(PDF) Organizational Studies in Space: Stanislaw Lem and the Writing
Singling out his most famous novel, Solaris, for particular attention, a critical ... ï¬ction author, Stanislaw Lem, wh...
Volume 6(4): 649–671 Copyright © 1999 SAGE (London, Thousand Oaks, CA and New Delhi)
Organizational Studies in Space: Stanislaw Lem and the Writing of Social Science Fiction
Peter Case Oxford Brookes University
Abstract. This paper seeks to introduce the oeuvre of the Polish science fiction author, Stanislaw Lem, whose work is argued to carry significance for students of organizational conduct. Singling out his most famous novel, Solaris, for particular attention, a critical interpretation is offered that selectively highlights Lem’s epistemological and ontological preoccupations concerning scientific inquiry and the human condition. These concerns are seen to resonate with contemporary issues in the field of organization studies. In particular, the rhetorical role of mimesis, viewed as a synthesis of rational and non-rational human motives, within Solaris is taken to inform a wide range of human conduct. The paper concludes by calling for a realist mode of organizational discourse that explores the dialectical relationship between what it characterizes as ‘solar’ and ‘lunar’ dimensions of human behaviour. A new challenge to organization studies will be not simply to learn from the substantive concerns of literary genres such as science fiction, but also to aspire after the narrative skills of their leading exponents.
Introduction It will come as no great news to converts that many science fiction1 (SF hereafter) writers have something philosophically profound to say about the human predicament in general and human organization in particular. 1350–50846:4;649-671;010266
Organization 6(4) Articles This is a claim, furthermore, that can be made on behalf of works other than those associated with the great literary names of the genre—Mary Shelley, H.G.Wells, Jules Verne, Olaf Stapledon, George Orwell, Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov, Philip K. Dick, Robert A. Heinlein, the list could go on. Many SF authors cast a clear and perspicuous light on the ways in which their contemporary societies deal with radical changes which technological advancement brings in its wake. It is a genre—or, more properly, a set of sub-genres—that in futurological guises gives voice by means of scientific extrapolation and extension, or sheerly fantastic conception, to possibilities in respect of biotechnological, pharmacological, cybernetic and countless other specific forms of research; this in addition to rehearsing the prospects of inter-planetary and inter-stellar travel. A form that lauds the playing out of these imagined dramas and considers patterns of individual and collective response plainly performs an important cultural function. Any earnest foray, I suggest, will serve to persuade even the most sceptical student of organization of the enormous benefits to be had from the selective exploration of SF literature. The same, of course, could be claimed for fictional literature in general. What is at issue here is not whether organizational scholars can learn from studies of fictional narrative, as this case has already been strongly made—recent examples include Czarniawska-Joerges and Guillet de Monteux (1994); Case (1995, 1996); Czarniawska (1997a, 1997b, 1997c); and Grey (1996); rather, it is the nature and quality of the fictional texts and the nature and quality of the reader’s engagement with them that matters. In the context of this special issue, I shall confine myself to texts that, according to the claims of their authors and critics, fall squarely under the SF umbrella. Moreover, whilst much might be gained from an examination of non-literary forms of SF (television series, arcade and computer games, etc.), I shall limit attention principally to one author and focus predominantly on one book. This paper is primarily intended to introduce readers to the work of the Polish science fiction author, Stanislaw Lem, and in particular to offer an interpretative critique of his most famous novel, Solaris. My claim is that Solaris not only is an exemplary piece of SF, but also explores themes that resonate directly with contemporary debates in the field of organization studies. For reasons which I explore below, Lem is in my view a highly sophisticated novelist able to present issues in a way that demand a reflective response. As a study in narrative style, depth of insight and subtlety of analysis, Solaris embodies and exhibits qualities that interpretative researchers in the field of organization studies might do well to aspire to. My consideration of Lem’s novel is not unquestioningly appreciative, however. I also ask searching questions about certain structural dichotomies, contradictions and inconsistencies that obtain within the text. There appear to be radical discontinuities between the human motives, responses and intellectual positions actually pursued in
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case his fictional work, compared to Lem’s autobiographical reflections on such issues. It proves necessary to delve rather deeply into Lem’s thinking and choice of symbolism in order to explicate some of the processes at work.
Dr Stanislaw Who? Although familiar to SF aficionados, the name Stanislaw Lem will most likely be unknown to many readers of Organization. Quite why he should have remained relatively obscure to the western academic world is puzzling, especially given the fact that in a remarkably prolific career he has, to date, authored in the order of 45 major works of fiction and non-fiction together with numerous shorter critical essays.2 Two special issues (Volumes 40, 1986, and 57, 1992) of the American journal Science-Fiction Studies have been dedicated to critiques of his oeuvre and he has attracted sustained interest from the international SF community for over 30 years. Lem considers himself to have met with greater acclaim abroad, his work having been translated into some 40 languages and having found more popularity in Russia and Germany than in his native Poland. This opinion notwithstanding, he is something of an intellectual icon within contemporary Poland and has featured many times in that country’s list of Nobel Prize nominees (Swirski, 1997a). Lem was born in the Ukrainian city of Lvov (formerly Poland) in 1921. His father, having been a physician in the Austro-Hungarian Army during the First World War, became a wealthy physician in Lvov during the interwar period. (In autobiographical accounts, Lem makes no mention of his mother and only scant reference to his wife and family.) For the Polish bourgeoisie of that period, life was relatively comfortable and, as Lem (1984a: 3) himself remarks, ‘In the rather poor country that Poland was before the Second World War, I lacked nothing.’ An intellectually gifted child, possessing an IQ in excess of 180, he was prone to fantasy and spent much time constructing alternative identities or fabricating ‘important’ documents—passports, qualifications, etc.—to sustain the illusion of the person he imagined himself to be. He was linguistically talented, learning to speak French at home, Latin and German at school and also picking up Russian in the post-war period of Soviet rule. In addition, he forced himself to read English in order to access scientific publications in that language but never mastered the spoken word. Initially choosing to pursue a medical career, in 1947, Lem became a research assistant for the Konwersatorium Naukoznawcze (the Circle for the Science of Science) founded by Dr Mieczyslaw Cholnowski. Under Cholnowski’s influence, his interests broadened beyond medicine to such subjects as scientific methodology, psychology, psychometrics and history of science. It was during this period that he first met with some publishing success and began to entertain the possibility of becoming a professional writer.
Organization 6(4) Articles In Stanislaw Lem, then, we find something of a polymath: an intellectual of the mid-European tradition, well-versed in classics, mathematics and abreast of developments and debates in fields that span the entire range of natural and social sciences. Such rigorous intellectual grounding and thirst for knowledge are doubtless what make his fictional (and nonfictional) work so rich and sophisticated. Michael Kandel3 (1977) celebrates this extraordinary diversity in a review of Lem’s work pointing out that his writing encompasses and informatively addresses cybernetics, probability and game theory, information theory, theory of automata, computing, biology, genetics, linguistics, literary theory, anthropology, sociology, ethics and aesthetics. As to his literary output, Swirski (1997a) usefully divides Lem’s postwar work chronologically into four broad phases, each conveniently associated with a respective decade: (1) the ‘early phase’ of the 1950s; (2) the ‘golden period’ of the 1960s; (3) the ‘experimental stage’ of the 1970s; and (4) the lesser known works dating from 1980 onwards. In general, Lem expresses dissatisfaction with his ‘enlightenment-seeking’ early novels, such as Czlowiek z Marsa (Man from Mars, 1946) and Astronauci (The Astronauts, 1951),4 considering their cosmically there-and-then inspiration to have been too up-beat and utopian in character and unreflective of the inherent unsatisfactoriness of here-and-now human realities. The ‘golden period’ witnessed publication of, amongst other works, Solaris (1991/1961) and The Invincible (1982/1964) whose overall pathos emphasize the futility underlying the search for Truth and the selfdestructive drive of homo sapiens sapiens. The profound and repeated questioning of the scientific ideal and the relentless march of progress first introduced in this middle period seem also to have survived into Lem’s more recent work. The plot of his latest (and by his own admission probably his last) work of fiction, Fiasco (1989/1986), sees him mirroring the self-destructive propensities of the human race on Earth by the fictional annihilation of an alien civilization on the planet Quinta. This imagined atrocity enables Lem to explore intellectually the systematic subversion and perversion of moral principles. Lem (1984a, 1997a, 1997c) consistently presents himself as a confirmed rationalist. Yet, although he repeatedly rails against structuralist, poststructuralist and, most recently, postmodernist developments in literary theory and style, his own work bears what I shall characterize as a decidedly ‘counter-modernist’ mark. Lem’s counter-modernism is a theme I intend to return to shortly in my detailed consideration of Solaris, but for the time being I want to register how his pessimism in this regard may be accounted for biographically in terms of his Jewish origins and, particularly, his experiences during the Second World War. Although Lem’s family by means of forged papers were able to escape relocation to the Lvov Jewish ghetto, many of his friends and relatives were moved and subsequently suffered death in the Nazi extermination camps. (Lem reports playing a minor role in the Resistance movement of the time.) In
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case the post-war period of Soviet rule, a different form of oppression replaced that of the German occupation. It takes no great leap of imagination to see how the darker preoccupations of Lem’s pen might find genesis in these life experiences, particularly the social instability that he, and the Polish people in general, endured in the latter part of the 20th century. In the 1970s and early 1980s, Lem embarked on a series of projects that marked an original departure from other recognizable styles of SF literature. These experimental works, perhaps best epitomized by A Perfect Vacuum (1981/1971) and Imaginary Magnitude (1985/1973), consist of a series of metatheoretical challenges to the accepted values of academia in general and the SF community in particular. It is worth bearing in mind that, having been awarded honorary membership of the prestigious Science Fiction Writers of America (SFWA) in 1973, Lem wrote an article chastising the kitsch triviality, restricted intellectual scope and crass market orientation of most American SF.5 After protracted internal debate, the SFWA decided to revoke his honorary status in 1976 (see Sargent and Zebrowski, 1977 for an overview of this incident). He is not a figure who shuns controversy and in A Perfect Vacuum sets about attacking not only the over-commercialization but also the over-intellectualization of much art and literature. It consists of a series of belletristic reviews of completely fictitious books, often fashioned in ironically pompous and florid prose. Echoing the experiments of Jorge Luis Borges (see, for example, ‘The Other’ or ‘August 25, 1983’ in his Collected Fictions, 1998), it even begins with a wonderfully reflexive review by Lem the critic of Lem the author of A Perfect Vacuum: We suspect the author intends a joke; nor is this impression weakened by the Introduction—long-winded and theoretical—in which we read: ‘The writing of a novel is a form of the loss of creative liberty . . . The writer loses his freedom in his own book, the critic in another’s. (1981: 351)
In sequential reviews, Lem makes fun of post-structuralist narrative style and criticism, pouring on the irony and producing dazzling displays of periphrastic acrobatics that leave the reader feeling decidedly queasy. The point in all these logological antics (Burke, 1970) seems to be to make a self-exemplifying point; namely, that post-structuralism serves merely to subvert the evaluative possibilities and ethics of realist art and literature, leaving only an inconsequential decorative trace on the relativist horizon. As he was to remark later in his career but plainly revisiting the impulse of A Perfect Vacuum: As far as the fate of literary studies is concerned, I fear that in the future it is going to play an ever more marginal role, and that all efforts to ‘catch up’ with the sciences will turn out to be fruitless. Today we can best see this future in the example of poststructuralism and deconstruction—modern neoscholastics, empty and futile, especially when contrasted with the slow but incessant progress of the empirical disciplines. (Lem, 1997c: 104)
It seems all the more ironic that Lem here echoes the accusations that
Organization 6(4) Articles Raymond Williams (1980) earlier levelled at the entire SF genre. One wonders, moreover, what Lem might make of the reflexive paranoia evident in the opening of Burrell’s (1997) Pandemonium, and paralleling the beginning of A Perfect Vacuum, in which Burrell the critic anticipates future responses to Burrell the author. I suspect he would hate it, but, as I endeavour to explain later, for all the wrong reasons. Lem the rational and ‘objectivizing’ critic, as we shall see shortly, is often the antinomy of Lem the acutely perspicuous and sensitive writer.
Solaris So much for a brief overview of Lem’s life and works; I would like now to turn attention to a detailed reading of his most widely known novel, Solaris.6 The action takes place over a course of several weeks and is set almost exclusively on a space station situated in geo-stationary orbit above a far distant planet called Solaris. Covering the entire planet is a viscous ocean that regularly undergoes phases of spectacular metamorphosis, producing colossal structures the size of mountains. These transient structures display remarkable and intriguing complexity. For some 55 years prior to the time in which the novel is set, Earth scientists have been fascinated by what they deem to be signs of intelligence, judged from the standpoint of their intellectual paradigm. Research over the years has gradually burgeoned into a vast scientific record, grouped under the collective title of ‘Solaristics’. Although prolific, however, this scientific effort has so far generated neither unequivocal proof of extraterrestrial intelligence nor the elusive contact which scientists so desperately seek. In fact, owing to its patent lack of hard results, there are growing political pressures from scientific institutes on Earth for funding to be withdrawn and research on Solaris to be terminated. It is in this context that Kris Kelvin, a psychologist from Earth and expert Solarist, arrives at the space station on what he considers to be a routine mission. He expects to be greeted by three other colleagues, Doctors Gilbarian, Snow and Sartorius, awaiting his arrival, but instead Kelvin finds the craft strangely silent and apparently vacant. When he does eventually come across Snow in a cabin, the latter seems frightened, non-communicative and deeply suspicious of Kelvin’s motives. Snow’s paranoia is all the more disturbing to Kelvin when he discovers that Gilbarian has recently committed suicide for reasons unknown and that Sartorius is reluctant to engage in any kind of exchange with his fellow crew members. The general mood of nervous tension and anxiety mounts as Kelvin catches glimpses of other entities on board the vessel. There are fleeting sights of a larger than life black woman, for instance, and the sounds of a small child behind the closed doors of Sartorius’ cabin. Lem offsets the air of suspense by lengthy narrative asides in which Kelvin reviews books that detail the history and findings of Solaristic research. But there proves to be no escape for either the reader or Kris
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case Kelvin. In these literary ‘diversions’, one encounters a different, more existential form of horror. The skilful pantomime of ghostly figures and things that go bump in the night, as it were, is complemented by the deliberate arousal of mind-numbing futility as one learns in detail about the scientific efforts of generations of Solarists. The decades of research, the immense tomes and prolific treatises on Solaris appear to have taken the scientists no closer to their goal of communicating with the sentient ocean. As readers, we are taken over by a sense of existential intimidation and frustration; the kind of mood, perhaps, that sometimes descends on us in a university library (usually just before closing) when countless volumes seem to stare silently back at us from the ranks of uniform shelves. The main plot then takes an even more sinister turn as we learn that the ocean is able to access the memories of the human scientists who have been sent to study it. It turns out that, prior to Kelvin’s arrival, the crew had been experimenting with X-ray bombardment of the ocean’s surface and that the ‘visitor’ phenomenon began shortly after these interventions were made. When the three scientists—Kelvin, Snow and Sartorius— eventually and rather distrustfully pool their knowledge, they are able to deduce certain facts about the ‘visitors’. The planet is able psychically to interrogate the minds of the human crew members and, based on repressed memories, to create facsimile entities with which they are forced to interact. For Kelvin, the compulsory haunting takes the form of ‘Rheya’, his long-dead wife. Not long after his arrival, Kelvin awakes one morning to find her sitting nonchalantly in his cabin. At first he is appalled by Rheya’s appearance. That she should be dead is one thing; that the new incarnation possesses frighteningly superhuman strength is quite another. Over time, however, Kelvin gets used to Rheya’s benign presence and in fact begins to form a strong attachment to her. By introducing Kelvin’s former wife, the plot bifurcates and a quasi-love story runs in parallel to the theme of ‘alien contact’. Aged only 19, Rheya embodies endearing childlike qualities that communicate themselves in the naive dialogues and interactions she has with Kelvin. Not only does this simple intimacy imbue their relationship with a somnambulant air, it also contrasts markedly with the often pompous and calculated rationalism of Kelvin’s exchanges with his fellow scientists. The ‘real Rheya’ of Kelvin’s past killed herself after they had had a lovers’ quarrel. Kelvin’s guilt over the suicide and nostalgia concerning the life they could have had together draw him inexorably into an ever-closer bond with the facsimile, and the scene is set for the conclusion of this tragic relationship. The story reaches a climax with two interrelated events. First, Kelvin is persuaded by Snow and Sartorius to allow them to ‘beam’ an encephalogram of his brain into the ocean in a last desperate bid to ‘make contact’. If successful, this experiment promises to stave off the threat to their research funding and preserve not only them and their space station but also the cause of Solaristics in general. Second, having determined that
Organization 6(4) Articles the visiting psychic entities have a physical basis, Sartorius and Snow collude in the development of a means of destroying neutrino matter in the hope of ridding themselves of their unwanted guests. Kelvin no longer wants this outcome but is powerless to prevent developments. By this time, Rheya has come to understand that, however convinced she is of her own authenticity, to Kris Kelvin she is and always will be a facsimile of the ‘real Rheya’. Unable to live with this realization and having left a brief note for Kelvin, she submits herself to Snow and Sartorius for extermination. When the news is broken to Kelvin, he is left to mourn his painful loss; a loss which mirrors and is mirrored by his philosophical pondering on the ineffable nature of the Solaris ocean. The novel ends with Kelvin visiting the planet’s surface and exploring first hand one of its mysterious ‘mimoid’ structures. He has to endure a double emotional blow. Not only have his scientific ambitions been substantially thwarted, he has also met and lost once more the love of his life to a ‘second suicide’.
Interpretation: The Organization of Solaris We have thus far been speaking of Lem in essentialist terms as though he were a coherent and consistent ‘something’; a real author to whom all manner of qualities and characteristics can be ‘unproblematically’ attributed. It is time now to drop this facade and begin to probe deeper into the motivational framework that supports Lem’s textual output. As it turns out, whilst in conventional parlance there is a psychophysical entity labelled Stanislaw Lem who lives in Kraków, Poland, the texts authored in his name speak to a great diversity of motive. And, like all human beings, Lem is far from consistent. As we shall see, motives espoused in his non-fiction are sometimes self-contradictory and at odds with themes explored in his fictional work. I raise this not as a point of criticism or in an attempt to undermine the author’s credibility on logical grounds. On the contrary, it seems to be inevitable that such inconsistencies should emerge and is something to be celebrated rather than condemned. Having said that, I do want to pick on one aspect of Lem’s worldview that I think does have problematic consequences, namely his espoused penchant for positivist philosophy. The entry for Stanislaw Lem in Czeslaw Milosz’s (1983) monumental The History of Polish Literature contains some interesting conjectures concerning Lem’s position within the Polish literary tradition and offers an account of the motifs that appear in Solaris. Milosz (1983: 501) suggests that Lem used SF as an expressive vehicle for his sophisticated intellect as it was the genre ‘least shackled’ by the post-war State Socialist ideology. He characterizes Lem as one of several writers of that period who were concerned to use fiction as a means of exploring existential issues and of probing humankind’s relationship with the moral universe. With particular regard to Solaris, he asserts:
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case The real subject of the book is not man’s encounter with a new form of life— the ocean—which escapes his understanding, but his encounter with himself, with his transitory existence. The beautiful geometric structures emanating from the ocean, their growth, maturity, and decay, paraphrase the stages of human life span, and intensify the anguish within us which is usually veiled by a routine acceptance of the unavoidable. (1983: 502)
Taking Milosz’s summing up of Lem as a point of departure, the first issue to be examined is the question of Lem’s literary existentialism. On balance, I think Milosz is justified in using the word in connection with Lem’s oeuvre. Ontological questions are often explicitly posed by the characters in his SF scenarios and Lem himself has spoken of the novel as a form in which problems of identity, meaning and existential mystery can be addressed. In his Fantastyka i Futurologia (Science Fiction and Futurology, 1970), for instance, he observes: ‘By aesthetic licence, literature attempts to evoke—through its works—that which cannot logically and empirically be evoked. Thus appear its ambiguous, androgynous structures, lending themselves to multiple interpretations . . . [P]ermanent instability is a structural counterpart of the existential Mystery’ (Lem quoted in Jarzebski, 1987: 55).7 Likewise, he often places great emphasis on the ‘undecidable’ or indeterminate nature of the interpretative process. According to Lem (1997a: 34), the problems of interpreting literature are ‘immersed in . . . vast indeterminacy’ and so when it comes to the critical or metacritical reading of a text, ‘. . . there is no room for ultimate precision and unity, or for believing one’s interpretation to be the true and only one’ (Lem, 1997a: 29). Elsewhere he states, ‘Every work, not even necessarily a work of fiction, is interpretable by its readers in a number of ways, and nothing can reduce this state of affairs to uniqueness and unity’ (1997c: 106, original emphasis). By contrast, in the same work, he reveals, ‘Existential nothingness is really too sad and depressing for me’ (Lem, 1997c: 63) and goes on: I am irritated by Sartre and his thousand-page ponderosities. Popper makes a lot of sense in what he writes; on the other hand, he is too much like a schoolteacher, wagging his finger ex cathedra while proclaiming that things are such and such, and you cannot disagree with him at the risk of being taken by the ear and thrown out of the classroom. Then there are philosophers like Husserl, or better still Wittgenstein, who in the first half of his life wrote Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (1922), and later denied everything he had written in Philosophical Investigations (1953). Excuse me, but to study someone who fights battles with himself could be of interest only to people who have more time to spare than myself. (Lem, 1997c: 64)
Lem’s apparent distaste for existentialism, hermeneutics and linguistic relativism as expressed here is particularly interesting in light of the fact that many of his observations and conjectures appear to owe much to the very intellectual traditions and positions he wants to disparage. Take, for example, his dismissal of Wittgenstein. At one point in Solaris, Snow speculates on the ocean’s perceptual faculties and the ontological gap
Organization 6(4) Articles between its understanding and ours, ‘It is blind . . . or rather it “sees” in a different way from ourselves. We do not exist for it in the same sense that we exist for each other’ (Lem, 1991: 157). It is an observation that begs direct comparison with Wittgenstein’s (1978a: 223) epigrammatic remark concerning mutual incomprehension, ‘If a lion could talk, we could not understand him’. Similarly, for someone who avowedly dislikes a philosopher ‘who fights battles with himself’, Lem comes remarkably close to a formulation of word meaning which bears more that a passing resemblance to the ‘context and use’ theory found in the opening passages of Wittgenstein’s (1978b) The Blue and Brown Books. Consider: In the end it turns out that, even though language consists of words, words do not acquire meaning in any other way but from their function—from the way they are embedded—in language as a system. (Lem, 1997a: 72)
My sense is that Lem is an author who, having quickly exhausted the possibilities of a reductionist theory of meaning and interpretation himself, has problems in sustaining what amounts to a form of relativism in light of his preferred commitment to rationalism. In other words, I think there is a fundamental dichotomy in the psyche of the person we are here calling ‘Lem’ for linguistic ease and convenience; one which pits positivism, rationalism and the mighty forces of science and technology against the interpretative, the ‘undecidable’, the non-rational. According to this reading, it is Lem who is doing battle with Lem, and the resulting rationalizations of his position betray acts of psychological projection on his part. If this seems plausible, then we have a fundamental interpretative key with which to unlock much of the symbolism found in his works and a particularly useful lever into the motivational organization of Solaris. Let us begin with the title. The ostensive logic behind the choice of title is the fact that the fictitious planet, Solaris, orbits two suns—a red one and a blue one. Symbolically, however, ‘solaris’ carries certain interesting connotations. For instance, we can see in it reference to the solar calendar so central to the division of time and subsequent developments under industrial and post-industrial capitalism. (In the context of a special millennial issue of Organization, the significance of the ‘millennium bug’ comes to mind, with its origins in the technologically self-defeating digital reduction of the solar calendar.) The organization of communities using solar time is fundamentally different from that of agrarian societies that use the lunar cycle as a temporal frame of reference. Thus ‘Solaris’ with a capital ‘S’ comes to stand for Science with a capital ‘S’. In a science fiction novel, it is unsurprising that ‘Science’ should operate as the dominant organizing trope and ‘natural’ of Lem to summarize its importance in a metaphorical choice of title. (Whether or not this was a conscious or subconscious choice on the author’s part is unimportant to this analysis.) The link between scientific rationalism with its implications for modern meaning and the ‘sun’ is also explicit in Nietzsche’s (1989) The Birth of Tragedy where he characterizes the rational side of modernity as
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case the ‘Apollonian’ after the ancient Greek god Apollo. For Nietzsche there is another side to the equation, the ‘Dionysian’, which denotes the dialectical counterpart of the Apollonian, namely, the non-rational in its manifold forms. Indeed, what I am proposing by way of interpretative framework in relation to Lem’s work is nothing more than a practical deployment of the universal motifs explicated by Nietzsche in The Birth of Tragedy. I shall, however, use a slightly different terminology—‘solar’ and ‘lunar’—to connote the properties of the Apollonian and Dionysian respectively. The solar elements of Lem’s novel are not difficult to discern. The whole scientific Solarist ‘mission’ is rooted in a masculine drive to contact, conquer and control. Witness Sartorius’ attempts to prime Kelvin’s mind prior to extracting and transmitting an encephalogram of his brain into the ocean of Solaris: Make an effort to eliminate any intrusion of individual personalities, and concentrate on the matter in hand. Earth and Solaris . . . our aspirations, and our perseverance in the attempt to establish an intellectual contact; the long historic march of humanity, our own certitude of furthering that advance, and our determination to renounce all personal feelings in order to accomplish our mission; the sacrifices that we are prepared to make, and the hardships we stand ready to overcome . . . These are the themes that might properly occupy your awareness. (Lem, 1991: 160–1)
The language is pregnant with solar symbolism: modernity and its implicit connection to masculine ideals of progress and domination, productivity, accomplishment and the suppression of personal feeling. The male characters in the book are all scientists capable of interrogating their situation rationally and putting aside any irrational prejudices. Of course, the drama in Solaris derives fundamentally from the various challenges to this overt rationality which spring from what we could term lunar sources of motive. The whole enterprise of scientific enlightenment is shadowed by oppositional themes: sleep, dreams, the unconscious, the incomprehensible, the feminine, death and morbidity. Many scenes in the novel take place just before or just after sleep. The twilight space between waking and sleeping, with a corresponding play of dawn and dusk light emanating from the two suns (red and blue), introduces deliberate ambiguity. Are the events and experiences portrayed real or unreal, the product of waking consciousness or dream? Both reader and characters are unsure. In this context, these male scientists are forced to confront the shadow side of their minds. As Snow exclaims, ‘Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind the doorways that he himself has sealed’ (Lem, 1991: 157). In the plot of Solaris, the doors are opened and that which has hitherto been suppressed floods in. Hence the significance of the ‘ocean’ to this dramaic scenario. In both Freudian and Jungian psychoanalytic frameworks, large bodies of liquid
Organization 6(4) Articles often symbolically convey a sense of the ‘feminine’ and the ‘spiritual’. These men and the technologically advanced civilization they represent have denied the power of feelings and refused to acknowledge properties of the psyche that resist rational or materialistic reduction. It is no accident therefore that these qualities become ‘embodied’ in the figure of Rheya, the facsimile of Kelvin’s dead wife. The main protagonist, Kelvin, finds himself in a liminal state, between the worlds of the rational and non-rational, having succumbed to overwhelming feelings of nostalgic love for the material product of his subconscious. The tide of the psyche swells momentarily, but with the ‘termination’ of Rheya we witness a partial triumph of technology over nature. At this point, Snow makes a bid to reclaim Kelvin’s mind for science and establish the rectitude of his actions: I’m sorry, Kelvin, but it was your idea to spill all this. You don’t love her. You do love her. She is willing to give her life. So are you. It’s touching, it’s magnificent, anything you like, but it’s out of place here—it’s the wrong setting. Don’t you see? No, you don’t want to. You are going around in circles to satisfy the curiosity of a power we don’t understand and can’t control, and she is an aspect, a periodic manifestation of that power. (Lem, 1991: 154, emphases added)
If the dialectic of rationality and non-rationality is one major organizing theme in Solaris, another related preoccupation is the anthropomorphic nature of scientific inquiry. Whilst in a half-waking state, Kelvin hears the disembodied voice of Gilbarian (the crew member who committed suicide), ‘Where there are no men, there cannot be motives accessible to men’ (Lem, 1991: 134).8 The anthropomorphic nature of the visitations conjured from the subconscious minds of the crew speak to a far deeper dilemma, as Lem portrays it; namely, the fact that humans can only know the universe through the structural limitations of five senses and a cognizing mind. All else outside of these faculties is metaphysics and therefore, to the positivist, meaningless. Furthermore, that which we do cognize and ‘know’ is always a mirrored reflection of our own psychophysical predisposition. Lem gives voice to this problem in Solaris at several junctures but most conspicuously in one of the many library scenes where Kelvin comments on a document by one of the more ‘eccentric’ authors of Solarist research named Grastrom: Grastrom set out to demonstrate that the most abstract achievements of science, the most advanced theories and victories of mathematics represented nothing more than a stumbling, one or two-step progression from our rude, prehistoric, anthropomorphic understanding of the universe around us. He pointed out correspondences with the human body—the projections of our senses, the structure of our physical organization, and the physiological limitations of man—in [certain scientific theories] . . . Grastrom’s conclusion was that there neither was, nor could be, any question of ‘contact’ between mankind and any nonhuman civilization. (Lem, 1991: 170)
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case I think it safe to suppose that Grastrom here is actually speaking for Lem the resigned sceptic. The strong overtones of futility that pervade the novel owe much to this particular take on the existential limitations of communication between self and other, or self and the wider universe. It was the French philosopher, Auguste Comte, father of positivism, who first posited Science as a form of religion that would replace the irrational dogmas of theology and metaphysics (see Comte, 1973). Lem turns the Comtian association of science and religion on its head. Far from embodying the promise of secular redemption, in Solaris, the relationship between science and religion is characterized in entirely pejorative terms. Whilst prevalent in Solaristics, the placement of faith in science is irrational and unfounded: Solaristics is the space era’s equivalent of religion: faith disguised as science. Contact, the stated aim of Solaristics, is no less vague and obscure than the communion of the saints, or the second coming of the Messiah. Exploration is a liturgy using the language of methodology; the drudgery of the Solarists is carried out only in the expectation of fulfilment, of an Annunciation, for there are not and cannot be any bridges between Solaris and Earth. (Lem, 1991: 172)
So, whilst Lem might protest vehemently against existentialist, phenomenological and post-structural philosophies, he seems to be quite at home with the substantive preoccupations of these traditions. This reading of Solaris taken in conjunction with an appreciation of his remarkable biography and aspects of his non-fictional oeuvre leads me to view Lem as a ‘counter-modernist’. Whilst lauding certain aspects of scientific inquiry and technological advancement, he does so only with profound epistemological and ethical reservations. Scientific progress will always be attenuated by anthropomorphic constraints. It is positivism served up in a liberal dressing of philosophical idealism. The dialectics of rationality and non-rationality, anthropomorphism and scientific ambition coalesce in one of the most important concepts explored in Solaris: that of mimesis. The notion is most explicitly developed in discussing the so-called ‘mimoid’ formation, one of the huge yet transient structures that emerge periodically from the ocean. It bears a resemblance to other large Solarian formations—tree-mountains, fungoids, symmetriads—but with the particular characteristic of being able to replicate objects presented to it. Here, in some detail, is Lem’s characterization of the phenomenon: The reproduction process embraces every object inside a radius of eight or nine miles. Usually the facsimile is an enlargement of the original, whose forms are sometimes only roughly copied. The reproduction of machines, in particular, elicits simplifications that might be considered grotesque—practically caricatures . . . The mimoid is not stimulated by human beings themselves, and in fact it does not react to any living matter, and has never copied, for example, the plants imported for experimental purposes. On the other hand, it will readily reproduce a puppet or a doll, a carving of a dog, or a tree sculpted in any material. (Lem, 1991: 114–15)
Organization 6(4) Articles On gala days . . . an unforgettable spectacle develops as the mimoid goes into hyperproduction and performs wild flights of fancy. It plays variations on the theme of a given object and embroiders ‘formal extensions’ that amuse it for hours on end, to the delight of the non-figurative artist and the despair of the scientist, who is at a loss to grasp any common theme in the performance. The mimoid can produce ‘primitive’ simplifications, but is just as likely to indulge in ‘baroque’ deviations, paroxysms of extravagant brilliance. (Lem, 1991: 115–16)
I have quoted at some length because I think it is in the notion of mimetic reproduction that a synthetic collision takes place between the rational and the non-rational. As Melberg (1995) points out, mimesis is not a static or homogenous concept. Although in literal terms it leans towards ‘similarity’, ‘imitation’, ‘replication’, ‘simulacrum’, ‘representation’ and so forth, mimesis also evokes an opposite movement in the direction of ‘difference’ and the beyond of representation. Hence, by connotative association, we see in the trope of mimesis a whole set of oppositional forms: the similar/the different, the familiar/the unfamiliar, the known/the unknown, the rational/the non-rational. My suggestion is that, through the fictive creation of the Solarian mimoid, Lem confronts his own rational Science with the metaphysical uncertainty and non-rationality of the universe within which that Science strives to operate. By so doing, perhaps inadvertently or perhaps deliberately, he constructs a dynamic entity whose properties resonate with the deepest of human hopes and fears. In pursuit of this idea, it will be instructive to take a brief anthropological detour and, in particular, to consider the work of Michael Taussig (1993) in regard to the ‘magical’ dimension of mimesis. Commenting on Stephanie Kane’s ethnographic account of a certain shaman activity of the Chocó Indians (from the Darién peninsula of southern Panama), Taussig remarks: [C]an’t we say that to give an example, to instantiate, to be concrete, are all examples of the magic of mimesis wherein the replication, the copy, acquires the power of the represented? And does not the magical power of this embodying inhere in the fact that in reading such examples we are thereby lifted out of ourselves into those images?… If I am correct in making this analogy with what I take to be the magician’s art of reproduction, then the model, if it works, gains through its sensuous fidelity something of the power and personality of that of which it is a model. (Taussig, 1993: 16)
Considering the works of Walter Benjamin on reproduction, moreover, Taussig draws a revealing parallel between the acts of supposedly ‘primitive’ tribal shamans (which rely on the symbolic reproduction of the object—person, animal, etc.—towards which the magical influence is directed) and the role of replication in modern scientific inquiry. Modern scientific machinery—microscope, film, computer simulation—permits the investigation and predictive control over unseen worlds in a manner similar to that in which the creation of magical talismans carry influence in the spirit worlds. As Taussig says:
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case [S]cientific knowledge is obtained through mimetic reproduction in many ways. We see and comprehend hidden details of familiar objects. We become aware of patterns and necessities that had hitherto invisibly ruled our lives. (Taussig, 1993: 25)
In my reading, the ‘mimoid’ formations of Lem’s Solaris are a symbolic fulcrum for the entire work. They represent the anthropomorphic nature of scientific inquiry insofar as the investigating scientists can view them only through the dim lenses of their own limited perceptual and instrumental apparatus. What they ‘see’, moreover, is a mirror reflection of what they are determined to see, namely, the ‘intelligence’, complexity and, perhaps most importantly, the mortality of their own being. As simulacra, mimoids are figurative representations of scientific practice in a wider sense. They signify a fundamental trans-cultural and trans-temporal human motive: to copy, and through the act of copying, to control and manipulate an uncertain universe. The exploration of mimesis has a long and colourful history. From Plato to Derrida it is a subject that has attracted the interest of the greatest minds (for extensive surveys of the subject see Auerbach, 1974; Gebauer et al., 1996; and Melberg, 1995). In this and other regards, mimesis acts as a bridge between our own era and cultures of antiquity. Just to give one illustration, the Minoans of 1700 BC Crete fashioned small clay models of diseased or impaired limbs (hands, arms, legs and even heads) as offerings to their gods in the belief that the ritual act of simulation would alleviate a given affliction. Likewise, in relation to the scientific and technological practices of our own civilization, we can think of mimetic acts as forms of ‘secular prayer’ (Burke, 1984: 321–3). Viewed anthropologically, when we ‘knock on wood’ as a means mimetically of invoking a lesser pain by way of warding off a greater pain from the unpredictable universe around us, we engage in a non-rational act that carries in it the same genius as many ‘rational’ forms of conduct characteristic of our fin de siècle world: safety in replication. Hence, we can look anew at a whole host of cultural activities, from the significance of the designer label and dressing in corporate uniforms to cartography, DNA marking or the myriad other instances of scientific modelling. In addition, an anthropological understanding of mimesis provides a powerful take on the fetishistic mass production and consumption of just about any commodity one cares to think of. The theme of mimesis as representation is also significant for understanding how another dimension of Lem’s work bears directly on contemporary issues in organizational studies, namely, the question of human emotion. In rationalistic accounts of organizational conduct—one thinks of the vast bulk of standard literature on corporate strategy, structure, operations management, marketing and so forth—emotion is a forbidden vocabulary. Indeed, the emotional life of employees within modern organizations appears to be something of a taboo subject. If it is not completely ignored, then it is treated in entirely instrumental terms
Organization 6(4) Articles as a phenomenon which, for example, can be apprehended by means of ‘consumer psychology’ and used expediently to sell consumer goods or services. Exceptions to this rule, that is, studies that explore emotion in phenomenological terms the better to represent the lived reality of organizational life or to question the denial of feeling, are few and far between.9 The reason for the relative silence on emotion in organizational studies lies in the historical legacy of the ‘discipline’ and the fact that it finds its roots in the ‘scientistic’ management science of the latter part of the 19th and early part of the 20th centuries. If we are to take seriously such historical analyses as that of Jacques (1995), the purpose of most management and organizational science was (and still is) to control employees and mobilize their energies towards what managers determine to be ‘productive work’. Scientific vocabularies of motive notoriously prohibit the infringement of ‘subjective emotion’ on what they designate to be ‘rational’ observations and judgements. Insofar as management science came to inform a wider discourse of modern organization, talk of emotion or any regard to its role in the processes of human organizing likewise became illegitimate. In other words, the relegation of emotion to the margins in organizational studies is a direct parallel of its marginalization in scientific discourse generally. Insofar as emotionality implies uncertainty and uncontrollability, it is something the methods of scientific experimentation and measurement cannot readily attenuate, regulate or demystify. Where scientific discourse does extend to the domain of emotionality, it does so with expedient purposes to the fore. It wants to measure it, to calculate it, to confine it intellectually and so forth. We might contrast this with approaches adopted in the literary arts where the exploration of emotional sensibility lies at the very heart of apprehending human motive and purpose. Whereas the dramatist is interested in the experience and meaning of emotion, the scientist expresses a concern for the physiological causes of emotion. To illustrate this point, consider the reductionist neuroscientific account of emotion proffered by Edward O. Wilson (1998: 123–4) as part of his enthusiastic popularization of ‘scientific progress’: What is emotion? It is the modification of neural activity that animates and focuses mental activity. It is created by physiological activity that selects certain streams of information over others, shifting the body and mind to higher or lower degrees of activity, agitating the circuits that create scenarios, and selecting ones that end in certain ways. The winning scenarios are those that match goals preprogrammed by instinct and the satisfaction of prior experience . . . The dynamism of the process provokes labeling by words that denote the basic categories of emotion—anger, disgust, fear, pleasure, surprise.
Clearly, the understanding of emotion afforded by the kind of language adopted by Wilson is quite different from the experiential or phenome-
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case nological insight proffered by the skilled novelist. Which is better? Contemporary methodological and epistemological debates in the social and psychological sciences contest this very issue with some considerable passion.10 Whilst I acknowledge the role of a causal language in respect to emotion for certain purposes, in the context of this paper I want to stress the importance to organizational studies of the experientially authentic representation life. This, in turn, implies giving free experiential rein to emotion in texts about organization. In this regard, Lem’s treatment of emotion is particularly germane. Although something of a generalization, it is probably fair to say that SF is populated by writers who, in the main, privilege scientific ideas over a concern with the exploration of human passions. Indeed, whilst the subgenres of ‘science fiction’ and ‘science fantasy’ often appear adjacent to each other in bookshops, they may be differentiated by the degree to which each expresses an interest in emotionality. Science fiction largely discounts emotion whilst science fantasy revels in it. As a writer of SF, however, Lem is a notable exception to the rule. This is particularly evident in the plot of Solaris where passion plays a central role on at least two distinct levels. Lem the rationalist and scientist is interested in the dissection and causal examination of emotion whilst Lem the literary adept is curious about emotional life as experienced through the desires, hopes, fears and loves of his characters. Again, we return to the issue of mimesis and representation in regard to emotion. In Solaris, this dual interest is deftly handled by exploring how Kelvin, the archetypal ‘dispassionate’ scientist, copes with the passionate response of having to interact with Rheya, his long-dead wife; although, of course, he adds the further mimetic twist of making Rheya the simulation of Kelvin’s own repressed emotional psyche. And, all the while, Kelvin has to measure his responses against the brutally exacting standards of the scientific community whose distance and calculated objectivity he is compelled to uphold. These emotional tensions are what breathe dramatic life into Solaris and make it such a fascinating read.
Conclusion: Organizational Studies and the Lem Experience According to Raymond Williams (1980: 307–8), one of the defining characteristics of SF is its tendency to indulge in alienative forms of escapism that enable authors to deny the reality of human life and shirk responsibility for addressing social issues head on. SF in general does not measure up to the literary criteria demanded by Williams’ notion of ‘social realist’ fiction, with the implication that it can be discounted from serious consideration as ‘literature’. Although, before embarking on the project set out above, I might, with certain qualifications, have endorsed Williams’ assessment, in the light of my reading of Lem’s work, I think the judgement too cursory and indiscriminate. It is not my task here to justify SF as a literary form, but, by way of conclusion, I would like to summa-
Organization 6(4) Articles rize why I think Lem deserves the attention of organization studies scholars and why, by inference, SF in general warrants serious consideration. Lem is anything but ‘escapist’ in his fiction. The combination of gritty realism and psychological insight evidenced in Solaris would, I suspect, have impressed even Raymond Williams had the work ever crossed his desk. Lem’s sensitive exploration of the dilemmas confronted when the rational comes into contact with the non-rational is also praiseworthy and has something important to teach students of organization. As a discipline, organization studies still has scope for incorporation of more research that consciously sets out to investigate the non-rational hinterland and emotional life of organizations. More precisely, we might fruitfully be looking to investigate the dialectical relationship between the solar and the lunar as it plays itself out in everyday organizational settings. So much performative research in the field is still given over to unreflexive modes of positivist inquiry that deliberately ignore or dismiss this relationship. Although acknowledged by certain traditions within the Organization Development movement, indeed, the non-rational dimensions of the human psyche pass largely unnoticed by the vast bulk of professional academic output purporting to account for ‘organizational behaviour’. It seems to me that a realist investigative discourse should be capable of reflecting the entire range of human motive and actual behaviour as it is expressed and experienced in constitutive acts of organizing and organization. In his celebration of the morbid dimensions of organization, Burrell (1997) has recently pointed a finger at this particular moon (see Case and Selvester, 1999). Likewise, Czarniawska (1997a) in her frequent calls for a ‘narrative’ approach is also a vocal advocate of wellrounded and context-rich accounts of organizational conduct that are inclusive of themes—micro-politics, emotionality, the social construction of gender relations—frequently neglected by mainstream OB studies and texts. But, for all these recent soundings, not to mention the many preceding attempts, sincere followers remain relatively few. As I have tried to indicate in my critical explication of Lem’s oeuvre, rationalist discourses have to fight with themselves to accommodate actuality. Rationalism amounts to a kind of reductive manifesto that tries to dictate the way the world ought to be. As a normative discourse, it is therefore destined forever to be inherently self-defeating as actual conduct rooted in passionate attachments—joy, envy, bigotry, enmity, love, humour, psychosis—interfere with the smooth operation of the communities we observe or help co-create. As seekers of organizational truths, better that we endeavour, however painful it may be, to face up to what we are and what we do. Finally, I hope that this paper has acted in a self-exemplifying way to illustrate the fruitfulness of examining organizational conduct through an SF lens. Having said that, I take Lem to be an author whose literary talents transcend genre and sub-genre. The happy coincidence of an insightful scientific mind, prescience and narrative genius in one author makes
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case Lem particularly important to those searching for new ways of understanding human motives in an era dominated by scientific discourse. If we concede that good literature in general and SF in particular does have something substantive to say to organizational studies, then the next challenge would be to turn the tables and consider how literary practices might enhance the stylistic quality of organizational inquiry. The point about the literary arts is that their insights into human motive are inextricably linked to a given author’s ability to wield language. It would be up to authors in the field of organizational studies who chose to pursue this challenge to synthesize the methodological rigours of their discipline with new-found skills of narrative reporting. What I posit is a hybrid form of academic narration; something we might meaningfully label ‘social science fiction’, to borrow Stephen Pfohl’s (1992) expression. The point would be to explore the complex relationship between technological context, scientific discourse and human motives in a manner that combines existing elements of interpretative traditions with literary aspiration. It is a project that would entail the deliberate blurring of boundaries between hitherto accepted forms of expression in order to resist and restrict the reductive and dehumanizing excesses of positivist organizational discourse. It is a question of reasserting the human voice wherever possible and ensuring that the technology of organizing is subservient to human purpose and not, as is so commonly the case, the human that is accessory to the organizing technology. The intention is far from novel but the suggested vehicle has not, as far as I am aware, been explored to any great extent within the field of organizational studies.
Postscriptum: Lunaris In light of what I have just said about the potential remit of organizational studies, I feel I should add a few confessional remarks concerning the motivation of this paper. It was some time in the spring of 1997 that I had a dream in which the word ‘solaris’ appeared. In the dream, I was due to perform a piano set at a Chelsea nightclub called the ‘606’ (I once earned my living as a pianist and know this club well). It was going to be a duo gig with a guitarist friend and several other eminent jazz musicians were in the audience to see us play. When I asked my friend, Paul, what tune we should start with he responded, ‘Let’s play Solaris’. The word was prominent in the dream and stuck with me, so much so that the next day I asked another musician friend whether there was a jazz tune of that name. To his and my knowledge, there is none, the closest candidate being a song called Solar by Miles Davis. I thought nothing more of the matter until a week or so later I happened to be listening casually to the BBC Radio 4 programme, A Good Read. One of the guests that week, the author and critic Will Self, had chosen Stanislaw Lem’s Solaris as his ‘good read’. Excited by this coincidence and recalling my
Organization 6(4) Articles dream, I went out and purchased the book at the earliest opportunity. When I discovered that the novel imagined the possibility of psychic communication between the sentient ocean of a far distant planet and the sub-consciousness of human scientists, my curiosity was all the more aroused. Later that same year, I attended the Standing Conference on Organizational Symbolism held at the Academy of Entrepreneurship and Management, Warsaw. After the conference, three British colleagues and I spent a few days travelling around Poland. One evening in Kraków, I recall, we visited the Jewish quarter, scene of the terrible victimization of that city’s Jewish population during the Nazi occupation. Whilst walking its ancient streets, I remember recounting the dream and events I have just described to one of our number and also engaging in a long conversation about science fiction writing when we stopped at a cafe in one of the squares. My point in disclosing this background information is simply to underscore the main conclusion of this paper (and perhaps that of the entire special issue); a point that might best be summarized by some words taken from Shakespeare’s Hamlet: ‘There is more to the universe than is dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio.’ In this context, ‘Horatio’ may be taken loosely as a cipher for many of the methods and reporting conventions of organization studies.
Notes My thanks to the editors of this special issue of Organization and, in particular, to Geoff Lightfoot and Martin Parker for their thoughtful and helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper. Thanks also to my colleagues Andy Kilmister and Ken Selvester for their insightful comments. 1 Although I am not primarily concerned with issues of definition in this paper (to define ‘science fiction’ would constitute a life’s work in its own right), I should perhaps make a few brief comments on the use of this term. With a spoonful of irony and intended tautology, James (1994: 3) claims that ‘Sf is what is marketed as sf’ a remark that belies the fact that, as a cultural form, SF defies simple containment or neat categorization. Added to this, the label has a considerable history and variability of its own (see Clute and Nicholls, 1993). Although coined in the mid-19th century by the English writer William Wilson (Suvin, 1979), for example, ‘science fiction’ did not emerge as a generally accepted term for the genre in Anglo-American society until well after World War II, and then only after a laboured contest with various alternatives: ‘scientific romance’ in Britain, utopische Romane in Germany, ‘scientification’ and ‘pseudo-scientific’ in the USA. The English expression has been taken up in Scandinavia, translates readily into French and has been added as an English acronym, SF, to the Japanese lexicon. In other languages, some variation on ‘science fantasy’ is employed in reference to the genre. So, in Russia, one encounters nauchnaia fantastika (often shortened to fantastika) and, likewise, fantastyka in Poland, while in Italy the term used is fantascienza.
Organizational Studies in Space Peter Case 2 See Swirski (1997a) for a complete bibliography together with a tightly written introduction to Lem’s oeuvre. 3 Kandel is a notable translator of Lem’s work from Polish to English. 4 Where I give the title in Polish, the work referenced is unavailable in English translation. The German translations are easier to find: see References. 5 Amongst other controversial statements, Lem (1977: 127) suggested that ‘[American] science fiction is to authentic scientific, philosophical, or theological knowledge as pornography is to love’. 6 Solaris was first published in 1961, and its popularity amongst a wider public was given a considerable fillip by the fact that in 1968 the renowned Russian film director, Andrey Tarkovsky, made a film based on the book. Although considered by some to be one of the greatest SF films ever made (Turovskaya, 1989), the screenplay by Tarkovsky and Gorenstein takes several liberties with the original plot lines and dialogue found in Lem’s text. The film is far less cerebral than the book, for instance, skipping many of the extensive intellectual exchanges between the main characters and the library scenes in which Kris Kelvin spends hours poring over scientific literature on ‘Solaristics’. While capturing its existential and communicative angst, the slow smouldering intensity of the film creates a quite different mood from that of the paranoiac horror found in the novel. Although interesting as a piece of art in its own right, the film detracts from the substantive intellectual issues covered by Lem’s version and can therefore be safely discounted as far as the following interpretation is concerned. 7 Jerzy Kociatkiewicz translated from Polish to English a substantial section of Jarzebski’s (1987) article on Solaris specifically to assist my project. My thanks to him for his generous help. 8 Cf. the closing sentence of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus (1975). 9 Recent examples of the latter approach include Fineman and Gabriel (1996) and contributions to the edited collections of Fineman and Hochschild (1993) and Newton et al. (1995). 10 For arguments in favor of the phenomenological or ‘discursive’ apprehension of motive and emotion, see the oeuvre of Rom Harre, for example: Harre and Secord (1976); Harre (1983, 1986); Harre and Gillett (1994).
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