Solaris Quotes

Rate this book
Clear rating
Solaris Solaris by Stanisław Lem
55,581 ratings, 3.98 average rating, 2,696 reviews
Solaris Quotes (showing 1-30 of 74)
“On the surface, I was calm: in secret, without really admitting it, I was waiting for something. Her return? How could I have been waiting for that? We all know that we are material creatures, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and not even the power of all our feelings combined can defeat those laws. All we can do is detest them. The age-old faith of lovers and poets in the power of love, stronger than death, that finis vitae sed non amoris, is a lie, useless and not even funny. So must one be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox...

Must I go on living here then, among the objects we both had touched, in the air she had breathed? In the name of what? In the hope of her return? I hoped for nothing. And yet I lived in expectation. Since she had gone, that was all that remained. I did not know what achievements, what mockery, even what tortures still awaited me. I knew nothing, and I persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“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.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Man has gone out to explore other worlds and other civilizations without having explored his own labyrinth of dark passages and secret chambers, and without finding what lies behind doorways that he himself has sealed.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I know only one thing. when i sleep, i know no fear, no, trouble no bliss. blessing on him who invented sleep. the common coin that purchases all things, the balance that levels shepherd and king, fool and wise man. there is only one bad thing about sound sleep. they say it closely resembles death.”
Andrei Tarkovsky, Solaris
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all a sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos. For us, such and such a planet is as arid as the Sahara, another as frozen as the North Pole, yet another as lush as the Amazon basin. We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past. At the same time, there is something inside us which we don't like to face up to, from which we try to protect ourselves, but which nevertheless remains, since we don't leave Earth in a state of primal innocence. We arrive here as we are in reality, and when the page is turned and that reality is revealed to us - that part of our reality which we would prefer to pass over in silence - then we don't like it anymore.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“How do you expect to communicate with the ocean, when you can’t even understand one another?”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“What gave you this idea of an imperfect god?'

'I don't know. It seems quite feasible to me. That is the only god I could imagine believing in, a god whose passion is not a redemption, who saves nothing, fulfills no purpose--a god who simply is.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Tell me something. Do you believe in God?'

Snow darted an apprehensive glance in my direction. 'What? Who still believes nowadays?'

'It isn't that simple. I don't mean the traditional God of Earth religion. I'm no expert in the history of religions, and perhaps this is nothing new--do you happen to know if there was ever a belief in an...imperfect God?'

'What do you mean by imperfect?' Snow frowned. 'In a way all the gods of the old religions were imperfect, considered that their attributes were amplified human ones. The God of the Old Testament, for instance, required humble submission and sacrifices, and and was jealous of other gods. The Greek gods had fits of sulks and family quarrels, and they were just as imperfect as mortals...'

'No,' I interrupted. 'I'm not thinking of a god whose imperfection arises out of the candor of his human creators, but one whose imperfection represents his essential characteristic: a god limited in his omniscience and power, fallible, incapable of foreseeing the consequences of his acts, and creating things that lead to horror. He is a...sick god, whose ambitions exceed his powers and who does not realize it at first. A god who has created clocks, but not the time they measure. He has created systems or mechanisms that serves specific ends but have now overstepped and betrayed them. And he has created eternity, which was to have measured his power, and which measures his unending defeat.'

Snow hesitated, but his attitude no longer showed any of the wary reserve of recent weeks:

'There was Manicheanism...'

'Nothing at all to do with the principles of Good and Evil,' I broke in immediately. 'This god has no existence outside of matter. He would like to free himself from matter, but he cannot...'

Snow pondered for a while:

'I don't know of any religion that answers your description. That kind of religion has never been...necessary. If i understand you, and I'm afraid I do, what you have in mind is an evolving god, who develops in the course of time, grows, and keeps increasing in power while remaining aware of his powerlessness. For your god, the divine condition is a situation without a goal. And understanding that, he despairs. But isn't this despairing god of yours mankind, Kelvin? Is it man you are talking about, and that is a fallacy, not just philosophically but also mystically speaking.'

I kept on:

'No, it's nothing to do with man. man may correspond to my provisional definition from some point of view, but that is because the definition has a lot of gaps. Man does not create gods, in spite of appearances. The times, the age, impose them on him. Man can serve is age or rebel against it, but the target of his cooperation or rebellion comes to him from outside. If there was only a since human being in existence, he would apparently be able to attempt the experiment of creating his own goals in complete freedom--apparently, because a man not brought up among other human beings cannot become a man. And the being--the being I have in mind--cannot exist in the plural, you see? ...Perhaps he has already been born somewhere, in some corner of the galaxy, and soon he will have some childish enthusiasm that will set him putting out one star and lighting another. We will notice him after a while...'

'We already have,' Snow said sarcastically. 'Novas and supernovas. According to you they are candles on his altar.'

'If you're going to take what I say literally...'

...Snow asked abruptly:

'What gave you this idea of an imperfect god?'

'I don't know. It seems quite feasible to me. That is the only god I could imagine believing in, a god whose passion is not a redemption, who saves nothing, fulfills no purpose--a god who simply is.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Each of us is aware he's a material being, subject to the laws of physiology and physics, and that the strength of all our emotions combined cannot counteract those laws. It can only hate them. The eternal belief of lovers and poets in the power of love which is more enduring that death, the finis vitae sed non amoris that has pursued us through the centuries is a lie. But this lie is not ridiculous, it's simply futile. To be a clock on the other hand, measuring the passage of time, one that is smashed and rebuilt over and again, one in whose mechanism despair and love are set in motion by the watchmaker along with the first movements of the cogs. To know one is a repeater of suffering felt ever more deeply as it becomes increasingly comical through a multiple repetitions. To replay human existence - fine. But to replay it in the way a drunk replays a corny tune pushing coins over and over into the jukebox?”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“But what am I going to see?

I don't know. In a certain sense, it depends on you.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“We’re not searching for anything except people. We don’t need other worlds. We need mirrors.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I had no hope. Yet expectation lived on in me, the last thing she had left behind. What further consummations, mockeries, torments did I still anticipate? I had no idea as I abided in the unshaken belief that the time of cruel wonders was not yet over.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Is a mountain only a huge stone? Is a planet an enormous mountain?”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“The night stared me in the face, amorphous, blind, infinite, without frontiers. Not a single start relieved the darkness behind the glass.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“We take off into the cosmos, ready for anything: for solitude, for hardship, for exhaustion, death. Modesty forbids us to say so, but there are times when we think pretty well of ourselves. And yet, if we examine it more closely, our enthusiasm turns out to be all sham. We don't want to conquer the cosmos, we simply want to extend the boundaries of Earth to the frontiers of the cosmos....

We are humanitarian and chivalrous; we don't want to enslave other races, we simply want to bequeath them our values and take over their heritage in exchange. We think of ourselves as the Knights of the Holy Contact. This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. We need mirrors. (1970 English translation)”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“So one must be resigned to being a clock that measures the passage of time, now out of order, now repaired, and whose mechanism generates despair and love as soon as its maker sets it going? Are we to grow used to the idea that every man relives ancient torments, which are all the more profound because they grow comic with repetition? That human existence should repeat itself, well and good, but that it should repeat itself like a hackneyed tune, or a record a drunkard keeps playing as he feeds coins into the jukebox...”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“The fate of a single man can be rich with significance, that of a few hundred less so, but the history of thousands and millions of men does not mean anything at all, in any adequate sense of the word.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“This is another lie. We are only seeking Man. We have no need of other worlds. A single world, our own, suffices us; but we can't accept it for what it is. We are searching for an ideal image of our own world: we go in quest of a planet, a civilization superior to our own but developed on the basis of a prototype of our primeval past.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“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.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“It was not possible to think except with one’s brain, no one could stand outside himself in order to check the functioning of his inner processes.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“The human mind is only capable of absorbing a few things at a time. We see what is taking place in front of us in the here and now, and cannot envisage simultaneously a succession of processes, no matter how integrated and complementary. Our faculties of perception are consequently limited even as regards fairly simple phenomena. The fate of a single man can be rich with significance, that of a few hundred less so, but the history of thousands and millions of men does not mean anything at all, in any adequate sense of the word. The symmetriad is a million—a billion, rather—raised to the power of N: it is incomprehensible. We pass through vast halls, each with a capacity of ten Kronecker units, and creep like so many ants clinging to the folds of breathing vaults and craning to watch the flight of soaring girders, opalescent in the glare of searchlights, and elastic domes which criss-cross and balance each other unerringly, the perfection of a moment, since everything here passes and fades. The essence of this architecture is movement synchronized towards a precise objective. We observe a fraction of the process, like hearing the vibration of a single string in an orchestra of supergiants. We know, but cannot grasp, that above and below, beyond the limits of perception or imagination, thousands and millions of simultaneous transformations are at work, interlinked like a musical score by mathematical counterpoint. It has been described as a symphony in geometry, but we lack the ears to hear it.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“There was a time we tormented one another with excessive honesty in the naive belief it would save us.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Every science comes with its own pseudo-science, a bizarre distortion that comes from a certain kind of mind.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“For some time there was a widely held notion (zealously fostered by the daily press) to the effect that the 'thinking ocean' of Solaris was a gigantic brain, prodigiously well-developed and several million years in advance of our own civilization, a sort of 'cosmic yogi', a sage, a symbol of omniscience, which had long ago understood the vanity of all action and for this reason had retreated into an unbreakable silence.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“I wanted to stop her; in the darkness and silence we occasionally managed to throw off our despair for a while by making each other forget.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“A human being, appearances to the contrary, doesn’t create his own purposes. These are imposed by the time he’s born into; he may serve them, he may rebel against them, but the object of his service or rebellion comes from the outside. To experience complete freedom in seeking his purposes he would have to be alone, and that’s impossible, since a person who isn’t brought up among people cannot become a person.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“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.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“What did that word mean to me? Earth? I thought of the great bustling cities where I would wander and lose myself, and I thought of them as I had thought of the ocean on the second or third night, when I had wanted to throw myself upon the dark waves. I shall immerse myself among men. I shall be silent and attentive, an appreciative companion. There will be many acquaintances, friends, women—and perhaps even a wife. For a while, I shall have to make a conscious effort to smile, nod, stand and perform the thousands of little gestures which constitute life on Earth, and then those gestures will become reflexes again. I shall find new interests and occupations; and I shall not give myself completely to them, as I shall never again give myself completely to anything or anybody. Perhaps at night I shall stare up at the dark nebula that cuts off the light of the twin suns, and remember everything, even what I am thinking now. With a condescending, slightly rueful smile I shall remember my follies and my hopes.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris
“Solaristics, wrote Muntius, is a substitute for religion in the space age. It is faith wrapped in the cloak of science; contact, the goal for which we are striving, is as vague and obscure as communion with the saints or the coming of the Messiah.”
Stanisław Lem, Solaris

« previous 1 3