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HIGHCASTLE by Stanislaw Lem Kirkus Star


A Remembrance

by Stanislaw Lem

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1995
ISBN: 0-15-140218-3
Publisher: Harcourt

The brilliant Polish science-fiction writer (Peace on Earth, 1994, etc.) reflects on his childhood between world wars. In a memoir as playful and witty as any of his novels, Lem recalls childhood days in the city of Lvov in the 1930s. The son of a well-to-do doctor, Lem was a pudgy, somewhat pampered child with a habit of destruction. "I was a monster," he comments drily, reflecting on his childhood manipulativeness and habit of smashing toys. He was also tirelessly curious and always hungry, a voracious reader and a voracious eater. Consequently, many of his most amusing recollections center on candy, pastries, and promoting the cash to indulge in them. He also reexplores the mysteries of the family home, fondly recalling a fascination with his father's medical texts, with their colored plates that deconstructed the human body, and the off-limits (hence, doubly enticing) precincts of his father's examining room. Lem writes with affection and insight of the ongoing war between students and teachers in his gymnasium (Highcastle was a nearby ruin that students would repair to when a class was suddenly cancelled), and he recounts his childhood collecting manias with relish. Above all, in the course of this lengthy essay on his youth, he offers some witty but sober reflections on the nature of memory (which "often fails to retain what matters to me, while retaining what I care nothing about") and, indirectly, on the tragedy of Polish history. A charming, effervescent memoir from a writer who consistently transcends genre.