Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Lem meet Beksinski

A dream will always triumph over reality, once it is given the chance.
Stanislaw Lem

The popular Polish writer Stanislaw Lem was buried today in a Krakow cemetery. Having only read his novel Solaris, I can't say I'm at all familiar with his work. But from that one book it was clear just what an exceptionally imaginative chap he was.

Solaris concerns a distant planet covered by a mysterious and intelligent 'Ocean' that absorbs the dreams and thoughts of any human that comes anywhere near it. Amongst its waves it recreates scenes from their dreams and memories. Most fantastically - it plays with them and tests them like a vast child's mind. Perhaps to clarify something it sends near-perfect copies of dead or imagined loved ones to the humans that have been sent to investigate it thus provoking further inquiries into the human psyche, the nature of God, intelligence, the unknown and a whole load of other stuff.

As I imagine is the case with most Polish artists whose Catholic faith is questionable or in Lem's case most likely non-existent, he wasn't permitted to go to grave without a small chiding. The presiding priest at the funeral is quoted as saying something like:

"We also came here to talk to God on his behalf because Lord maybe he didn't recognise you in all the people he served with his talent and his passion for truth..." (approximate)

Well, wherever Mr. Lem is now I personally hope he's having a good chin-wag with Beksinski and all those other great Polish artists that leave us with each year.

For those not familiar with Zdzislaw Beksinski he was painter of highly imaginative but also highly disturbing landscapes and figures and was often dubbed Poland's equivalent of H.R. Giger (except with nicer colours) the Swiss painter and who famously created 20th Century Fox's 'Alien' character (based on a really tiny fish that lives at great depths...).

Unlike Lem who died of natural causes, Beksinski (whose life was already tragic enough - wife dead, son committed suicide a year later) was murdered last year in one of those senseless brutal killings that seem to take away many talented people in the blink of an eye. In Beksinski's case it was the son of a friend, to whom he had been lending some money. There was an argument and the teenager stabbed him to death and later confessed to the murder.

And when Poland has lost the remainder of its unique but aging voices - like Kapuscinski, Wajda, Zanussi, Gorecki, Penderecki and all its other 'golden oldies' - what a echoing desert this place will feel.

PLEASE NOTE: Lem and Beksinski are not connected in any way other that being Polish and being recently deceased. The picture is by the painter Beksinski and has no relevance to Lem the writer. Having said that if they were able to collaborate on a book together - well what a book it would be!


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