book-reviews

The Cyberiad

by Stanislaw Lem (tr. Michael Kandel)

Rating: ★★★★

A charming set of science-fiction fables, ostensibly detailing the misadventures of two quick-witted Constructors, whose limitless talents make them an object of attraction for all sorts of troubled and troublesome Kings.

Of course, the fairytale style betrays that these stories are more than mere idling diversions. Each comes loaded with a message, moral, philosophical or epistemological. Lem sometimes subtly illustrates a point through adventure, and at other times has his characters turn and glance pointedly at the fourth wall as they speak.

The child raised on these stories would be well-served indeed, though the volume would be one for them to constantly revisit -- there are flights of wordplay and allusion which would pass you by until better educated (and no doubt ones which have still passed me by). Of course, this is not to say that adults would not profit from these tales, which cunningly pose some troubling questions.

Prodded by another review, I should comment that the translation is absolutely stunning -- the jokes, scientific terminology, nonsense words and wordplay all seem perfectly natural in English, despite these being reputedly some of the most difficult material to translate. Lem has been very well-served.