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A Perfect Vacuum

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  870 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
In A Perfect Vacuum, Stanislaw Lem presents a collection of book reviews of nonexistent works of literature--works that, in many cases, could not possibly be written. Embracing postmodernism's "games for games' sake" ethos, Lem joins the contest with hilarious and grotesque results, lampooning the movement's self-indulgence and exploiting its mannerisms.

Beginning with a re
Paperback, 229 pages
Published November 25th 1999 by Northwestern University Press (first published 1971)
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(showing 1-30)
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A delightful idea, that surely ought to appeal to habitués of this site - a collection of reviews for books that don't exist! My favorite was the one about the guy who thinks that there are three kinds of genius. Third-class geniuses do what everyone else does, but just get there quicker. They are very popular. Second class geniuses do stuff other people don't do yet - they are ignored for a while, but when the world catches up they also get their share of glory. But what about the first class g ...more
Jul 21, 2015 rated it really liked it
As Lem explains in the introduction, the fake book review (and fake acceptance lecture), as particularly exemplified by Borges's book reviews, is a micro-genre suited for intellectual jokes - for ideas which need more than a tweet, but can't be written out unironically or in full as articles/books. (If dry academic humor is not your thing, you probably already know from reading descriptions that you should not read this book, so I can address fellow aficionados.)

One way to fail in this rather ab
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Niente, o la conseguenza non è soltanto l'opera prima della signora Solange Marriot, ma anche il primo romanzo a esaurire le possibilità della scrittura. E non perché sia un capolavoro artistico; piuttosto lo definirei un capolavoro di onestà. D'altronde è proprio l'esigenza di onestà il tarlo che al giorno d'oggi rode tutta la letteratura. Il letterato si affligge per il fatto di non poter essere contemporaneamente scrittore e uomo in senso completo, ossia serio e onesto.”

Questo libro moltepli
anthony e.
Nov 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Astounding. I was introduced to Lem through the Special Collections librarrian at UWM, as a means to formulate imaginary works (which is the cornerstone of my thesis). I am smitten. Lem writes with a Vonnegutian goofiness, a palpable delight in his ideas. Many of the works he describes sound SO interesting, but wholly impossible as realistic books. Furthermore, the theories of science and literature he puts forth are dizzying and mind-altering. For example, in The New Cosmogeny, Lem lays out a t ...more
Eric Uribares
Jan 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
chulada de libro. reseñas de libros que no existen. imaginación pura y una prosa envidiable.
Feb 23, 2015 marked it as to-read
I mean, yeah, I do want to read reviews of books that don't exist. Why wouldn't I?
Libros Prohibidos
Divertido, original. Reseña completa:
Lukasz Pruski
Jan 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
"[...] And the only subterfuge the evasive Lem might still avail himself of would be a counterattack: in the assertion that it was not I, the critic, but he himself, the author, who wrote the present review and added it to - and made it part of -'A Perfect Vacuum.'"

Whenever I begin a re-read of a Stanislaw Lem's book I am afraid of disappointment. Lem was by far the most favorite author of my youth, some 35 to 55 years ago, and I have been worrying that in re-reading his works my enthusiasm may
John Jr.
Oct 30, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Simply put, Stanislaw Lem is one of the masters of science fiction. Yet you can meet an endless number of SF fans who don't know his work and even find best-SF-books lists from seemingly respectable sources that don't include anything by him. Is it because the smarter you are, the more you'll appreciate in his work? (That risks being a nasty comment. But it must be admitted that much Western SF still possesses a pulp-fiction aspect, and at least some of its many readers may believe that's all th ...more
Jan 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Escribí una reseña de este libro en mi blog.
Sep 14, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Storia di quel che s'è desiderato e che non si avrà".
L'idea dietro questo libro è ovviamente geniale: un libro completamente fatto di recensioni a libri che non esistono. Così come è geniale l'autore, non solo ad aver escogitato questa idea, ma anche e forse soprattutto ad averla messa in pratica con tanta perizia. I finti libri di cui Lem parla sono descritti e recensiti in modo talmente dettagliato da far dubitare della loro non-esistenza. Alcuni verrebbe anche voglia di leggerli, se soltanto esistessero. Ma non molti, perché quasi tutti sono di ...more
Apr 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
En las entretelas de 'Vacío perfecto', cosidas con las semblanzas de 15 libros imaginarios, Stanislaw Lem nos sugiere un abismo: atmósferas descabelladas y escritores excéntricos que provocan una infinidad de caminos. Nos acoge en un ciclo creativo, con una abrumadora propuesta que se lee en un suspiro. «¿Creyó Lem que su maquinación pasaría desapercibida?», expresa el propio Stanislaw Lem en la reseña de 'Vacío perfecto' en 'Vacío perfecto'. Sí, efectivamente, es la reseña del libro en la que s ...more
Aug 18, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: them, him
You know that problem in books and films where the plot hinges on the brilliance of an artist character but that character's work can't actually be shown (or even described) because it would shatter the illusion? A collection of fake book reviews could run into the same sort of problem. Unlike, say, Borge's "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote, Lem's reviews aren't just interesting as ideas or even just interesting of themselves (as reviews) but a few actually describe books that would be interesti ...more
May 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Un conjunto de reseñas de libros inexistentes, a veces imposibles. Lem secuestra un género menor para hablar del vacío sin solemnidad ni desesperación (Les robinsonades), satirizar algunos intentos de llevar la novela contra sí misma (Rien du tout), proyectar una posición filosófica contraria a la suya propia sin denostarla (Die kultur als fehler), meditar sobre la religión (Non serviam) e imaginar libros que alguien debería escribir realmente (Gruppenfürer Louis XVI).
Se me ocurren algunos para
Mar 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Me sorprendió el hecho de que sea más un libro de filosofía/antropología/sociología que uno de ciencia ficción. Me sorprendió muy gratamente de hecho. Lem logra hacerte pensar en el mundo actual hablando de mundos inventados, lo cual dice mucho tanto de su notable creatividad como de su profundidad en el desarrollo de cada idea.
Jun 10, 2017 rated it liked it
A Perfect Vacuum has an intriguing idea, but one that is only sporadically successful. A Perfect Vacuum advertises itself, not all together accurately, as a collection of book reviews for non-existent books. A reader might wonder what the point of this exercise is. Writer Stanislaw Lem spends far more time summarizing a book than reviewing it, so A Perfect Vacuum is not a satire on literary criticism. The book includes a few jabs at the wrongheaded audacity of some writers (Gigamesh by Patrick H ...more
Jun 30, 2017 rated it really liked it

Lem helpfully provides a full review of his own book as its first chapter, saving much needless work on the part of literary reviewers. I'll just summarise that review: _A Perfect Vacuum_ is a collection of reviews of books which don't exist, barring the first item, depending on how philosophical you want to get about it. These reviews, in circumspectly approaching a number of ideas from diverse fields of philosophy, are dazzlingly witty and thought-provoking, but at the same time the style allo
Berenice Tarará
Maravilloso de leer. Me hizo desear leer más divulgación de la ciencia. Fue agua en un desierto en que todo parecen trágicas historias de amor. La creatividad de este hombre parece no tener límites, los mundos que crea son únicos, dan cada uno para una novela entera
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: e-book, sci-fi, 2014
Buying this book was a somewhat bad idea. I have a VERY hard time reading real book reviews- at least the professional kind that is published in newspapers. For whatever reason, I just zone out, no matter how interested I am in the book they're reviewing... Sometimes I'll come back after I'm done and skim the article for interesting tidbits but for the most part, I still zone out if I try to read it in its entirety.

So I guess it's not too surprising that I often zoned out on these fake book rev
In the first sentence of A Perfect Vacuum, Lem acknowledges his debt to Jorge Luis Borges. He doesn't acknowledge the full extent of it (he merely says that Borges is among those who've tried the review-of-fake-books concept before). Knowing it would impede my enjoyment of the book, I couldn't help but compare these stories to Borges', and given Borges' godlike talents, the comparison was not favorable.

Like Borges, Lem uses each story to explicate an idea. Most of Lem's ideas, though, are simpl
Nov 30, 2014 rated it really liked it
Lem is not as good as his billing as "Borges for the Space Age," but he's almost there. The reviews of the books don't show much meta-awareness or playfulness with the part of the reviewer; they're mostly straight summaries. Most of the stories here follow the format "What if ?" which lets him show off his imagination and inventiveness, but lacks Borges' depth and ability to combine multiple hypotheticals.

"Gigamesh": As someone who wrote a paper about wordplay in "Finnegan's Wake" and "Ulysses,"
Jan 20, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
So if I were to try to tap into my contact MLIS degree, I would probably say that this book is recommended if you liked Pale Fire or I dunno, probably House of Leaves (although it's really not the same thing) or just generally anything involving writing about books that don't exist.

But yeah if you only read one book of reviews of nonexistent books (and that seems likely), make it this one. Some of the reviews allow Lem to explore some interesting sci-fi ideas that might have made good actual boo
Jan 28, 2015 rated it it was ok
Shelves: sf
OK, here are the new rules. For a book to get a good review from me, it has to be enjoyable to read. It has to be something I look forward to picking up and thinking about. If it is packed with good ideas, cleverness, intellect, sly humor, and eccentric complications but is a slog to get throu, then I am sorry, but it does not get a good review. And by now you know that "A Perfect Vacuum" is an example of this type of book.

In this collection of shorter pieces, Lem takes up the task of reviewing
Jul 17, 2015 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A brilliant idea to review books that don't exist, and to thus play with varied ridiculous literary and scientific plots and ideas without writing the whole novel -- these are very clever, and I confess, a little soporific.

Funnily enough having just read another book by Humberto Eco, I felt that many of these books may well have already been written by him....

We are speaking here of literature as spiritual prostitution because, to write it, one must serve. One must ingratiate oneself, pay court
Nick Tramdack
Apr 06, 2011 rated it liked it
This collection mostly consists of reviews of fictional books. I enjoyed it, although a lot of the moves Lem lampoons (most notably the micro-managed modernist novel with allusions to EVERYTHING) have kind of fallen out of fashion in the lit world. I also felt it grew somewhat tiresome near the end.

Nevertheless, I think this book's approach is a worthwhile expansion of that Borgesian method for exploring the potential of literature, the review-of-a-nonexistent text. It's a kind of "proof by cont
Feb 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This little gem of a book was a present, a random find in some secondhand bookstore. Growing up with a mother who loves the classics and a father who loves science fiction, Lem has always struck just the right balance for me. I love books both as content and as physical objects. I love the worlds they include and the miniature world that includes them, cover to cover, review to review; paratext is a bit of an obsession of mine. Like some long-lost ancient Greek works of which we only know the ti ...more
Vampire Who Baked
Feb 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favourites, treasures
Having a self-review as the first chapter was a masterstroke, pretty much Lem's way of telling the reader how to read the book.
Not all the "book reviews" are of the same calibre- some (e.g., "Gigamesh") are funny but tend to get pretty repetitive with the tributes/pop culture references, while others (eg, "Rien du tout...", "Die Kultur...") will change the way you approach life altogether. But despite the inconsistency, the quality actually oscillates between very good and awe-inspiring, so real
Kuba Bożanowski
Apr 07, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: abandoned
Po chyba pięciu podejściach pora wreszcie dać sobie spokój. Uwielbiam Lema, ale to jest najgorsza jego książka, jaką póki co miałem w ręku. Widać tu bez wątpienia erudycję i świetny warsztat autora, ale interesujących czy choćby zabawnych treści jest tu tak mało między rozdętym morzem nudy i klepania bez sensu, że zwyczajnie szkoda mi czasu na ich wyławianie. Może kiedyś dam kolejną szansę tej książce - jak mi się będzie przeraźliwie w życiu nudziło i przeczytam już całą kolejkę znacznie ciekaws ...more
Jun 09, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sci-fi, short-stories
A book of reviews of imaginary books. Starting with an imaginary review of the book itself. Most of the "reviews" were either lots of fun, presented interesting ideas, or (usually) both. One or two stories in the middle kind of bogged down for me, but for the most part I liked every one. The stories that did bog down were still interesting ides, I just wish they would have had a bit chopped out and been a bit more to the point instead of going on and on. Definitely looking forward to reading mor ...more
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Play Book Tag: A Perfect Vacuum by Stanislaw Lem - 3 stars 1 7 Feb 23, 2017 05:31AM  
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Stanisław Lem (staˈɲiswaf lɛm) was a Polish science fiction, philosophical and satirical writer of Jewish descent. His books have been translated into 41 languages and have sold over 27 million copies. He is perhaps best known as the author of Solaris, which has twice been made into a feature film. In 1976, Theodore Sturgeon claimed that Lem was the most widely read science-fiction writer in the w ...more
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“The chances that lose in the lottery of being are invisible” 3 likes
“Once we allow the logical reconstruction of something (a being, a
theodicy, and the like) to have internal self contradiction, it obviously becomes possible
to prove absolutely anything, whatever one pleases. Consider how the matter lies. We are
speaking of creating someone and of endowing him with a particular logic, and then
demanding that this same logic be offered up in sacrifice to a belief in the Maker of all
things. If this model itself is to remain noncontradictory, it calls for the application, in the
form of a metalogic, of a totally different type of reasoning from that which is natural to
the logic of the one created. |If that does not reveal the outright imperfection of the
Creator, then it reveals a quality that I would call mathematical inelegance – a sui generic
unmethodicalness (incoherence) of the creative act.”
More quotes…