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The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy (original 1972; edition 1985)

by Stanislaw Lem

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1,040158,110 (4.04)15
Member:PrometheusUnbound
Title:The Futurological Congress: From the Memoirs of Ijon Tichy
Authors:Stanislaw Lem
Info:Mariner Books (1985), Edition: Reissue, Paperback, 156 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:****
Tags:fiction, scifi

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The Futurological Congress by Stanisław Lem (1972)

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A futurologist wakes up in 2039 and finds the human condition is everything we hoped for, and not all it's cracked up to be.

While attending the 8th Futurological Congress in war-torn Costa Rica, futurologist Ijon Tichy experiences first-hand the future to come. While staying in the gigantic hotel, Tichy feels emotions that are alien to him: a kind of brotherly love, especially for people he doesn’t particularly like. It disconcerts him because he knows that he really does not like a certain person, but can’t help but feel a deep benevolence toward him. Tichy discovers that the water and the air are tainted with pharmaceuticals to try to prevent revolution. Chaos and rioting break out in the streets, and Tichy is evacuated to the sewers underneath the hotel. There he is dosed with more gas, and is gifted with an unsettling vision of the future.

This book was part Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, part Candide, and part Brazil (yes, the Terry Gilliam movie!). It was extremely funny, trippy, and terrifying all at once. One of Tichy's colleagues, Dr. Trottelreiner, reminded me of Voltaire's character from Candide, Pangloss. He would show up just when Tichy's newest adventure was at its most extreme, and either offer explanation for the crazy circumstances, or show a way out. Trottelreiner never seemed surprised by the paths that he and Tichy took, much in the way that Pangloss always believed that things were exactly as they should be. Which is why Tichy was so angry when he understood the truth behind his beyond-perfect experience of the future.

I'm glad someone on i09 recommended this book a couple months ago. I would never have tried it. ( )
  eilonwyhan | Sep 20, 2013 |
Ijon Tichy is attempting to attend a conference of futurists when his hotel is attacked by terrorists with mind-altering gas. Through a series of absurd events, Tichy finds himself resurrected several decades in the future, when everyone relies on chemical supplements to provide them with all knowledge and emotion, perception-altering drugs that hide a distressing reality. This all sounds terribly dystopian and horrifying, and in some ways it is, but it is also pretty hilarious satire. It's one of those sorts of books where you just have to go with it, and pay special attention to the made-up words and random asides, many of which are the funniest parts of the book. I hadn't expected to so enjoy this book - I'd sort of expected it to be a bit of a slog, a book about an idea only tenuously strung together with plot - but this was quite a romp. The humor is dark, to be sure, but still quite entertaining. ( )
  melydia | May 6, 2013 |
It's Stanislaw Lem. No need to say anything more (except that I now know where the writers of The Matrix stole the idea from). ( )
  ropie | Sep 14, 2011 |
The Futurological Congress by Stanislaw Lem took me by surprise. The author wrote the novel Solaris which was made into a classic Russian movie, perhaps the only classic Russian science fiction picture of the Soviet era. Solaris is a serious piece, very similar to 2001: A Space Odessy. The Futurological Congress is a comic romp similar to early Kurt Vonnegut or Kilgore Trout. It's a wild ride.

The protagonist, Ijon Tichy is a cosmonaut sent to attend the Eighth Futurological Congress which is being held at a luxury hotel in Costa Rica. A group of revolutionaries attack the city by releasing a hallucinogenic drug into the water system of the hotel sending scores of scientist into the streets where they are confronted by competing death squads. After Tichy is shot, he is flashfrozen into suspended animation to be cured at a later date. He wakes up in 2039 to find a future stranger than anything anyone at the congress ever dreamed of.

But the plot isn't important. Mr. Lem uses his storyline about the future to parody his own present, and he's quite good at it. Early in the novel he describes a modification The Futurological Congress made to accommodate the large numbers of scientists who have papers to present:

Each speaker was given four minutes to present his paper, as there were so many scheduled--198 from 64 different countries. To help expedite the proceedings, all reports had to be distributed and studied beforehand, while the lecturer would speak only in numerals, calling attention in this fashion to the salient paragraphs of his work. To better receive and process such wealth of information, we all turned on our portable recorders and pocket computers (which later would be plugged in for the general discussion.) Stan Hazelton of the U.S. delegation immediately threw the hall into a flurry by emphatically repeating: 4, 6, 11 and therefore 22; 5, 9, hence 22; 3, 7, 2, 11, from which if followed that 22 and only 22!! Someone jumped up, saying yes but 5, and what about 6, 18, or 4 for that matter; Hazelton countered this objection with the crushing retort that, either way, 22. I turned to the number key in his paper and discovered that 22 meant the end of the world.

The end of the world yes, but The Futurological Congress was published in the early 1970's when Kurt Vonnegut was producing books like Breakfast of Champions, Woody Allen's Sleeper was in theatres, and "Kilgore Trout's" novel Venus on the Halfshell was released. The end of the world was much more fun in those days. ( )
1 vote CBJames | Feb 21, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Stanisław Lemprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Matwin-Buschmann, RoswithaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rey, LuisCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The eighth world The Futurological Congress was held in Costa Rica.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156340402, Paperback)

Bringing his twin gifts of scientific speculation and scathing satire to bear on that hapless planet, Earth, Lem sends his unlucky cosmonaut, Ijon Tichy, to the Eighth Futurological Congress. Caught up in local revolution, Tichy is shot and so critically wounded that he is flashfrozen to await a future cure. Translated by Michael Kandel.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:19:39 -0400)

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