Tales of Pirx the Pilot

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First edition (Latvia, 1966)
(publ. Zinātne) Cover bt M.Rikmane

Stanisław Lem's Tales of Pirx the Pilot published in Latvia (Petaura medības) in 1966,[1] Poland (Opowieści o pilocie Pirxie) in 1968, and translated to English in two parts (Tales of Pirx the Pilot and More Tales of Pirx the Pilot) in 1979 and 1982, is a series of short stories about a spaceship pilot named Pirx. They are some of the best known works of Lem, having been added to the required curriculum for Polish junior-high school students in the 1990s.[2] Pirx stories can be classified as a moderate hard science fiction with some comic elements.

Plot[edit]

The stories are set somewhere in the 21st or 22nd centuries, in a futuristic Occidental world (as opposed to a Communist Utopia where some of Lem's other novels take place) in which Mankind is starting to colonize the Solar System, has some settlements on the Moon and Mars, and is even beginning the exploration of the other solar systems.

Pirx is a cadet, a pilot, and finally a captain of a merchant spaceship, and the stories relate his life and various things that happen to him during his travels between the Earth, Moon, and Mars.

Characters[edit]

Pirx is a fictional character from works of science fiction by Stanisław Lem: the story collections Tales of Pirx the Pilot and More Tales of Pirx the Pilot, and the novel Fiasco. The story of Pirx is that of a spaceship cadet, pilot, and captain. In a way, Pirx is as an ordinary "working man" who unlike traditional heroic space pilots has little if anything heroic about him. He sometimes finds himself in extreme situations, which he overcomes mostly through ordinary common sense and average luck.

In particular, in the story The Inquest, Lem puts forth the idea that what is perceived a human weakness is in fact an advantage over a perfect machine. In this tale Pirx defeats the robot, because a human can hesitate, make wrong decisions, have doubts, but a robot cannot.[3]

Although Pirx appears in the first half of Lem's later novel Fiasko, the identity of the protagonist in the second half is never firmly established, but Pirx is one of the two possibilities. However, the bulk of the novel is set much further in the future, and it is vastly different from the Tales thematically.

List of the stories[edit]

Tales of Pirx the Pilot was translated by Louis Iribarne. More Tales of Pirx the Pilot was also translated by Iribarne, with the assistance of Magdalena Majcherczyk. Exception is "The Hunt" which was translated by Michael Kandel.

From Tales of Pirx the Pilot

  • "The Test"
  • "The Conditioned Reflex"
  • "On Patrol"
  • "The Albatross"
  • "Terminus"

From More Tales of Pirx the Pilot

  • "The Hunt"
  • "Pirx's Tale"
  • "The Accident"
  • "The Inquest"; for plot summary, see Test pilota Pirxa, a 1978 film
  • "Ananke"

Adaptations[edit]

A television mini-series, Pirx kalandjai was released in Hungary in 1973.[4] A Polish-Russian feature-length film, Test pilota Pirxa, was released in 1979.[5]

References[edit]

External links[edit]