Stanislaw Lem: Memoirs of a Space Traveler

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Stanislaw Lem Memoirs of a Space Traveler
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    Memoirs of a Space Traveler
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    Harvest / HBJ
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    Фантастика и фэнтези / на английском языке
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    New York
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Memoirs of a Space Traveler: краткое содержание, описание и аннотация

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“The best science fiction writer working today in any language.” — In this widely acclaimed sequel to , Ijon Tichy, space traveler of future centuries, discovers that “out there” isn’t very different from “down here.” Especially when he finds a galactic society over which the Plenum Moronicum presides, which appoints as ruler a ruthless Machine; the inhabitants, docilely cooperating in their own destruction, go by the name of Phools. Tichy seems to attract inventors of splenetic genius, such as the madman who has invented the soul, or another who invents kitchen appliances so good at their jobs they might as well be wives or slaves. Throughout these nine wild adventures, surprise follows witty surprise for the discerning reader of riotously imaginative fiction. STANISLAW LEM, who “knows science well enough to be playful about it” ( ), lives in Poland and is the author of books translated into nearly thirty languages, including and . In this sequel to , Ijon Tichy, space traveler of future centuries, discovers that “out there” isn’t very different from “down here.” Throughout these nine wild adventures, surprise follows witty surprise. Line drawings by the Author. * * *

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“But, my dear Phool!” I cried. “Surely you do not claim that the Drudgelings did this voluntarily? Where was your liberty, your civic freedom?!”

“Ah, worthy stranger,” sighed the Phool, “the laws were still observed, but they say only that the citizen is free to do whatever he wants with his property and money; they do not say where he is to obtain them. No one oppressed the Drudgelings, no one forced them to do anything; they were completely free and could do what they pleased, yet instead of rejoicing at such freedom they died off like flies… The situation worsened; in the factory warehouses, mountains of unpurchased goods rose skyward, while swarms of wraithlike, emaciated Drudgelings roamed the streets. The Plenum Moronicum, the venerable assembly of Spiritors and Eminents that governed the state, conferred all year round on ways to remedy the evil. Its members gave long speeches and frantically sought a way out of the predicament, but to no avail. At the very beginning of the deliberations, one member of the Plenum, the author of a famous work on the nature of Phoolian freedoms, demanded that the constructor of the New Machines be stripped of his golden laurel wreath and that, on the contrary, his ten eyes be plucked out. This was opposed by the Spiritors, who begged mercy for the inventor in the name of the Great Phoo. The Plenum Moronicum spent four months determining whether or not the constructor had violated the laws of the realm by inventing the New Machines. The assembly split into two camps. The dispute was, finally, ended by a fire in the archives that destroyed the minutes of the proceedings; since none of the august members of the Plenum could recall what position they had taken on the issue, the whole matter was dropped. It was then proposed that the Eminents, who owned the factories, be requested to cease building the New Machines; the Plenum appointed a committee for this purpose, but the committee’s entreaties had not the slightest effect. The Eminents declared that it was their fondest wish to continue to produce in this way, for the New Machines worked more cheaply and more swiftly than did the Drudgelings. The Plenum Moronicum resumed deliberations. A law was drawn up stipulating that the factory owners give a fixed percentage of their profits to the Drudgelings, but that proposal fell through, too, for, as Archspiritor Nolab rightly pointed out, such handouts would have corrupted and degraded the souls of the latter. Meanwhile, the mountains of manufactured goods kept rising, until finally they began to spill out over the walls of the factories, whereupon mobs of starving Drudgelings rushed up with threatening cries. In vain did the Spiritors attempt to explain to them, with the greatest kindness, that they were defying sovereign laws and daring to oppose the Phoo’s inscrutable decrees; that they should endure their lot meekly, for through mortification of the flesh the soul is elevated and gains the certainty of heavenly reward. The Drudgelings, however, turned a deaf ear to this wisdom, and armed guards were needed to curb their seditious activity.

“Then the Plenum Moronicum summoned the constructor of the New Machines before Its August Presence and addressed him as follows:

“‘Learned man! Great danger threatens our state, for rebellious, criminal ideas are arising among the masses of Drudgelings. They strive to abolish our splendid freedoms and the law of Civic Initiative! We must make every effort to defend our liberty. After careful consideration of the whole problem, we have reached the conclusion that we are unequal to the task. Even the most virtuous, capable, and model Phool can be swayed by feelings, and is often vacillating, biased, and fallible, and thus unfit to reach a decision in so complicated and important a matter. Therefore, within six months you are to build us a purely rational, strictly logical, and completely objective Governing Machine that does not know the hesitation, emotion, and fear that befuddle living minds. Let this machine be as impartial as the light of the Sun and stars. When you have built and activated it, we shall hand over to it the burden of power, which grows too heavy for our weary shoulders.’

“‘So be it,’ said the constructor, ‘but what is to be the machine’s basic motivation?’

“‘Obviously, the freedom of Civic Initiative. The machine must not command or forbid the citizens anything; it may, of course, change the conditions of our existence, but it must do so always in the form of a proposal, leaving us alternatives between which we can freely choose.’

“‘So be it,’ replied the constructor, ‘but this injunction concerns mainly the mode of operation. What of the ultimate goal? What is this machine’s purpose?’

“‘Our state is threatened by chaos; disorder and disregard for the law are spreading. Let the Machine bring supreme harmony to the planet, let it institute, consolidate, and establish perfect and absolute order.’

“‘Let it be as you have said!’ replied the constructor. ‘Within six months I shall build the Voluntary Universalizer of Absolute Order. With this task ahead of me, I bid you farewell…’

“‘Wait!’ said one of the Eminents. ‘The Machine you create should operate not only in a perfect but also in a pleasant manner; that is, its activity should produce an agreeable impression, one that would satisfy the most refined aesthetic sensibility…’

“The constructor bowed and left in silence. Working arduously and aided by a troop of nimble assistants, he erected the Governing Machine — the very one you see on the horizon as a small dark spot, alien traveler. It is a conglomeration of iron cylinders in which something constantly shakes and burns. The day it was switched on was a great state holiday; the eldest Archspiritor blessed it solemnly, and the Plenum Moronicum gave it complete power over the country. Then the Voluntary Universalizer of Absolute Order emitted a long whistle and set to work.

“For six days the Machine labored, around the clock; in the daytime clouds of smoke hung over it, and at night it was surrounded by a bright glow. The ground shook for a radius of one hundred and sixty miles. Then the double doors of its cylinders opened, and out spilled hosts of small black robots, which, waddling like ducks, scattered over the whole planet, even to its remotest corners. Wherever they went, they assembled by the factory warehouses and, speaking in a charming and lucid manner, requested various items, for which they paid at once. Within a week the warehouses were empty, and the Eminent factory owners sighed with relief: ‘Truly the constructor has built us a splendid machine!’ Indeed, it was marvelous to see the robots use the objects they had purchased: they dressed in brocades and satins, oiled their axles with cosmetics, smoked tobacco, read books — shedding synthetic tears over the sad ones; they even managed to consume the most varied delicacies (with no benefit to themselves, of course, since they ran on electricity, but to the great benefit of the manufacturers). It was only the masses who were not satisfied; on the contrary, they murmured more and more among themselves. The Eminents, however, hopefully awaited the Machine’s next move, which was not long in coming.

“It assembled large quantities of marble, alabaster, granite, rock crystal, and copper; sacks of gold and silver, and slabs of jasper; after which, making a terrible din, it raised an edifice no Phoolian eye had ever beheld — this Rainbow Palace, traveler, which stands before you!”

I looked. The sun had just emerged from behind a cloud and its beams played on the polished walls, splitting into flames of sapphire and ruby red; rainbow stripes shimmered around the angle towers and bastions; the roof, adorned with slender turrets and covered with gold leaf, was all aglow. I feasted my eye on this magnificence while the Phool went on:

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