Anniversaries & holidays
12.09.2021

100th anniversary of Stanisław Lem's birthday

Mężczyzna w okularach (Stanisław Lem), w czarnym ubraniu. Podpiera policzek dłonią zamkniętą w pięść. Lekko się uśmiecha. Nosi okulary.
fot. W Zemła / Wikimedia

Stanisław Herman Lem b. 12 September 1921 in Lvov, d. 27 March 2006 in Kraków – writer, futurologist, literary critic.

Lem spent his childhood years in Lvov. His parents considered themselves Poles of Jewish origin; they spoke Polish at home and decorated Xmas trees in December.

After his matura exam, Stanisław planned to enter the Lvov Polytechnic. Alas, his plans were thwarted by the occupation of Lvov during WW2. In 1940, he began medical studies at the Ivan Franko University, but his studies were interrupted a year later by the German invasion on the USSR. Lem continued his education at the Lvov University from the moment the Soviets recaptured the city until the repatriation in 1946.

"At that time [editor’s note: after the German invasion on the USSR in 1941] I learnt in a very blunt and ‘practical’ way that I am not an ‘Aryan’. My ancestors were Jewish, even if I didn’t have the faintest idea about Judaism nor, alas, the Jewish culture. Indeed, it was thanks to the Nazi legislature that I found out I had Jewish blood in me". - T. Fiałkowski "Stanisław Lem czyli życie spełnione"

After the resettlement, the Lem family moved to Kraków. Stanisław continued his studies at the Jagiellonian University, graduating in 1948. At the same time, he published his first novel titled Człowiek z Marsa [The Man from Mars] in the Nowy Świat Przygód magazine. Soon after, he began cooperating with Tygodnik Powszechny where he continued to publish his stories. In 1948, he wrote Szpital Przemienienia [Hospital of Transfiguration], his first literary work to gain wide recognition. Having left Tygodnik Powszechny, Lem published the subsequent volumes of Szpital Przemienienia. The entire trilogy, known as Czas nieutracony [Time Not Lost] was published in 1955. Back then, Lem was already regarded as a popular writer.

The golden era of Stanisław Lem’s literary career began in the second half of the 1950s. In 1961, his probably most outstanding novel Solaris was published.

The now famous writer considered emigrating from Poland after the events of March ’68. Ultimately, the Lem family emigrated to Vienna in 1983. They returned to Poland in 1988 and settled in Borek Fałęcki.

In 1996, Stanisław Lem was awarded the Order of the White Eagle. In 1998, he was granted honorary doctoral degrees at the University of Opole, the Lviv State Medical University, and the Jagiellonian University.

Lem died on 27 March 2006 in Kraków. He was buried at the Salwator Cemetery, according to his own wish.

More about Stanisław Lem on Virtual Shtetl (in Polish) >>