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100th Birthday of Stanisław Lem and Krzysztof Meyer’s Lem-Opera “Kyberiade”

On 12 September 2021, we will commemorate the 100th birthday of Stanisław Lem. Lem was probably the most important philosopher, essayist, writer and specialist in profound science fiction literature in Poland. His works, which have been translated into 57 languages alone, have inspired generations.  Yet Lem’s books are anything but easy to translate, for his language is immensely complex and inventive. 

Like Jules Verne, who anticipated many technical achievements long before they were realised and incorporated them into his novels, Stanisław Lem was already dealing with scientific topics such as nanotechnology and the interconnectedness of the world in the 1960s. Contacting extra-terrestrials was one of the author’s favourite subjects.  His best-known novel is perhaps “Solaris”.   

Lem, was born into a Polish-Jewish family, studied medicine during the German occupation in Poland and managed to survive the Holocaust by means of forged papers. His international fame took off with the publication of his first novel, The Planet of Death, in 1951. Many of his novels were made into films. 

Stanisław Lem’s compatriot, the Polish composer Krzysztof Meyer, chose various passages from his stories for an opera subject. Meyer’s opera in three acts based on stories by Stanisław Lem, entitled “Kyberiade”, had its world premiere in Wuppertal on 11 May 1986. 

Here lies the tale: In a cybernetic age animated by androids, the constructor Trull invents three storytelling machines for the melancholy Queen Genia, the stories generated are intended to distract her and cheer her up.  The first is how Trull builds a perfect supercomputer for the King of the Many, but through its machinations he himself is to be eliminated. However, Trull manages to foil the king’s plan through a clever trick. In the second story, King Voluptatus has engineer Listig construct three huge erotic dream cabinets, which he tests with enthusiasm. Completely addicted to dreams, he loses the ability to return to reality. In the story of the third machine, a shipwrecked man,  Automatthias finds himself in extreme mortal danger, from which even his tiny computer “In the Ear” knows no way out. After his unexpected rescue, he becomes a bitter enemy of technology for the rest of his life. The ironic-utopian reflection on earthly existence ends with the insight that it is not money, progress and perfection, but wisdom and truth alone that can save the world.

100th Birthday
Stanisław Lem 
(12.09.1921 – 27.03.2006)
-  Text for the opera “Kyberiade” by Krzysztof Meyer

Photo Stanilsaw Lem © Wikipedia

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