Kraków to celebrate 95th anniversary of the birth of Stanislaw Lem
A walk in the footsteps of Stanislaw Lem, a screening of “The Congress” and a debate titled “Futurological Congress – the world within a system of universal charity” will be among the main attractions of the events marking the 95th anniversary of Stanislaw Lem’s birth.
September 12th will mark the 95th anniversary of the birth of the writer, whose stories were translated into 41 languages. Over 30 million copies of Lem’s books were sold around the world, with some of them adapted for film and radio productions.
To mark the occasion, a birthday walk in memory of Stanislaw Lem will take place, during which Elżbieta Binswanger-Stefańska will speak about places in Krakow linked to the writer. Two days later, on 12 September, a debate will be held at Krakow’s ICE Congress Centre dedicated to the “Futurological Congress” – a comprehensive story written by Lem that was published in 1971.
A discussion titled “Futurological Congress – the world within a system of universal charity” on the modern political-social context of Lem’s work will include the following speakers: Wojciech Zemek, Lem’s long-time assistant, as well as Prof. Piotr Popil from the Institute of Pharmacology of the Polish Academy of Sciences. The talk will be moderated by Elżbieta Binswanger-Stefańska (Institute of Rational Enlightenment) and extracts from the “Futurological Congress” will be read out by Ziuta Zającówna.
The debate will be accompanied by the screening of the film “Kongres” (The Congress, directed by Ari Folman) produced in 2013 – an international co-production based on Lem’s writings that was bestowed with the European Film Award.
Stanislaw Lem was born on 12 September 1921 in Lviv. In 1946, in line with national repatriation measures, he moved with his parents from Lviv to Krakow, where he continued to study medicine. However, he chose a future in literature. Among his great works are “Hospital of the Transfiguration”, “Time not Lost”, “Astronauts”, “Return from the Stars”, “Solaris”, “Tales of Pirx the Pilot”, “Star Diaries”, “The Futurological Congress” and “The Cyberiad”.
He died in Krakow on 27 March 2006 at the age of 84. A planetoid (3836 Lem) has been named in his honour, as has the first Polish artificial satellite and streets in Krakow and Wieliczka.
The event has been organized by: Krakow Festival Office, Krakow UNESCO City of Culture, the Institute of Rational Enlightenment, the publishing house “Wydawnictwo Literackie” and the “Legal Culture” foundation.
Born in Lviv in 1921, Lem wanted to study at technical university, but was not admitted on account of his bourgeois background. He took up medical studies instead, which were interrupted by war. Member of the resistance movement, he resumed his studies in 1943, following the Red Army’s occupation of Lviv. After the city was incorporated into the Soviet Union in 1946, Lem and his family repatriated to Krakow. Here he enrolled in the third year of medical studies, but gave up on medicine after a traineeship at an obstetric ward.
As a student he would contribute short stories to a number of weeklies. He debuted as a sci-fi writer in the Tygodnik Powszechny weekly. In 1946-48, the paper would publish his poems. Lem’s first novel, “Hospital of the Transfiguration,” dealt with a hospital for mentally ill which the Germans liquidated in 1940. Though ready in 1948, the book did not come out until 1955. In 1948-50, under the tutelage of Proffessor Mieczysław Choynowski, Lem studied cybernetics as a junior assistant in the Science Seminar of Jagiellonian University Assistants. His first sci-fi novel, “The Astronauts,” appeared in 1951.
It was only after the political thaw of 1956 that Lem’s career really took off in Poland. In 1959 he created pilot Pirx, a protagonist of three of his novels. The writer’s signature works – “Solaris” and “Return from the Stars” – were published in 1961.
Lem and his family spent the years 1983-88 in Austrian exile. The author died in 2006, shortly before his 85th birthday, and was laid to rest at Salwator Cemetery in Krakow.