11 Preliminary Orbits Around Planet Lem by the Brothers Quay

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Here come the Quays again with another short documentary for the Polish Cultural Institute. This was posted only a few days ago to acknowledge the centenary of the birth of writer Stanislaw Lem. It’s only the briefest run through Lem’s career as a writer of science fiction but it does include a sequence that lists the films adapted from his work which is a useful reminder of all the ones I’ve yet to see. And the piece ends with an extract from Maska, the Quays’ own adaptation of a Lem short story, and a favourite of mine among their recent films. (Thanks to Tomas for the tip!)

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4 thoughts on “11 Preliminary Orbits Around Planet Lem by the Brothers Quay”

  1. I had no idea there was a movie adaptation of HIS MASTER’S VOICE, one of my favorite Lem novels. It shares Lem’s recurring theme of the incomprehensibility of the truly alien with SOLARIS. There is a trailer on YouTube that looks very interesting. Gyorgy Palfi, the writer/director, seems to have modified the plot to suit his own vision, but I don’t mind that. Tarkovsky and Soderbergh both did that with their versions of SOLARIS, although I think Tarkovsky mostly succeeded and Soderbergh mostly failed. Palfi’s film seems to have been making the rounds of the US festivals before the pandemic and may have been a casualty of the lockdown rather like LAST AND FIRST MEN. Too bad. Kino? Criterion? Are you paying attention?

  2. I still haven’t read any of Lem’s novels. My excuse, apart from the usual situation of taking forever to get round to some things, is that I keep waiting for new translations, as I did with the Strugatsky brothers. But nothing seems forthcoming so I ought to at least give Solaris a read.

  3. In response to John’s comment – a “new” translation of Solaris, by Bill Johnston, directly from the Polish (as opposed to the prior 1970 Kilmartin and Cox edition, which was from a French translation) was released in 2011. This version was endorsed by Lem’s estate. Unfortunately it is only available as an audiobook or e-book, as apparently legal issues prevent publication of a print edition. I would also recommend any books translated by Michael Kandel, who does a commendable job handling Lem’s wordplay and neologisms.

  4. Thanks, Anthony, that’s good to know. It was reading about the old translation being twice removed from the original language that put me off. I’m okay with e-books so I’ll give this a go once I’ve finished ploughing through the complete works of Thomas Pynchon.

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