in keeping with this ancient custom, Trurl and Klapaucius who could kindle or extinguish suns as easily as shelling peas, did venture out on such voyage.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 30
The bombardment began a week later, at midnight. The cannons, primed by veteran cannoneers, were aimed, muzzles raised, straight at the white star of the Emperor’s empire, and they fired-not death-dealing, but life-giving missiles. For
Trurl had loaded the cannons with newborn babies, which rained down upon the enemy in gooing, cooing myriads and, growing quickly, crawled and drooled over everything.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 111–112
Furious, the beast writhed and wriggled its iterated integrals beneath the King’s polynomial blows, collapsed into an infinite series of indeterminate terms, then got back up by raising itself to the nth power, but the King so belaboured
it with differentials and partial derivatives that its Fourier coefficients all cancelled out.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 68–69
First, they were creeping molds that slithered forth from the ocean onto land, and lied by devouring one another, and the more they devoured themselves, the more of them there were, and then they stood upright, supporting their globby
substance by means of calcareous scaffolding, and finally they built machines. From these protomachines came sentient machines, which begat intelligent machines, which in turn conceived perfect machines.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 283–284
The scarechrome sets off, and all you can hear inside are its programs whirring, one more frightening than the next. It approaches – how it hisses, hot it spits! It even scares itself a little.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 133
The kingdom to which Trurl repaired was ruled by King Atrocitus. He was a militarist to the core, and an incredible miser besides. To relieve the royal treasury, he did away with all punishments except for the death sentence.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 32
Each and every Ninnican sat in his palace, which was built for him by his automate (for so they called their triboluminescent slaves), each with essences anointed, each with precious gems appointed, electrically caressed, impeccably dressed,
pomaded, braided, gold-brocaded, lapped and laved in ducats gleaming, wrapped and wreathed in incense streaming, showered with treasures, plied with pleasures, marble halls, fanfares, balls, but for all that, strangely discontent and
even a little depressed.
Stanislaw Lem, The Cyberiad. Fables for the cybernetic age. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1974, page 205
Thus there circulated throughout the city, for miles and miles, the satisfaction of King Gnuff, for he had succeeded in achieving greatness temporal and literal, and in addition was hidden everywhere, as the prophecy required, for indeed
he was all-present in the kingdom. And what a pretty picture it made at dusk, when the King-titan through a soft glow winked its bulbs in thought, then slowly dimmed, sinking into a well-earned sleep.
Stanisław Lem, Mortal Engines. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1977, page 118
Giant meanwhile devoted his time to augmentation with tremendous effort he hauled together suns and whole galaxies, melted them down, mixed, welded, cemented, and, working his fingers to the bone, created a cosmocolossal macromegalopican,
of such all-ecompassing girth, that apart from it hardly anything remained only a tiny crevice.
Stanisław Lem, Mortal Engines. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1977, page 50–51
Once there lived a certain great inventor-constructor who, never flagging, thought up unusual devices and fashioned the most amazing mechanisms. A bold hear served as his symbol, and every atom that passed through his hands bore that mark,
so that afterwards scientists did marvel to find in among the atomic spectra flickering valentines.
Stanisław Lem, Mortal Engines. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1977, page 1
Once there lived a certain engineer-cosmogonist who lit stars to dispel the dark. He arrived at the nebula in Andromeda when it was still filled with black clouds. He immediately cranked up a great vortex, and as soon as it began to move,
the cosmogonist reached for his beams. He had three of these: red, violet, and invisible.
Stanisław Lem, Mortal Engines. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1977, page 8
They bore this name, for only in the intense cold could they exist, and in the sunless void. Before very long they had built themselves cities and palaces of ice, and, as any heat whatever threatened them with extinction, they trapped
polar lights in large transparent vessels and with these illumined their dwellings.
Stanisław Lem, Mortal Engines. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1977, page 1–2
For the youthful nationalism of the Robcol had taken the form of an unreasonable hatred of all things human. The Cercian press never tires of repeating that we are abominable slaveowners, who illegally exploit and prey upon innocent robots.
Stanislaw Lem, The Star Diaries. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1976, page 44
At last a famous stellar adventurer, the intrepid Zow Gorbras, set out for Tairia, tho hounds in spacesuits at his side, to hunt the enigmatic creatures. After five days he returned alone, haggard and drawn.
Stanislaw Lem, The Star Diaries. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1976, page 238
The consensus is that these intelligent beings are among the most obliging, kind, peaceable and altruistically inclined creatures in the Universe.
Stanislaw Lem, The Star Diaries. Translated by Michael Kandel. The Seabury Press, Inc., New York, 1976, page 226
The robot rocked back and forth, more like a knight in armor than an automaton. His right shoulder didn’t match his left, there were welding scars on his hips and thighs, and the treated metal around the seams had taken on a grey-blue
Stanislaw Lem, Tales of Pirx the pilot. Translated by Louis Iribarne. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York, 1979, page 165
These beings walked upon two legs and had hands, heads, eyes, ears, and lips. True, the lips were in the middle of the forehead, the ears under the chin (a par on each side), and the eyes—ten in all—were arranged like rosary beads across
their cheeks. But to a traveller like me, who has encountered the most bizzare creatures in the course of his expeditions, they were the spit and image of humans.
Stanislaw Lem, Memoirs of a space traveller. Translated by Joe Stern and Maria Swiecicka-Ziemianek, Harcourt Brace Joanovic Publishers, New York, 1982, page 8
This machine really did exhibit spontaneity in its actions: comparable to that of a 14-month old toddler. The value of the machine was purely theoretical, but this was the closest that a glass-and-wire model had ever gotten to emulating
the human brain.
Stanislaw Lem, Lymphater’s Formula. Translated by Stanisław Szeląg.