The Truth and Other Stories

The Truth and Other Stories
By Stanislaw Lem (translated by Antonia Lloyd-Jones)

I was unfamiliar with the stories of Stanislaw Lem, so this selection of new translations helped fill quite a hole in my reading. I came away feeling that Lem needed more room (though some of these stories almost qualify as novellas), but even so there’s much here to chew on.

As you’d expect, a lot of attention is given to what I’ve called Lem’s favourite theme: the difficulty if not impossibility of communicating individual experience. This can be represented most clearly when dealing with humans making contact with new or alien life forms but is something that I think underlies a deeper and more universal problem dealt with by the philosophy of language, which makes a lot of his work a sort of allegory.

As one researcher puts it, “Even if they [aliens] possessed language, which isn’t at all certain, we wouldn’t be able to make ourselves understood.” The differences in “structures of life in general” might be too vast. Or, as a scientist in another story about the unlocking of a dangerous solar power source muses: “I wonder what we could talk to the Sun about? What are the common issues, concepts, and problems that we share with it?”

If you like pondering questions like these, then Lem’s your man. But he’s also very good at spinning the everyday out into matters with cosmic implications, like the dust bunnies in a bachelor’s house becoming viral spores of entropy or a young radio enthusiast being upgraded into a god when he plugs into the singularity. After nearly every story you’re left with a lot to think about, which makes this a book you won’t want to burn through but stretch out and enjoy. The stories are difficult – more so even than the novels, but almost equally rewarding. And I mean that as high praise for an author of this caliber.


6 thoughts on “The Truth and Other Stories

  1. I’ve never read anything by him. From all the reviews from various people over the years, I doubt I will either.

    He seems to speak to a certain kind of cross section of SF fandom that I’m not a part of.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lem is great, but as I said to Booky this might not be the best book to enter into his work with. The nice thing about SF is that there really is a wide variety of stuff to choose from, which I don’t find to be the case as much in other genres.

      Liked by 3 people

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