Memoirs Found in a Bathtub

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Memoirs Found in a Bathtub
Memoirs Found in a Bathtub book cover.jpg
First edition
Author Stanisław Lem
Original title Pamiętnik znaleziony w wannie
Translator Michael Kandel and Christine Rose
Cover artist Daniel Mróz
Country Poland
Language Polish
Genre social science fiction, satire, dystopian, political fiction
Publisher Wydawnictwo Literackie
Publication date
1961
Published in English
1973
ISBN 0-15-658585-5
OCLC 12722996
Dewey Decimal 891.8/537 19
LC Class PG7158.L39 P313 1986

Memoirs Found in a Bathtub (a literal translation of the original Polish-language title: Pamiętnik znaleziony w wannie) is a science fiction novel by Stanisław Lem first published in 1961. It was first published in English in 1973 (ISBN 0-8164-9128-3); a second edition was published in 1986 (ISBN 0-15-658585-5).

Plot summary[edit]

Set in the distant future, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a first-hand account of a bureaucratic agent trapped deep within the subterranean bowels of a vast underground military complex. In a Kafkaesque maelstrom of terrifying confusion and utter insanity, this man must attempt to follow his mission directives of conducting an "on-the-spot investigation. Verify. Search. Destroy. Incite. Inform. Over and out. On the nth day nth hour sector n subsector n rendezvous with N."

The narrator inhabits a paranoid dystopia where nothing is as it seems, chaos seems to rule all events, and everyone is deeply suspicious of everyone else. In danger of losing his mind, the protagonist starts keeping a diary, and it is this diary which details only a few days in his life that is ultimately found by a future society and given the title Notes from the Neogene. Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is this distant voice from the past, this Notes from the Neogene.

Commentary[edit]

Theodore Sturgeon found Memoirs to be "A well-wrought nightmare indeed."[1]

Lem himself describes the book as "grim humor". He writes that the novel puts forth the "totalization of the notion of intentionality". Explaining the concept, he further writes that everything the humans perceive, may be interpreted as a message by them, and that a number of "-isms" are based on interpreting the whole Universe as a message to its inhabitants. This interpretation may be exploited for political purposes and then run amok beyond their intentions.[2]

The title alludes to Count Jan Potocki's novel The Manuscript Found in Saragossa.[3]

Quotes[edit]

"I'll tell you. You're young, but you're one of us, and I'm one of us, so I'll tell you. Everything. Now, say someone's one of us. . . but he's also—you know—you can tell, right?"

"He's not—one of us," I said.

"Right! You can tell! But sometimes—you can't tell. You think someone's one of us, but they got to him and then he wasn't any more—and then we got to him, and he was—but he still has to look like he isn't, that is, like he only looks like he is! But they get wise to him and—now he isn't again, but he has to look like he isn't—or we'll get wise—and that's a triple!"

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Galaxy Bookshelf", Galaxy Science Fiction, November 1973, p.84
  2. ^ Lem's commentary to the novel (Polish)
  3. ^ Jerzy Jarzębski, Andrzej Sulikowski, "Stanisław Lem: pisarz, myśliciel, człowiek", 2003, ISBN 8308032982, p. 387