Science Fiction Studies

#35 = Volume 12, Part 1 = March 1985

Istvan sicser!"#ona!, $r %he &oo' is the (lien) *n ertain and +ncertain #eadin,s o- .em/s Solaris
1. Contemporary science describes a world that is neither a rational cosmos, nor a roiling chaos, but something in between: a source of paradox, allowing for complementary, but contradictory, interpretations of humanity's relationship with non_human reality. The "classical" myth of the rational cosmos had shared with the prescientific myths underlying humanistic culture the conception that the human and natural realms were in some ways co-ordinated. Both wor ed according to intelligible, self-consistent, determining laws. !n the system of modern atomic physics, howe"er, scientists ha"e succeeded, according to #lanc , in purging science of determinism and "all anthropomorphic elements" $%rendt: &'(). But as *eisenberg obser"ed, in such a deanthropomorphi+ed uni"erse human beings always "confront themsel"es alone" (ibid., p. &,,). -ince e"ery answer they attain in their in"estigations into nature is a specific answer to a specific .uestion, the sum of these answers allows the application of otherwise .uite incompatible types of natural laws to one and the same physical e"ent. -cience's answers reflect the .uestions scientists are impelled to as of nature/ and thus anthropomorphism is reintroduced at the le"el of hypothesis formation that preselects the data to be studied. Beyond this, it remains extremely problematic whether the seemingly unbridgeable gulf between the languages of human culture and .uantum physics' purely probabilistic and mathematical expressions of the uni"erse will produce "an appropriate widening of the conceptual framewor " to resol"e all the present paradoxes and disharmonies in a new "logical frame," as 0iels Bohr hoped $see %rendt: &,,)1and as radical holistic physicists li e 2rit3of 4apra ha"e proposed1or whether the gulf is inherent in the new physics. The conclusions of the &5th century's science ha"e thus introduced an alienation from the cosmos more radical than any pre"iously concei"ed in human culture. 6hether this alienation is the beginning of a dialectical process of conceptual synthesis or an enormous stalemate, we cannot now. 6e cannot summarily re3ect either historical hypothesis. -2 characteristically transforms scientific and technological ideas into metaphors, by which those ideas are gi"en cultural rele"ance. !t wor s "ery much li e historical fiction in this respect. !t ta es a body of extratextual propositions belie"ed to be true, with no inherent ethical-cultural

as an elaborate metaphor for the cultural and philosophical implications of scientific uncertainty for 6estern culture. than much of so called mainstream fiction. Solaris is about the problem of whether human beings will e"er be able to ma e contact with a truly alien intelligence. 2urthermore. and a =antian meditation on the nature of human consciousness. The paradigmatic forms of -2 are usually more archaic. !t is metaphorical. and :em intended it to be so. in wor s of artistic interest. a =af aes. 2. !n the no"el. and endows it with meaning by incorporating it in fictional stories about characters representing typical "alues of the author's culture." !n historical fiction. 2rye: 8(). a tragic lo"e story. a metafictional parody of hermeneutics. But none of these readings is completely satisfactory. interpretations. ! will consider Solaris somewhat differently. at least). %lthough the historical facts limit what can happen in historical fiction $in the realistic mode. :em has often dismissed the suggestion that -2 should be 3udged by criteria different from the rest of literature. 7eading the fiction should act as a metaphor for the process of cognition implied by the science. most of Solaris' commentators agree on a common reading of the no"el's action and point. about -2. 9ne boo is an exception. mutatis mutandis. it is futile to loo for this sort of harmony of scientific ideas and aesthetic design in contemporary -2. This inbuilt indeterminancy notwithstanding. e"en if it is in fact true. indeed prescientific. !t can be read as a -wiftian satire. and hence "more than true"/ it is culturally significant. one of the philosophically most sophisticated wor s of -2. Solaris invites several parallel.ue existentialist parable. a 4er"antean ironic romance. and thus transcend the anthropomorphism and anthropocentrism apparently inherent in human cognition. <et most of Solaris' commentators ha"e discussed the no"el as a wor of "meta_-2. -e"eral commentators ha"e noted that -2 writers usually adhere to the paradigms of romance $cf. 7ose: ... The simultaneously incompatible and mutually reinforcing readings ma e the process of interpreting the text a metaphor for the scientific problem of articulating a manifestly paradoxical natural uni"erse. these facts are embedded among purely fictional facts to imply a metaphorical meaning beyond historiography's customary function of describing "what really happened.significance. we also expect the fictional action and the process of reading to correspond analogically to the fiction's metaphori+ed scientific ideas. The same can be said. %ccording to this reading. a century of attempts by the most ad"anced human . !n general. and even contradictory." a "irtuoso example of generic criticism and the exploration of the possibilities inherent in the genre.& !n these pages. history is no longer true history. howe"er: -tanislaw :em's Solaris.

They merely appear when their hosts awa en after a dream_filled sleep. unable to contemplate "murdering" the . which appear to be incarnations of the scientists' repressed erotic and guilt fixations. 6e cannot now the purpose of these ?isitors. emerging only after he has in"ented a de"ice to annihilate the ?isitors/ the cyberneticist -nowB ta es to drin . The -olarist protagonists are ""isited" by human simulacra. for whose suicide ten years earlier he has carried a deep sense of guilt. and appear to be material copies of an ideal template. The -olarists' obsession with the mysteries of -olaris dissol"es into the broader struggle to understand human reflection and identity. and redeem it from cosmic alienation.uintessence of each man's sub3ecti"ity in the form of an inscrutable ob3ect. and seem to de"elop human consciousness. 6hen they are e3ected into space. %t first. they become increasingly autonomous. =el"in's friend and teacher. which are extrapolations of classical scientific method. or instruments of exploration.uasi_human beings. sentient ocean_planet. 6hen it appears impossible that human scientists will e"er brea out of the enclosure of human consciousness. They now only what their hosts remember. The instruments that the early -olarists ta e to the planet to measure certain phenomena return to them physically transformed by -olaris/ the researchers thus cannot now what it is they ha"e measured (Solaris. 9nly =el"in pro"es open and "innocent" enough to attempt to accommodate the presence of his ?isitor. ho"ering a mile abo"e the planet's surface. the -olarist psychologist =ris =el"in.ue planet gradually becomes a macrocosmic mirror of the human image. 2:27).ue attachment to her. their space exploration appears to be a religious . the ?isitors are indestructible. or merely augmentations of the scientists' unconscious thoughts. The methodological paradoxes produced by the exploration of -olaris. . ills himself instead/ the pedantic physicist -artorius loc s himself in his laboratory. The ?isitors disorient the scientists completely by displaying the . irony. 7heya appears to become e"en more human than the true human -olarists1 by willingly accepting her death in order to free her lo"er from his grotes. The inscrutable and opa. a replica of his young wife 7heya. come to occupy most of the -olarists' time.scientists to understand the mysterious. !n time." mystical union with a godli e intelligence that might re"eal the purpose of the "mission of >an ind" in the uni"erse. new "ersions of them reappear on the station later. Aibarian. as the -olarists euphemistically call them. By the time the narrator. and self_pity1in fear and trembling. !n the central lo"e story between =el"in and 7heya. or how they arri"ed on the space station. the theoretical paradoxes of -olaristics ha"e ta en on an unner"ing solidity. @ach -olarist deals with his confusion in a different way. has produced only a chain_reaction of paradoxes. howe"er. They may be gifts from the planet. -olaris. arri"es on -olaris -tation. and for obscure reasons they must stay within sight of those hosts.uest for "4ontact.

this self_diminution .5) =el"in does not lea"e after all.8:&5'). %lthough no physical contact is made.The transformation in the no"el occurs with =el"in's disillusionment: his recognition that 7heya is not a human being. e"en what tortures awaited me. %t the end of the no"el. There he plays the game of extending his hand to the ocean. and that his inappropriate loyalty to her.an empty slate ready to recei"e the . without the slightest effort or thought. *is formerly aggressi"e dri"e for 4ontact has gi"en way to a more serene recepti"ity. the most noble human "alues may be only . !n order not to return to @arth without ha"ing e"er physically touched_down on the planet. with great suffering. fluid colossus/ it was as if ! had forgi"en it e"erything. and yet li"ed in expectation. ! did not now what achie"ements. he must renounce his romantic faith. which was moti"ated by earthly guilt and lo"e. -tephen C. or the secret forces that ga"e the wa"es their regular rise and fall. =el"in descends to the surface before he lea"es.. perhaps an infinitesimal one. what moc ery. *e allows himself to belie"e in "a chance. ! sat unseeing and san into a uni"erse of inertia..... still mourning 7heya. and identified myself with the dumb. *is awareness of his diminution comes in stages.and this =el"in will be no less worthy a man than the =el"in of the past. perhaps only imaginary" $.) belie"es that at this point =el"in "has become. D.uic ly turns ambiguous.8:&.). 6e surmise his egoistic pro3ections are spent: "! hoped for nothing. 0or will any man ha"e the right to 3udge me" $.8:&. >ost critics agree that in his concluding words =el"in has attained a new state of alertness and awareness. #otts $p. :i e all the positi"e assertions made by the protagonists of the no"el. which responds by en"eloping it. glided down an in"isible slope. he prepares to return to @arth "a sadder and wiser man"/ "! shall ne"er again gi"e myself completely to anything or anybody.).8:&.. without actually touching it. that some new manifestation of contact or shared creation will occur. =el"in is compelled to recogni+e that in a world defined by the encounter of the human with a non_human intelligence. ! new nothing and persisted in the faith that the time of cruel miracles was not past" $. =el"in is deeply affected. " ! had ne"er felt the gigantic presence so strongly.uixotic illusions. or its powerful changeless silence. and feels "somehow changed. has ept him from the wor to which he had de"oted his life: encountering the 9ther1the planet -olaris. who was prepared for anything in the name of the ambitious pro3ect called 4ontact. 2irst. $.

%t the conclusion of the no"el.uently also appro"e the . e"en if they are cruel ones. 3ust as the disco"ery of the Arail was to end in translation and absorption into Aod. But how did =el"in come by this new ability to see himself ob3ecti"ely. who argues persuasi"ely for the hermetic closure of Solaris.uasi_religious . albeit into a mysterious and undefined . (D).uest for "*oly 4ontact. :. "to learn something of man's limits. @"en Ea"id =etterer. . =el"in finally comes to the recognition that the 9ther does in fact exist separately from himself: "he nows that the ocean is real and he is willing to commit himself to whate"er the future may bring" $p. Before coming to -olaris -tation. apparently paid off after all: miracles ha"e occurred. !f we are to belie"e that =el"in is actually purged of illusions at the end of the tale. This reading $which ! ha"e admittedly fleshed out a bit) in"ol"es not so much a paradox as a hidden contradiction.(.uisition of the 9ther's point of "iew could ha"e both dispelled =el"in's illusions and gi"en him nowledge of himself.). 9nly a cathartic encounter with an alien reality insistent and intrusi"e enough to "iolate the membrane of self_sufficient human self_awareness could dissol"e the scientists' repressed emotional fixations and initiate a new recepti"ity to the uni"erse outside the self1a nowledge that something 9ther not only exists. rather than being an illusion to eep humanity from despair.uest. *is identification with the alien might be read as the necessary in"ersion that concludes the successful religious ." 2or >ar 7ose. pro"isional and relati"e faith in an Fimperfect god' " $p. the situation is re"ersed. The critics who hold that =el"in arri"es at a new state of humbled and purified cognition conse. *e substitutes for the personification of the alien his own self_identification with the alien1i..H&_HB). and >an has placed one foot beyond his human limits. whose "not_humanness" defines =el"in for himself. =el"in's contribution to -olaristics had been the disco"ery of possible correlations between encephalographic patterns indicati"e of certain human emotions with formally similar patterns ta en from -olaris $. &&5). The gist of Solaris in this reading is that human consciousness could not proceed to a new cognition as long as it was trapped in its own human_centered. alienation from the human. The .. =el"in had disco"ered what could be construed as "personal" and emotional acti"ity in the planet. we must accept the reality of -olaris as a determinate 9ther." an ability that he could only ha"e learned from contact with -olaris. egocentric conception of reason.uest for 4ontact.uni"erse on its own terms. then =el"in has redeemed the romantic impulses of -olaristics by pro"ing their truths. writes that "=el"in does learn something of man's limits: they are circumscribed by the reality of -olaris" $p. but can transform the self. 2or Ear o -u"in. if human cognition is a priori anthropomorphicG To see himself determinately1that is. !f this is true. and the reader. "=el"in wins through to a painfully gained." since only the ac.e. To put it another way." as =etterer writes1=el"in must ha"e been able to see himself as a "not_human.

among its termsG Eoesn't =el"in's identification with the alien lea"e us once again with no way of determining where the human ends and the 9ther beginsG 9nly #atric #arrinder has. shows the fate of a man who has abandoned humanity for the alien. =el"in as Arail =night or as Aulli"er. there is e"idence in the no"el to support the idea that some mysterious and significant contact has been achie"ed between =el"in and the planet. desire. or to suspect itG *ow are we to 3udge what we readG To choose either interpretation. =el"in has followed through the logic of the scientist_explorer in the liberal_humanist tradition. and truth1e"en the ideas of self and other1are merely tautologies in the isolated. -olaris's alienness is so threatening to the -olarists' scientific egoism that none of their conscious hypotheses regarding the planet can be ta en at face "alue. to my nowledge. and so is tragic but also absurd.dimension. as =el"in tells us. 3ust as the -olarists ha"e no reality against which to compare humanity and the ocean_planet. we must ha"e a standard against which to compare each interpretation1and that is precisely what we cannot ha"e in Solaris. 2or #arrinder. and with =el"in's dreams). of sorts. non-rational relationship between . lo"e. !t is an apocalypse. a symbolic gesture holding at bay the recognition of despair. Therefore. until he is finally a "ictim of an isolating romantic obsession. The no"el's ending. and these bear hints of a special. he is completely committed to awaiting new interactions with -olaris. and that reason. challenged the pre"ailing idea that =el"in ultimately succeeds in brea ing out of the anthropocentric hall of mirrors to the doorway of new cognition. $p. #arrinder writes. -till. There are moments in the action not interpreted by the protagonists $particularly ha"ing to do with 7heya. man's nowledge is not limited to himself and his creations. =el"in's decision to stay by the alien planet parallels Aulli"er's infatuation with the rational horses in his last 3ourney. self_reinforcing system of the "human. D8) To carry #arrinder's reading a step further: =el"in deserts humanity in order not to face the despair of nowing that his species is a singularity in the cosmos. are we to admire his renewed spirit of sacrifice and dedication in the cause of 4ontact. and the human species. "ready to accept the uni"erse on its own terms"G Eoes not the uni"erse include =el"in. " !f. But is this reading "alidG !s =el"in really as empty at the end of the no"el as #otts claims.

&:. then we can conclude that some exchange actually does occur between the human and the alien. -now speculates that through the ?isitors -olaris may be learning about mortality. $This speculation is 3ustified also by The "piercing scream which came from no human throat" J. it is possible that the planet experiences the pain of death for the first time through the annihilation of the ?isitors. he tells =el"in. to "inform" -olaris of how much suffering the ?isitors are causing. !f these are moments of direct contact bypassing the mediations of egocentric rationality. probably the death . The language of the dream passage is worth close attention.&:.) -ince -olaris's power to stabili+e matter extends from massless neutrinos to its own orbit around two suns. the annihilated ?isitors do not reappear after the emissions ha"e been completed. To ma e sense of this dream. the self and the 9ther." >ost suggesti"e of all is =el"in's weird "dream" in 4hapter . we are in"ited to conclude that =el"in and -olaris penetrate each ocher to create a being1"a womanG" $.&:. he becomes increasingly sensiti"e to direct intuitions of "an in"isible presence which has ta en possession of the -tation" $. 7heya appears to be the co-operati"e creation of =el"in and -olaris: if she is a pro3ection. The idea is farfetched. but here ! can only note that the entire dream can be read as if it were being narrated by either =el"in or -olaris. she is a pro3ection of both. 6e cannot now exactly what the ?isitors' purpose is.H. but 7heya belie"es she may be "an instrument" $8:D. the narrator obser"es hisIits suffering as "a mountain of grief "isible in the da++ling light of another world" $ibid. implying that the message must ha"e "gone through.H'). $"!t implores us to help it die with e"ery one of its creations" J.& $"The Ereams"). !n the first place. the -olarists encode some of =el"in's wa ing thoughts and broadcast these by day. %s =el"in's encephalographic patterns are broadcast. this indeterminate process of incarnation implicates both =el"in and -olaris1as if each were percei"ing it through the other in some inarticulable way.-olaris and =el"in that could easily go by the name of 4ontact. 9n the assumption that -olaris may ha"e "read off" the ?isitors from the dreams of the sleeping scientists after they had begun bombarding the planet with x_rays at night $':H&). %t the dream's conclusion. >oreo"er. doubtless 7heya1and then to experience the excruciating suffering of a mysterious dissection. for which =el"in pro"ides no commentary. and it seems to be a way of distracting =el"in's attention from -artorius and -now's attempt to in"ent a neutrino_annihilator to be used against the ?isitors1a de"ice =el"in would li e to sabotage.(5K.). howe"er. and the increasing human autonomy of the ?isitors may ser"e 3ust this purpose. since her form is produced by =el"in's unconscious memory and her substance is produced by the planet.) of some sort $perhaps analogous to the -olarists' instruments transformed by -olaris in the early stages of exploration).&:.(&K. 6hoe"er the obser"er here might be. to pre"ent 7heya's destruction.). which is for a while humanly "informed" by =el"in's thoughts.

8 -artorius. %ndre Berton. creating a hall of mirrors with no windows from which to obser"e some pri"ileged noncorresponding structure of things. Alaric). our sole informant. Ulysses.D the extratextual things to which they refer also lose their solidity. and they resist interpretation as anything other than moments of non_rational.uestion is raised whether we can "see" something that is not a pro3ection of human consciousness. a web of symbolic correspondences. =el"in. 2or example. and are absorbed into the boo 's world of indeterminate elements. :em has constructed Solaris in such a way that e"ery apparently significant element in the text corresponds to other significant elements. %llusions to the literature of illusion extend this doubling from the internal action of the tale to the status of the boo and reader in the world outside the text. eerily enclosed spaces and sublime "oids all function as empirically concrete "ob3ects" in a scientific mystery.agony of -artorius's ?isitor. Cust as the indeterminacy of -olaris deflects its explorers bac into doubt about their methods of interpreting phenomena. 7heya. tells us. the designations of the spaceships (Prometheus. 9nce the . 7eaders of Solaris are -olarists. and comes to identify himself with the planet and to "forgi"e" it. non_conscious exchange1 true moments of contact so surpassing the common run of human communication that they could well be mista en for religious inspiration. Laocoon. and perhaps e"en allegorical: =el"in. But since we cannot be sure exactly how these allusions wor or whether they all wor the same way. that awa ens =el"in one night. we cannot ma e a purely rational or ob3ecti"e determination one way or the other. the ability to transform necessary death into liberating selfsacrifice for the sa e of lo"ed ones. unconscious memories and impulses. dreams. 2echner. :em re. &5. -olaris may ha"e learned dhe ethical and affecti"e essence of the human. in turn. too1the phenomena of the no"el's action reach us in the language of a -olarist and psychologist whose own reflections on how hypotheses are generated anticipate and subsume most of the hypotheses the reader might come up with independently. appears to loosen his clutch on his narcissistic self pro3ections. =etterer writes $e"o ing *eisenberg). the fundamental indeterminacy of Solaris will not let us accept any interpretation based only on what =el"in. These are suggestive passages. -naut. -till.). 7ose and =etterer ha"e demonstrated in their readings of the no"el that symbolic images reflect one another to a suffocating degree/ in Solaris. 0ames appear to be allusi"e. e"en -olaris itself. Ahosts. 3. or e"en whether they are arbitrary red herrings 3ust imitating allusions. . the indeterminacy of the e"idence in Solaris deflects us bac into doubt about our own methods of reading. "man confronts only analogues of his own image" $p. mirrors.uires us to accept 7omanticism's fa"orite de"ices of doubling and self-reflection simply to follow the manifestly realistic plot.) Through 7heya specifically. attaining an almost super_human patience.

which he then matches with the precalculated conclusions of an independently orbiting satellite computer. =el"in lands on an apparent solution: he sets up a complicated problem of calculation. 6e do not now what these correspondences mean. 9ur inability to determine =el"in's . but once the seed of doubt has ta en root it cannot be pulled up. each of the myths and stories in"o ed in the boo becomes a "ersion of the same problem1and thus each is transformed into a "ersion of Solaris. who reclines soft and warm and ali"e next to Aibarian's corpse in the space station's free+er. :em in"o es a whole library of romance. but he nows that his conclusions can pro"e nothing. Thrown into a panic. corresponding to the *indu notion of maya. !t is a persuasi"e tactic. 4ould not =el"in ha"e dreamed the satellite's results as wellG 6ho can determine the limits of the mind's power of pro3ectionG 0e"er in reading Solaris can we establish a hierarchy of phenomena or significations stable enough for us to interpret e"ents unambiguously. in the ?isitors. % deranged mind's illusions of certainty are indistinguishable from a sane mind's nowledge. when =el"in comes upon the dead Aibarian's ?isitor. 9r. with their most familiar and unattracti"e sel"es out in the light of day. But what do these reflections signifyG The infinite play of mutually reflecting pro3ections. *e tries to concoct a controlled experiment to test his sanity. ne"er to be dispelled. and myth: Eon Luixote. -ince the manifest problem of the -olarists and readers is how to determine whether human consciousness can now anything other than itself. a gigantic %frican woman. 6e cannot tell what is the referent and what is the referring term. satire. To create e"en broader ironies. =el"in wonders whether what he is seeing is reality or a hallucination. %gain. on the assumption that he would not be able to match the computer's speed e"en in a hallucination. we ha"e no way of determining whether -olaris is not the collecti"e hallucination of the whole human species. he belie"es he has demonstrated the reality of the ?isitors. 0one of the protagonists' conscious assertions is abo"e suspicion.6e now only that they correspond. 4onsciousness can ne"er ma e an ob3ect out of itself for ob3ecti"e obser"ation. !n the final analysis. but also. whether the human species is not the hallucination of the dreaming "ocean yogi" -olaris. 6hen the numbers mesh. we are shown 6estern culture's problems and the creations responding to them reflecting one another. the tale of @ros and #syche. Aulli"er. #oe's phantom lo"ers. @cho and 0arcissus. or the appropriation of transcendental nowledgeG The problem is raised "i"idly. 6e can ne"er tell what is the "real" structure of e"ents and what are the de"iations. li e the "monsters of the id" in the film orbidden Planet. The -olarists are desperate men. the #assion and the 4reation. They are faced not only with an alien reality resistant to their reason. the Arail Luest. in"ersely.

ues he belie"es are appropriate methods for expressing authentically the semantic problems of scientific technological culture in contemporary fiction. and reflections. 6estern culture's dominant empiricism is in fact a set of anti-codes. art wor ed with structures deri"ed from mythical-religious concepts that antedated scientific rationalism. Traditionally. :em belie"es that two radical methods of "cunning structuration" $">etafantasia": '8) are particularly appropriate for &5th_century writers in the age of indeterminacy.uestionable. 4. was 6estern culture's "Tro3an horse. 0o definition of the 9ther $and. %rtists in the modern age ha"e been unable to find new axiogenic structures to replace the sacred mythological ones that secular science eroded. @mpiricism.ue :em associates with =af a's "he #astle. enclosures. modern literature e"ol"es through the conflict between the ruling cultural codes of empiricism and the writer's need to ha"e a coherent set of normati"e rules of social conduct upon which.fate one way or another is part of the necessary irony of the epistemological problem created by :em's alien. #arody of myth is one ob"ious and already traditional solution/ but it is purely critical. or against which. Thus. self consistent ethical and aesthetic structures can not de"elop where norms are constantly sub3ect to rational criticism and technological inno"ation. of the self) is possible without reference to a standard that transcends both the self and the 9ther.'" a techni. "2or empiricism. to base artistic norms. But how can such a thing be concei"ed "scientifically"G !n Solaris's ma+e of correspondences. *ybridi+ation techni." :em writes. according to :em. of course. and entirely dependent on the myths it parodies. that is what neither science nor the reader can ha"e. obser"ing the human world from an empirical standpoint necessarily leads to the complete relati"i+ation of cultural norms e"erywhere where they impose Funfounded' imperati"es and restraints" $">etafantasia": '&). The first is to gi"e "the total structure of a wor a multidimensional Findeterminacy. 2or :em. But. what we and the -olarists lac is something that would be non-corresponding. The realm of human decisions was "iewed as part of a cosmic order and was gi"en "alue because of its cosmic resonances. "the only in"iolable barrier is the totality of attributes of nature it calls the body of natural laws.ues abound but original. a "meta-alien" structure that would not mean anything: something as determinately different from the dialectical unity of self and 9ther as self and 9ther are from each other. In the conclusion of his boo Fantastyka i futurologia (Science iction and uturolo!y)' :em discusses the techni. These concepts reinforced certain social codes by presenting the culture and its axioms as sacred and un. of course." because of its success in dissol"ing from within those cultural norms not based on utility and comfort. The writer seals up different modes of signification in the wor 's structure in such a way that the reader is gi"en all the clues .

softened and bent by .. !n practice..uate to the philosophical problems raised by indeterminacy. the reader begins to feel unsure whether he or she really understands what the description is concretely about.ui"alent of the existential secret. 6or s li e this do not expose those main 3unctures that could re"eal their unambiguous ontological meanings/ and the constant uncertainty this produces is the structural e. "=af a's "he #astle. or one deliberately damaged by 'chance noise." $">etafantasia": '8) The other approach :em singles out is the manifest interpenetration of incongruous structures and paradigmatic forms1some harmonious. some dissonant. :i e =af a's techni. con"ergences might occur fortuitously. i.ue. $hat the wor means... The most radical model of this techni.e. the reader's own personal determinations begin to wa"er. it is often impossible to determine whether a gi"en narrati"e structure is only "ery indirect and elliptical.. and some changing their relations in the course of the fiction's de"elopment..ue.ues of "cunning structuration" are ade. Both of these techni.necessary to accept that the wor signifies in a unified way.. but essentially homogeneous. in :em's "iew. Because of this systematic refusal to spea plainly. such writing denies the reader an absolute system of relations by which to interpret relati"e systems. and especially the wor of 7obbe-Arillet. as the only image of transcendence a"ailable to a fallen humanity. or in precisely the opposite way.' or e"en perforated. These approaches ha"e a common origin: as the le"el of the reception's indeterminacy rises. is the 2rench nou&eau roman." can be read as a caricature of transcendence.% according to :em. 2or the writer who wea ens the reader's sense of certainty by wea ening the culturally pri"ileged con"entions of fiction also wea ens the reader's sense of certainty about the world to which the fiction's language is belie"ed to refer. where e"en chance enters as a constituti"e structure to create a clash between the paradigmatic forms of order and chaos $">etafantasia": 'D). and this gi"es rise to the semantic wa"ering that characteri+es the reception of modern poetry . -ome of the structures might be so di"ergent that they distort and "damage" the information produced by the other structures/ at other times. but not how to determine the significance of that unity. a *ea"en maliciously dragged down to @arth and moc ed.

li e the land_sur"eyor =.another. 6hether it will yield its secret or not. for :em conflates these two ways of creating semantic indeterminacy in the design of his no"el. but he used it against himself/ it seems he was permitted to find it only under this condition" $%rendt: &. %t the same time. The similarity of Solaris to "he #astle is readily apparent: the planet is =el"in's 4astle. 9nce these obstructi"e messengers are cleared away. Both =el"in and =. :em punctuates and deforms this =af a-li e ambiguity with a "ersion of he other "system of indeterminacy" he associates with literary modernism.H). !nstead of opening the transcendental significance of the cosmos to him. '. they seem "perforated.ui"alent of the existential secret. Solaris might be profitably read as a gloss on =af a's remar that >an "found the %rchimedean point. the mutual interference of narrati"e structures which outside the text appear as clear and distinct.'' The reader is made to feel that the elements of narrati"e are all familiar. who would rather be a horse.). This method creates the in"erse effect to the impenetrable mystery of "dine structural e. e"en the concrete .ue. "communicating" with him through inscrutable messengers. the ?isitors. Thus it is often impossible to determine categorically whether the basic structure of description is an image of order or of chaos. -olaris remains opa. The alien intelligence pro"ides human ind with a glimpse of its long-sought %rchimedean point in the uni"erse only to show how inaccessible it is. follow the lead of Aulli"er. since the 9ther is $by definitionG) totally inscrutable. "ta en from the repertoire of culturally nown situations" in"o ing "the repertoire of possible issues appropriate for JthemK " $">etafantasia": '')/ yet in their incongruous conflation. $">etafantasia": '. 3ust as #otts puts it. =el"in. 2urthermore. e"en mutually contradictory... and that he has been "called" to plot its dimensions.uality of the described ob3ect or situation can be transformed beyond recognition and reshaped from one le"el of articulation to another. softened and bent" by one another $ibid. The hard opacity of the unyielding secret is complemented by the nauseating fluidity of the familiar when facing that opacity.). discordant structure. p. =el"in insists that it has a secret to yield. since one can also create multilayered structures. =el"in belie"es he is. accepts that his human cognition and his nowledge of his place in the uni"erse are corrupt in their essence. an empty slate ready to be inscribed upon by the demiurgic 9ther. >any of the problems of interpreting Solaris e"aporate in the light of :em's meditations on modernism. . li e =.

come closer to articulating the truth about reality than any single one of them. !n a world ruled by positi"e rationality $the implied epistemology of 6estern consciousness in Solaris). This "iew implies that human cognition operates by maintaining a great "ariety of possible techni. they become absurd anachronisms. when ideally combined.!. certain culturally pri"ileged structures of cognition through which writers ma e sense of the natural and social worlds $such as physics. The "arious self consistent models that the protagonists1and readers1of the no"el use to interpret the mysterious action lose their distinctions. biology. when they retain their distincti"eness. psychoanalysis. %ll such pri"ileged models of explanation are based on the positi"e faith that truth exists "outside" consciousness and must be appropriated by it. 6hen confronted by a concrete existing thing that resists all strategies of appropriation. we always see the planet through a human obser"er's language as it stri"es to assimilate an a priori nonassimilable ob3ect. they appear to be parts that. and yet barely intelligible. Though he ta es great pains to e"o e the sense of -olaris's strangeness through "i"idly detailed. :em cannot create a truly alien creature to ma e us see this paradox from outside human consciousness.". These putati"ely sharply defined systems for articulating reality are transformed into a single fluid process whose only articulation is its difference from the sentient planet. and e"en . 2rom the standpoint of contemporary culture as a whole. :em. :em constructs this ironic "alienation" of cognition by at e"ery turn denying the -olarists and readers the opportunity to complete the structure of signification that they were in"ited to expect by the text's allusions. only to distort them through other structures alien. as if they could exist outside human limits. romantic lo"e. mythology. the most di"erse and contradictory ways of ma ing sense become a single self-reflecting set of correspondences an amorphous mythoscience thrashing in its inability to articulate the alien.ualities. 9f course. "fantomology.to mention the most prominent ones in Solaris) appear to be all explaining and mutually exclusi"e from within those structures. the common character of these strategies comes out in relief: all are pro3ections of human . This sense of distortion through "softening" of order comes about spontaneously in the action of Solaris. descriptions of the planet and its excrescences. !n the face of that-which-does-not-correspond. religious faith. and -olaris. e"o e certain structures particularly pri"ileged in 6estern culture. 9ur only e"idence that there is a truly alien intelligence is that all the intrahuman distinctions between modes of thought and types of discourse either disappear $as in =el"in's strange lo"e story) or. personified by -artorius's pedantic de"otion to his positi"istic ideals and personal discipline.ues for world-describing $and the possibility of syntheses among these). psychochemistry. some of which are certainly expected to assimilate whate"er reality has in store.

!n other words.. the theorem of magnetic fields.6e are searching for an ideal image of our world. %ll these ideological and psychological pro3ections may be the ine"itable pro3ection of the physical definition of the human body onto the uni"erse. !n this way. hypotheses are made possible and pro3ected by modes of thought that contradict those hypotheses. the failure of the positi"e science of -olaristics $which already encompasses all the existing branches of science and has produced a multitude of new branches by the time =el"in arri"es on the station) to appropriate -olaris gradually leads the scientists to act as if the "-olaris pro3ect" were the pro3ection of something more archaic $i. who had written that "-olaristics is the space era's e. reality and illusion...%t the same time there is something inside us which we don't li e to face up to.. 6e need mirrors. which founders when the -olarists ha"e to confront their 2reudian ghosts. both older and more generati"e) than science.. The ideal systems of reason come gradually to be seen as "ersions of human limitation disguised as transcendence. ". for there are not and cannot be any bridges between -olaris and the @arth" $.e.) :i e the -olarist commentators. from which we try to protect oursel"es. are compelled to entertain an idea that necessarily casts gra"e doubts on the basis of their li"es as scientists: that there is no clear line between reason and unreason.H). $':H.. but which ne"ertheless remains. #ecause readers of $olaris approach it as fiction. :em's -olarists.:. -olaristics as messianism and as science may. and expect the science to be metaphorical. of an %nnunciation. be only a pro3ection of erotic repression and narcissism. all men of science and hard common sense. @xploration is a liturgy using the language of methodology/ the drudgery of the -olarists is carried out only in the expectation of fulfillment.H5.. %t one moment it is religious longing and messianism.. =el"in disco"ers this "iew fully elaborated in the writings of the -olarist >untius. an educated reader cannot be as upset by the . This is another lie.uations of the theory of relati"ity.... 6e are only see ing >an.. since we don't lea"e the @arth in primal innocence. and the "arious unified field theories" $. 6e ha"e no need for other worlds.inimical.ui"alent of religion/ faith disguised as science.. to them. the repressed "others" inside themsel"es. :. howe"er. -o the eccentric -olarist Arastrom speculates in discerning the anthropomorphisms "in the e. -now tells =el"in: 6e thin of oursel"es as =nights of the *oly 4ontact. we can go further.

and the unbending scientific egoism associated with it. They also suffer the same mutual deformation and incongruous moti"ation as the . The ironic exception is -artorius. come to accept the ?isitors' and -olaris's right to be real. 7heya begins as a mere embodiment of =el"in's erotic desire.idea of science as a systemati+ed form of despair as the -olarists are. %lthough we ne"er learn who -now's and -artorius's ?isitors are. -he offers him the opportunity to redeem the guilt and shame of his life with the original 7heya. 7heya in particular seems to carry the "alues of nonscientific mythicreligious mediation. But these mythic structures. the reader loo s for clues of more traditional mythic structures. are sub3ect to the no"el's underlying indeterminacy. deri"ing from the sense that the story's order is distinct from that of the ideas it "uses." %nd since these ideas are transformed by fiction into metaphors at the outset.uasi-rationalistic systems into one another that the professional scientists of the tale experience in the action. situations. an absolution of the 9ld =el"in. The whole -olarist enterprise seems trapped in a >yth of the 6ill1a myth designed to explain and support humanity's appropriation of the material uni"erse. is sufficient sustain him until he succeeds in in"enting the neutrino annihilator that " ills" the simulacra. and to a lesser degree -now. and the scientists themsel"es seem to turn to religious and psychoanalytic explanations. *er physical structure appears to be so stable that she might ne"er grow old. too. *is sadistic hatred of the ?isitors. The literary form offers a ind of comfort. 6hile =el"in. The situation implies that the -olarists ha"e drawn their power to explore and their lo"e of ad"enture from this repression. *er anomalous . as well as from some of -now's guarded comments. But the exact "alue of 7heya's mythic-religious character in Solaris depends on how we interpret =el"in's decision to stay by the planet at the end of the no"el.uasi-rationalistic explanatory models. a &ita nuo&a. the reader already starts out expecting some of the collapse of . and explicit speculations. 7heya gradually ta es on the role for =el"in of a personal mediator sent to him for inscrutable reasons by a deific intelligence. and that the shoc of seeing their shadow-sel"es so concretely in front of them saps their egoistic resol"e. whom :em clearly identifies with >yths of :o"e. This myth appears gross and absurd when confronted by a manifestly more powerful alien being. %s the possibility of a realistic interpretation of Solaris dissol"es for the reader. !nto this stalemate come the ?isitors. -he seems li e an indestructible goddess attached to a mortal lo"er. :em pro"ides such clues abundantly in "arious inds of allusions: in names. that all the ?isitors are incarnations of repressed ob3ects of erotic desire. -artorius's whole existence is predicated on the destruction of e"erything that interferes with his positi"e ego-science. we can infer from Aibarian's %frican woman and from 7heya. albeit in a way that deforms distinct mythic structures of mediation by conflating them.

6e are ne"er led to entertain magical or mythical explanations literally. howe"er. eeping her distance from =el"in. who refers to 7heya once as a "fair %phrodite. The paradoxes of interpretation stem not only from the way these incompatible myths associated with 7heya are shaded into one another. a materialistic "ersion of the transcendental mediator. *er death ma es sense as a . and a -olarian form of the human. "alidating the religion of 4ontact and affirming the "personal" relationship between the godli e -olaris and the human =el"in. we "iew =el"in as a man stuc in the hall of mirrors of narcissistic self-reflection. she fulfills1:em implies1essential cogniti"e. *owe"er. %nd yet we cannot discard either structure in reading Solaris. The realistic ontology of the tale seems fixed. the character of her lo"e appears to change also. the lo"eliest and most concrete of =el"in's fated self-reflections.neutrino-based body.8BK). %s she mysteriously e"ol"es into a conscious. %s 7heya becomes increasingly human in her feelings and . and childli e. much to =el"in's annoyance1although he himself had earlier called Aibarian's ?isitor "a monstrous %phrodite" $B:B.uid oxygen. free agent. she becomes @cho. These two mythic structures are inimical to each other. But if. and lying about listening to Aibarian's cassette J(:. and increasingly faithful and altruistic. with #arrinder. -he is conscious of her ignorance of her origins/ she is willing to sacrifice her life for a lo"ed one/ and she is. 7heya's act would then imply a "ersion of transcendental grace.(&).&:. The reader is also depri"ed of ways to determine the ontological status of the myths and mythic beings. ma es it doubtful that she could remain stable away from her hea"enly abode near -olaris. -ince -artorius and -now will not be swayed from their determination to annihilate the ?isitors. able to die. %lthough she is the only one of his echoes capable of lo"ing 0arcissus. in the end. The goddess freely chooses to accept death to liberate =el"in from his guilt. *er acceptance of death re_enacts the tragic grace of 4hrist's passion on -olaris -tation. !t gradually becomes less arbitrary. axiological. !nstead of 4hrist. 7heya can only recapitulate the myth of 4hrist if the whole mythic structure of 4hrist's mediation is complete in =el"in's life. child of 9cean" $. they ha"e the force of fate for 7heya.uasi_religious mediation only if =el"in at the end has been emancipated from his egoism and the burden of his past sins into a condition of new hope. The role of the mythic is ne"er emphasi+ed in Solaris. !ts presence seems only to . -he becomes a doubly in"erted. These associations are not lost on -now. again and again acting against her physical limits $by drin ing the li. her lo"e can do nothing to sa"e him from drowning in the unfathomable ocean-pool whose surface reflects his face throughout the cosmos. -he is a human form of -olaris. % myth cannot simultaneously "alidate transcendental grace and transcendental fatedness.uandaries. clinging. then the character of 7heya's mediation changes from emancipatory to ironic. paradoxical image of 4hrist.). and ontological conditions of being human.

as usual in Solaris. *ow it can produce a human being formed from neutrinos is beyond the comprehension of -olaristics. because it is not o"er). Both -olaris and Solaris are the product of integrating certain clues into structures that cannot remain stable and closed: since myth and science. :em does not opt for one or the other of these radical solutions. But. then. no pri"ileged way of reading emerges..). the materialistic explanation leads only to its own limits and to the necessity of inferring a form inconcei"able in materialistic terms.:. -olarists can determine that the planet is composed of atoms." indefinite processes. by definition. %. a true image of indeterminacy in reading includes both the . moti"ate one another. >yth then is an explanation of something that does not cease to be considered mysterious as a result of that explanation. the strictest determinism $it has already happened) and the most complete openness $we can ne"er be sure $hat happened. !t embodies.uasi-immanentist paradigms of uncertainty1each of which re_enacts prescientific ideologies in the language of science. the representati"e of human culture. Cust as -olaristics includes idealistic hypotheses that the planet is an "imperfect god" or "ocean yogi. is on the "erge of "widening JaK conceptual framewor " as Bohr hoped the science of the future would. which has pro"en to be a more exact prototype for his drama of cogni+ance than more sub3ecti"e models might ha"e been. culturally sanctioned ideological interpretation of those implications.. metaphor and realistic mimesis. remains concealed" $. as a neutrino based anthropomimetic structure. *e is essentially a realist. @ach "system" is an actual. The mythology she e"o es is closer to 2reud's and 2euerbach's than to Aolgotha's and %ttica's.represent the natural tendency of people to create structures of explanation e"en when empirical and rationalistic conditions for one cannot be met. in =af a's words." and syntheses. In Solaris. =el"in tells his colleagues. Solaris cannot be made intelligible from only one of these mutually contradictory perspecti"es. !n a sense. li e the "homeostatic ocean" theory. they are "not for us." materialistic hypotheses that it is a "plasmic mechanism. the mutual deformation of narrati"e structures attempts to reflect the "iew that human consciousness and nature are immanently "impure. which determines the functions of the ?isitors. *e adopts his clashing paradigms from the actual historical e"olution of 6estern culture. " 9pposed to this in"erted transcendentalist model. The familiar form of the ?isitors.uasi-transcendentalist and . &em built into his design both of the literary "systems of indeterminacy" he discusses in his ">etafantasia"1hermetic ambiguity and mutual distortion of structures1to represent the cultural implications of the contemporary cogniti"e paradoxes. or on . 7heya's physical existence can be explained in materialistic terms: as a "form" ta en from a "psychic tumor" in =el"in's cerebrosides. as an "instrument" of -olaris. is only a camouflage: "the real structure. her supernatural character is merely a particularly ob3ecti"e pro3ection of unconscious human $and -olarianG) needs. 6hether =el"in. *ermetic ambiguity implies that there are possible resolutions/ but.

and finally the Alaric's purely destructi"e power of con. under the title 'icro$orlds. edited by 2ran+ 7ottensteiner. 8. with the exception of -artorius. -naut and *arey. The reader who tries to piece Solaris together from apparent allusions is in for a hard time.(HD by *arcourt Brace Co"ano"ich. H&_(D). . Eoes the no"el's 2echner.uantum--olarists arri"ed 3ust before them.ually well nown for his "hard" wor in psychological . &. The concluding chapter of the boo has appeared in @nglish as ">etafantasia: The #ossibilities of -cience 2iction" $see "6or s 4ited"). pp. . 09T@. :em's collected critical wor s a"ailable in @nglish are scheduled to be published in .uantification and his theosophical speculations on the angelic nature of planetsG !s %ndre Berton a distorted allusion to the manifester of -urrealismG -hould =el"in be associated with :ord =el"in and the only absolute currently a"ailable to scienceG !s there significance in the names of the spaceships mentioned by =el"in. :em gi"es this name to the study of artificial realities "that are in no way distinguishable from normal reality by the . D. -now and 7heya. ! will use the @nglish translators' "ersions. and #otts. :em names =el"in's wife and ?isitors "*arey. the first explorer to die on -olaris and the possible source of the gigantic child witnessed by his colleague Berton.H&_&5&). -u"in $in Solaris. !n his Summa "echnolo!iae. @nglish-language commentaries on :em include 7ose $pp. who was e. we cannot now. for :em's #olish originals.. The lin ing of this ambiguous mediator with the @arth goddess reinforces and intensifies the irony of =el"in's decision not to return to the @arth. but we cannot be sure that they are not arbitrary. To a"oid confusion. :em claims that all the names in the no"el came to him unconsciously. which is then followed by the Laacoon's passi"e suffering for misreading the gods.. Austa" Theodor 2echner. who is named for a tiny muscle. =etterer $pp. &. $!n correspondence.&_&B).) '. B. :em lea"es his readers at the station where he belie"es the &5th century's .uestG These and many other names seem to call out for interpretation. hint at the great Aerman psychophysicist. !n the original #olish "ersion. " The @nglish translators' decision to rename her "7heya" stri es me as an inspired impro"ement o"er the original. and in their order of appearance: the glorious ascetic resol"e of the Prometheus followed by the Ulysses' connotations of cunning and homesic ness.the "erge of an unbridgeable gulf between human culture and the uni"erse.

no. . "Eialogues 4oncerning *uman Nnderstanding: @mpirical ?iews of Aod from :oc e to :em.: . 8:..ournal. 8 $. .(..-'. :em. H $. . #otts. Ea"id. >%: . Coanna =ilmartin M -te"e 4ox $0<: Ber ley.). -----. trans. (et$een Past and uture $0<.. 2rye. #atric . -tephen C. . *e$ +orlds )or . -u"in.. but which nonetheless obey rules de"iating from that normal reality" (Summa.): D8-.('H)..(H.(. Alien /ncounters.8). $4ambridge.(. -tanislaw.(. pp. Solaris.).5).4!T@E %rendt.intelligent beings that li"e in them. ed. "The 9pen-@nded #arables of -tanislaw :em and Solaris% in :em's Solaris. *annah.ld $Bloomington." S S." in (rid!es to Science iction. Ear o. !0: . !:. ">etafantasia: The #ossibilities of -cience 2iction. 697=.(H. #arrinder. .&-&B. &. >ar .(. pp.. cit. 0orthrop. =etterer.(). B.'). -----. Anatomy o) #riticism $#rinceton. Summa "echnolo!iae $Budapest. Aeorge -lusser $4arbondale. "The Blac 6a"e: -cience and -ocial 4onsciousness in >odern -cience 2iction" -adical Science . 7ose. ed.(.).).5.