_inbetween_'s Reviews > The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy

The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem
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Mar 05, 09

Read in October, 2008

Seem to have forgotten I never actually wrote down what I thought I had, which fits the book in a way. It starts out funny and fastpaced and only stopped be - early on and abruptly - when it became clear that even in this novel written in the 70s and a communist climate, there are NO female professors. All professors are male, all secretaries are female, so I guess all rape also only went one way. I made the mistake of trying to get the simple fact that even post Dick Dick and Asimov, in an age where there were established female scientists, a fucking SciFi author could not imagine women being humans, but the man I discussed this with blithered on about how that wasn't an "issue" Lem wrote about, making it all worse. An issue. Right. Of course Lem satirically nails the still prevalent attitude of the US as it assassinates (gently) an Indian gentlemen reaching for his hanky, but then racism will always be overcome before sexism (which never seems to be).

Once he leaves women out completely, as with all similar authors, the story is good again. Not so much SciFi indeed as a Babushka-nest of hallucinations that go on endlessly, perhaps with the very purpose of making the reader unsure that what he ends up in is actually real, or as real as an imagined future can be. The wit and perceptiveness remain, the story seems to settle in one future until the final peeling off of layers of lies in the utopia that feels like a dystopia to Ijon until he realises it really is a genuine dystopia only masking as what perhaps would be preferable.

What I remember as most standing out after that initial getting-into-Lem was the chapter that read like a serial killer profile. All humans have the urge and now the (chemical, illusionary?) means to do whatever they want to whomever they want to harm, and the reasons are simple and logical and real. Lem was a doctor, after all.

Torn between the irreperable, badly harmful sexism and the imagination of the best of SciFi, ie. the old kind that was full of ideas and lacking in FX. I'll keep reading him for the bits that are uncannily like my own ideas, and rubbing at the negative bits that never changed.
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