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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“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:

“News of the wondrous building spread over the whole planet. Veritable pilgrimages began arriving here from the most distant lands. When crowds had filled the commons, the Machine parted its metal lips and spoke thus:

“‘On the first day of the month of Huskings I shall throw open the jasper portal of the Rainbow Palace, and then any Phool, be he famous or obscure, will be able to go inside and enjoy what awaits him there. Until then, restrain your curiosity, for you will satisfy it amply later on.’

“And, verily, on the morning of the first day of Huskings there was a sounding of silver trumpets, and the palace portal opened with a dull groan. The crowds began to pour inside in a torrent three times wider than the highway that connects our two capitals, Debilia and Cretinia. All day long, masses of Phools streamed in, but their numbers on the commons did not diminish, for new ones arrived continually from the interior of the country. The Machine extended hospitality to all: the black robots distributed refreshing beverages and hearty food. This went on for a fortnight. Thousands, tens of thousands, finally millions of Phools had thronged into the Rainbow Palace, but of those who entered, not one returned.

“Some wondered about this and asked where such great numbers of people were disappearing, but these solitary voices were drowned out by the blaring rhythm of marching bands. Robots scurried here and there feeding the hungry and thirsty; the silver clocks on the palace towers chimed; and when night fell, the crystal windows shone with many lights. Finally, as several hundred persons were patiently waiting their turn on the marble staircase, a shrill cry rang out over the lively beat of the drums; ‘Treachery! Listen! The palace is a diabolical trap! Run for your lives! All is lost!’

“‘All is lost!” the crowd on the staircase cried back, then turned and scattered. No one tried to stop them.

“The following night, several bold Drudgelings stole up to the palace. When they returned, they said that the back wall of the palace had opened slowly and innumerable piles of shiny disks had tumbled out. Black robots had carried the disks into the fields and arranged them in various designs.

“Upon hearing this, the Spiritors and Eminents, who had been meeting in the Plenum (they had not gone to the palace, it being awkward for them to mingle with the crowd), convened immediately, and, wishing to solve the enigma, summoned the learned constructor. Instead his son appeared, downcast, and rolling a large, transparent disk.

“The Eminents, beside themselves with impatience and indignation, reviled the absent scientist and called down curses on his head. They questioned the youth, ordered him to explain the mystery of the Rainbow Palace and tell them what the Machine had done with the Phools who entered it.

“‘Besmirch not my father’s memory!’ the youth exclaimed. ‘In building the Machine he faithfully abided by your requirements; once he put it into operation, however, he knew no more than any of us how it would act — the best proof of which is the fact that he himself was among the first to enter the Rainbow Palace.’

“‘And where is he now?’ the Plenum cried with one voice.

“‘Here,’ the youth replied sorrowfully, pointing to the shiny disk. He glared at the elders and thus, stopped by no one, went his way, rolling his metamorphosed father before him.

“The members of the Plenum trembled with both rage and fear; later, however, they came to the conclusion that the Machine would surely not harm them, so they sang the Phoolian anthem and, thus fortified in spirit, set out together from the city. Presently they found themselves before the iron monster.

“‘Scoundrel!’ cried the eldest of the Eminents. ‘You have deceived us and violated our laws! Cease operating at once! What have you done with the Phoolian people entrusted to you? Speak!’

“No sooner had he finished than the Machine stopped its gears. The smoke cleared in the sky and complete silence followed. Then the metal lips parted and a thunderous voice boomed out:

“‘O Eminents and Spiritors! You who brought me into being to rule the Phools! I am distressed by the mental confusion and senselessness of your reproaches! First you demand that I establish order; then, when I set to work, you hinder my efforts! The palace has been empty for three days now; everything is at a standstill, and none of you have yet approached the jasper portal, thereby preventing the completion of my task. I assure you, however, that I shall not rest until it is completed!’

“At these words the entire Plenum shuddered and cried:

“‘What order do you speak of, villain? What have you done with our kith and kin in violation of national laws?!’

“‘What an unintelligent question!’ answered the Machine. ‘What order do I speak of? Look at yourselves, how ill-constructed your bodies are; various limbs protrude from them; some of you are tall, others short, some fat, others thin… You move chaotically, you stop and gape at flowers, at clouds, you wander aimlessly in the woods — there is not the least harmony in that! I, the Voluntary Universalizer of Absolute Order, am transforming your frail, weak bodies into solid, beautiful, durable forms, from which I then arrange pleasing, symmetrical designs, and patterns of incomparable regularity, thereby bringing perfect order to the planet…’

“‘Monster!!’ cried the Spiritors and Eminents. ‘How dare you destroy us?! You trample on our laws, you murder us!’

“In reply the Machine rasped scornfully and said:

“‘Did I not tell you that you cannot reason logically? Of course I respect your laws and freedoms. I am establishing order without coercion, without resorting to violence or constraint. No one entered the Rainbow Palace who did not wish to; but everyone who did enter I transformed (acting on my own initiative, let me repeat), reshaping the material of his body so that in its new form it will endure for ages. I guarantee it.’

“For some time there was silence. Then, whispering among themselves, the Plenum concluded that the law really had not been broken and that things were not as bad as they had first seemed. ‘We,’ the Eminents said, ‘would never have committed such a crime. The Machine is to blame; it swallowed up multitudes of desperate Drudgelings. But now the surviving Eminents will be able to enjoy temporal peace together with the Spiritors, praising the inscrutable decrees of the Great Phoo. We shall keep far away from the Rainbow Palace,’ they told themselves, ‘and no harm will befall us.’

“They were about to disperse when the Machine addressed them again:

“‘Pay careful attention now to what I say. I must finish what I have begun. I will not compel, persuade, or urge you to do anything; I still leave you complete freedom of initiative. But if anyone wishes to see his neighbor, brother, friend, or other close associate achieve the level of Circular Harmony, let him summon the black robots; they will appear immediately and at his behest escort the designated individual to the Rainbow Palace. That is all.’

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