If you like sci-fi, chances are you’ve read, or at least heard of, Solaris by Stanisław Lem. With translations into multiple languages, numerous audio books, stage plays, operas, and movies, this story is highly accessible. Needless to say, Solaris is a well-known and successful story.
A philosophical science-fiction story, this novel has something for everyone; aliens, romance, a slow burning psychological dread, and existential drama.
It tells the story of a scientist who’s just landed on a station on a distant planet. The planet is inhabited by one “being,” and there is considerable debate about whether or not that being is even a being at all. This is because the planet’s sole inhabitant, aside from the 3 scientists on the station, is an ocean that covers the entire surface of the planet. This ocean gives scientists reason to debate whether or not it can be considered a living being, or what else it could be.
The character list of Solaris is rather small, consisting of only 6 persons. As such, much of the novel is carried by detailed descriptions, internal dialogue, and developed dialogue between 5 of the characters. The 6th character has no dialogue whatsoever.
At it’s core, Solaris is a parable about the futility of trying to communicate with something that we can never truly understand, and leads to the reader questioning their ability to understand other people, and even leaves one questioning our ability to understand ourselves as well. Just because we think we understand another person, doesn’t mean that we actually understand them.
The first English translation of Solaris was written based off of an abridged French translation of the original Polish. The author himself has expressed displeasure with this version of the text. However, a direct-from-Polish-to-English translation was published after Lem’s death, and was approved by both his wife and his son, who believe that Professor Bill Johnston’s Polish-to-English translation is a more accurate reflection of the novel than the previous translation by Joanna Kilmartin and Steve Cox.
As soon as I finished reading this book, I wanted to start reading it all over again. Lem gives his readers plenty to think about in a relatively short novel. I highly recommend Solaris!
Read a more in depth analysis of Solaris here.
Thank you so much for reading! Don’t forget to like and subscribe for more Freshly Stale content ☺️