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204 pages, Paperback
First published January 1, 1961
... rather than this...
“We see ourselves as Knights of the Holy Contact. That’s another falsity. We’re not searching for anything except people. We don’t need other worlds. We need mirrors. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. One world is enough, even there we feel stifled. We desire to find our own idealized image; they’re supposed to be globes, civilizations more perfect than ours; in other worlds we expect to find the image of our own primitive past.”
“Human beings set out to encounter other worlds, other civilizations, without having fully gotten to know their own hidden recesses, their blind alleys, well shafts, dark barricaded doors.”
Simultaneously I noticed the violet-flushed furrows of the ocean, which betrayed a faint motion; the clouds suddenly rose high up, their edges marked with dazzling crimson, the sky between them grew distant and flat, dull orange in color, and everything became blurred: I’d entered a spin. Before I could utter a word, a brief impact returned the capsule to a horizontal position, and the ocean, glittering with a mercuric light to the very limits of the horizon, appeared in the spy hole.
When I opened my eyes I had the feeling I’d only been sleeping a few minutes. The room was filled with a cloudy red glow. I felt cold and I felt fine. I lay naked outside the covers. Across from the bed, by the window, which was half covered by the shades, someone was sitting in the light of the red sun. It was Harey, in a white summer dress. Her legs were crossed, she was barefoot, her dark hair was tied back; the sheer material was taut over her breasts. Her dangling arms were tanned to the elbows; she sat motionless, looking at me from under dark eyelashes. I gazed at her for a long time, entirely calm. My first thought was: “I’m glad this is one of those dreams where you know you’re dreaming.” All the same, I’d have preferred her not to be there. I closed my eyes and began to wish this intensely, but when I opened them again she was still sitting there.
The symmetriads . . . are the least “human” formations, which is to say that they bear no resemblance whatsoever to anything on Earth . . . It is not their nightmare appearance that makes the gigantic symmetriad formations dangerous, but the total instability and capriciousness of their structure, in which even the laws of physics do not hold. The theory that the living ocean is endowed with intelligence has found its firmest adherents among those scientists who have ventured into their unpredictable depths.And here is a passage from the final pages, when Kelvin, ready to leave Solaris, comes to the beach “to acquaint myself with the ocean”:
The birth of a symmetriad comes like a sudden eruption. About an hour beforehand, an area of tens of square miles of ocean vitrifies and begins to shine . . . . The gleaming sheath of the ocean heaves upwards to form a vast ball that reflects sky, sun, clouds and the entire horizon in a medley of changing, variegated images. Diffracted light creates a kaleidoscopic play of color.
. . . The immense flaming globe has scarcely reached its maximum expansion above the ocean when it bursts at the summit and cracks vertically. It is not breaking up; this is the second phase, which goes under the clumsy name of the ‘floral calyx phase’ and lasts only a few seconds. The membraneous rches soaring into the sky now fold inwards and mergeto produce a thick-set trunk enclosing a scene of teeming activity. . . . The mind-bending architecture of this central pillar is held in place by vertical shafts of a gelatinous, almost liquid consistency, constantly gushing upwards out of wide crevasses . . . . Simultaneously the gelatinous geysers are converted into mobile columns that proceed to extrude tendrils that reach out in clusters towards points rigorously determined by the over-all dynamics of the entire structure: they call to mind the gills of an embryo, except they are revolving at fantastic speed . . . .
I went closer, and when the next wave came I held out my hand. What followed was a faithful reproduction of a phenomenon which had been analyzed a century before: the wave hesitated, recoiled, then enveloped my hand without touching it, so that a thin covering of “air” separated my glove inside a cavity which had been fluid a moment previously, and now had a fleshly consistency. I raised my hand slowly, and the wave . . . rose at the same time, enfolding my hand . . . I stood up, so as to raise my hand still higher, and the gelatinous substance stretched like a rope, but did not break. The main body of the wave remained motionless on the shore surrounding my feet but not touching them, like some strange beast patiently waiting for the experiment to finish. A flower had grown out of the ocean, and its calyx was moulded to my fingers. I stepped back. The stem trembled, stirred uncertainly and fell back into the wave . . .
“Successive bursts of static came through the headphones, against a background of deep, low-pitched murmuring, which seemed to me the very voice of the planet itself.”
“We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can’t accept it for what it is.”
"Δεν θέλουμε να κατακτήσουμε το σύμπαν, θέλουμε να επεκτείνουμε τα σύνορα της Γης μέχρι τα όρια του σύμπαντος... δεν θέλουμε να κατακτήσουμε άλλες φυλές, θέλουμε απλώς να τους κληροδοτήσουμε τις αξίες μας και να πάρουμε ως αντάλλαγμα τη δική τους κληρονομιά. Βλέπουμε τους εαυτούς μας ως τους Ιππότες της Ιεράς Επαφής. Άλλο ψέμα και τούτο. Το μόνο για το οποίο ψάχνουμε είναι ο άνθρωπος. Δεν χρειαζόμαστε άλλους κόσμους. Καθρέφτες χρειαζόμαστε. Τους άλλους κόσμους δεν ξέρουμε τι να τους κάνουμε... Αυτό που αναζητούμε είναι μια ιδανική εικόνα του δικού μας κόσμου.''