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Memoirs Found in a Bathtub

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3.77  ·  Rating details ·  2,779 ratings  ·  204 reviews
The year is 3149, and a vast paper destroying blight-papyralysis-has obliterated much of the planet's written history. However, these rare memoirs, preserved for centuries in a volcanic rock, record the strange life of a man trapped in a hermetically sealed underground community. Translated by Michael Kandel and Christine Rose.
Paperback, 204 pages
Published July 23rd 1986 by Mariner Books (first published 1961)
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3.77  · 
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 ·  2,779 ratings  ·  204 reviews


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Glenn Russell
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing


“When you jump for joy, beware that no one moves the ground from beneath your feet.”
― Stanisław Lem

If you are up for writing with ample helpings of the polyglotomatic and metapsychodelic, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel of screwball bureaucratic misadventure will most certainly stir your brainwaves and set your neural neurons fizzing.

What a polyglot and metaphysician was our author - fluent in Polish, Latin, German, French, English, Russian, Ukrainian, Lem’s expertise ran
...more
Ania
Dec 17, 2011 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: mad people, gay stories,
Recommended to Ania by: polish people who rated it as best Lem book
Shelves: favorites, polish
Madness... it's ALL madness.

I imagine all fans of this book to look something like this:
description
The question now becomes, am I a fan?

I really don't know how to rate this book. After finishing this book I wanted to chuck it out the window. "2 days wasted!" I thought. Nothing but madness and more madness.... Then today more of it made sense, by of course, not making sense. (you're picturing the crazy cat as my face now, aren't you?)

I do understand the book however, and I suppose this is why I am writing t
...more
Alan Marchant
Jul 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Kafka on Prozac

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanslaw Lem follows the adventures of an agent-in-training as he wanders in search of a mission through the vast bureaucracy of a purposeless intelligence agency.

The agent is anonymous. But we can call him K - because the story, the style, and the absurdist message are drawn directly from Kafka (esp. The castle]. K is an everyman, and his agency is an allegory for society. Ostensibly, the agency is the post-apocalyptic remnant of America, but it feel
...more
Dee
Aug 31, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Lovers of Esoterica
This book blew my mind. I had to scream after I put it down! It is the story of a man who doesn't know his mission, who is on the outside of an inside joke. Everything is in code, even the code is in code, and everybody is a double, triple, quadruple or more agent. Or maybe they just make up their jobs and go about doing them-there is no way to know.

This book is a tragedy in the sense that it is a comedy about someone who ultimately fails. In comedy, the hero always succeeds at the end, in greek
...more
Jose Moa
Nov 06, 2016 rated it it was amazing
With the Futurological Congress the most outlandish and grotesque novel of Lem i have read and perhaps the most of all i have read in my life.
What a mix,surpassing all them,of Lewis Carroll,Kafka and Dick,he takes the logic to the absurd extreme as Caroll,builds a grotesque senseles burocratic world as Kafka and transmits a sense of nigmarish irreality as Dick,a real irreality without the need od drugs

After a ancient plague that have destroyed all the paper and by that the histhory records ,in n
...more
Jackfruit Goldthwait
Jan 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
this book is fucked up. i don't usually say that about books but this one is wicked fucked up. i listened to an audiobook version that left the introduction out and that made it even weirder. basically this dude comes into existence in a cold war era underground government bunker and has to find out what his mission is but he's stuck in the place that drives you mad from that asterix movie so he just runs around for a while trying to navigate the insane mazes of political intrigue before realizi ...more
Anna
Jul 21, 2014 rated it liked it
‘Memoirs Found in a Bathtub’ is a strange novel, but its strangeness feels somehow familiar. It reminded me of Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, Kadare’s The Palace of Dreams, the Terry Gilliam film ‘Brazil’, and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. It would probably also remind me of Kafka’s The Trial, if I’d read it. (I am going to - the library’s copy never seems to be on the shelf!) First published in 1971, Lem’s novel is an unsettling satire on the Cold War, in which an intellige ...more
Jay
Nov 26, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: apocalypse-now, wtf-s
This book is NOT science fiction. It is Kafka meets Lewis Carroll meets Alain Robbe-Grillet. A "story" of a nameless man, seemingly trapped in an underground Building of many levels, with all of the attributes of a long, long suffocating dream, a tale with its own internal "logic" but utterly outside anything rational or "real". Written and published in Polish in 1961, translated into English in 1973 and dismissed by yours truly in 2016 as a WTF entry on my bookshelves with a hallowed place betw ...more
Tom Quinn
Jan 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Funnier than Kafka, more flippant than Heller, Lem mocks and satirizes a bloated bureaucratic military complex where nobody knows what anybody is doing, not even themselves. All told, it's a pretty brilliant solution to prevent espionage: if everything is misinformation, then nothing can fall into the enemy's hands. Right?
So . . . I had considered myself the center of the universe, the bull's-eye, so to speak, for all the slings and arrows the Building had to offer—and all along I was nothing, j
...more
Griffin Alexander
Dec 17, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: sf-is-non-f, soviet
Somewhere between Kafka and PKD by way of Pynchon's Tristero-style conspiratorialism—a fever dream of the eternal Cold War between the individual and the mass of the universe pressing down on them in all its chaos, meaningful or not.
Nico
Jan 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Readers
I adored this piece from start to finish. Lem (or his translators) have a grasp on prose that wows and flows. This absurdist satire had me laughing and cringing throughout as the nearly 40-year-old piece rings true as a bell to contemporary themes of espionage, privacy, and deception. The story attempts to detail the complex interworking of an institution so mired in secrecy and insecurity that trust, truth, and deception swirl together in a miasma of confusion and paranoia such that any occurre ...more
Carla Remy
Apr 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi
This is the most dreamlike book I ever remember reading. Or nightmare like. A study in bureaucracy and paranoia. Including coded camouflage and artificial body parts and much much more. My American paperback is from 1971 but apparently the original is from 1961.
Hadrian
Jan 05, 2011 rated it really liked it
A labyrinth of a book, a twisted gnarl of agents, double agents, codes and flies in the coffee. A look at the paranoia of a bygone age.
William Cardini
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a dark satire of spy bureaucracies.

The introduction tells us that these memoirs were found in a bathroom of the Third Pentagon 72 years after it had been hermetically sealed to prevent a paper-destroying plague from ruining the records of this last vestige of American capitalism. But the memoirs themselves do not reference this context. The nameless narrator begins his story with an ellipses but it becomes clear that he has entered this windowless Building because
...more
Toby
Feb 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub combines biting satire with Carollian absurdity to brilliant effect.

Follow the confused and paranoia-driven encounters of a government agent as he navigates the exaggeratedly complex and ridiculous set of codes and regulations enforced by the other inhabitants of the edifice known simply as The Building. He is on a mission, but no one has told him what the mission actually is yet.

The introduction to the novel sets the context: Something brought back on a space flight
...more
Michael Hołda (Holda)
Pentagon in future, where every clerk is double, triple e.t.c spy, decadency of ending where is only construction

"Paranoia as the last stage of militarism"
Hank
Mar 30, 2011 rated it it was ok
As a kid, I read and reread Lem's science fiction short story collection Tales of Pirx the Pilot. In fact, I'd say that book, along with Heinlein's Green Hills of Earth, really cemented my love for science fiction. To this day, I prefer that style - character and story-driven, with just enough tech babble to make it spacey. That was my only exposure to Lem, although I did know that he was a highly respected author in several genres.

Because of my love for Pirx, I really looked forward to picking
...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Nov 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Sword and Laser Book Club - Tom Merritt
I keep seeing comments various places that "Lem is like Kafka." I've never read Kafka. I felt I should make that clear before diving into any sort of opinion, but I'll add it to my list.

This book brings up many more questions than answers. My biggest one pertains to the narrator. Is he reliable? Throughout what we read, he is being taught that everything is code, and symbolic, and that everyone is a triple agent (or more, the wonders of illogical math). So is what we're reading anything close to
...more
Jeff Crompton
Apr 09, 2013 rated it really liked it
Stanislaw Lem wrote science fiction, but he wasn't really a "science fiction" writer in the commonly accepted sense of the term. Science fiction was the medium Lem chose to explore the ideas and themes which interested him. Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is supposedly a manuscript from sometime in our future, found even further in the future, which describes life in the Third Pentagon, known to the narrator only as "the Building." But it's obvious that the plot, such as it is, is not really what Lem ...more
Alterjess
Jul 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sword-laser
This is a wonderful little book, though it is clearly not for everyone (Sword & Laser folk, you know what I'm talking about).

However, if you are a fan of Lem's other work, this will almost certainly delight you. It reminded me strongly of a short story out of The Cyberiad, and also of the TV series The Prisoner (original, please, not the AMC remake).

The framing device makes it science fiction (the title is literal, a far-future historian discovers the memoir in a bathtub in some ruins), but
...more
Christopher Turner
Apr 12, 2017 rated it really liked it
It's kind of a Kafka's The Castle or Beckett's Waiting for Godot for the cold war set.

One man is trapped in a labyrinthine military building as paranoia and conspiracy swirl around him in both literal and figurative ways while he attempts to complete an intelligence mission that is as absurd as it is mysterious. Lem explores themes of authenticity, the nature of knowable reality, and epistemology sometimes through actual discussion of these topics but mostly through the symbolism of the charact
...more
Davis
Nov 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Lem does it again!..... everything "Brazil" should have ben, what "kafkaesque" bitches want to be but can't possibly know it.....
As I have seen in the shapes of his other novels, this one trudges along slowly---a quick read, but still trudging. At the end tho, Lem hits you with everything he's got, and when he does.... wowie!!!

Frustrated, as you can sense when reading that the original Polish has a great deal more puns and double-meanings, humorous and thematically significant play-on-words whic
...more
Annelie
Feb 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book is interesting to say the least. I have never been the BIGGEST fan of his work, but I always keep going back to his books!!! They are simply spectacular. As this is my dad's favorite book, and in my opinion Stanislaw Lem's best work, I think it deserves 4.5 stars (but I can't actually give it that, can I?). Anyway, it takes place in Stanislaw Lem's dystopian future ( as usual), and depicts a government with immense power. No one is really sure HOW to live, and how to operate. People ar ...more
Chad
Sep 12, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: audible, at-home, clbr
This is shelved as science fiction, but it's a bit of a stretch to call it that. If you're wanting some sci-fi, you'll be wishing the frame story was a book by itself. I'd recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz in that case. Not exactly the same, but it's a similar idea. That's not to say that this isn't a worth-while read. It's a dizzying, Kafkaesque nightmare for sure, but if you're into that sort of thing this one does it well.
John
Jul 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sci-fi, fiction
"Verify. Search. Destroy. Incite. Inform. Over and out. On the nth day nth hour sector n subsector n rendezvous with N."

Cold War absurdist or Nightmare Fever Dream of a Capitalist devoid of Capital? Either way, Lem is at his sadistic best here! The obtuse language of vague bureaucracy careens into meaninglessness over and over again - banging into itself and smashing the commemorative plates hanging in the hallways.

Our nameless diarist, a civilian, attempts to determine his "mission" which is a
...more
Bernie Gourley
Dec 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
If you enjoyed Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, which is to say you like gallows humor that scoffs at the folly of thinking of “bureaucratic logic” as anything other than an oxymoron, then Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs Found in a Bathtub will be right up your alley. The premise is that future archeologists are trying to decipher what happened to humanity from a dearth of remaining documentation. One of the best and most extensive of these records is the memoirs of a bureaucrat telling of his experience in a ...more
Bbrown
Nov 24, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: science-fiction
With Lem, you never know what you're going to get- you sit down with what sounds like a science fiction book, but will it actually be one of those, or something completely different? Make no mistake, besides the frame narrative this isn't so much a work of science fiction as it is Lem's take on Kafka.

It's a shame too, for two reasons: first, I was looking for a science fiction book and not Kafkaesque metafiction, and Second, the frame narrative sets up an intriguing setting. Besides establishing
...more
Matty Lapointe-Smith
Oct 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
This book has a 15 page introduction from a post-apocalyptic future where paper has ceased to exist. Which is particularly terrifying in the pre-computer, pre-kindle. Cold War World of 1961 when it was written. The rest of the book is a diary found buried in (we find out) a deep underground Soviet bunker made up of offices, elevators and hallways without end. Frankly I thought this idea of an unstoppable "something" destroying all the text/knowledge would've made a really interesting story on it ...more
Eylem Yilmaz
Sep 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Eric
Feb 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Like many of the greatest SF writers, Stanisław Lem was more than anything a philosopher who worked out his concerns about scientific progress, psychology, technology, and bureaucracy in the science fiction idiom—a necessary concealment for Lem, writing in Cold War-era Poland. And like most of Lem's novels, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub leaves an indelible mark. Prefaced with a brief "scholarly note" from a distant-future archaeologist, who says that the text which forms the body of the novel was f ...more
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Speculative Ficti...: (Review) Memoirs Found in a Bathtub 1 8 Mar 17, 2018 08:50PM  
SO this is a Sci-fi version of Kafka's The Castle? 4 17 Jul 04, 2013 02:16PM  
The Sword and Laser: Memoirs Found in a Bathtub $1.99 today 12 125 Feb 08, 2013 10:27AM  

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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