Tales of Pirx the Pilot

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First edition (Russian)

Tales of Pirx the Pilot is a science fiction stories collection by Polish author Stanisław Lem, about a spaceship pilot named Pirx.

The first collection of stories about Pirx was published in 1965 in the Soviet Union in Russian under the title Охота на Сэтавра ("The Hunt for Setaur"). It was translated in Latvian as Petaura medības in 1966.[1] In 2009 a Lithuanian publisher Eridanas published the story as Setauro Medžioklė. In Poland a more complete collection (as Opowieści o pilocie Pirxie) was published 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. Pirx stories include both philosophical and comic elements. A fragment of "The Hunt for Setaur" was added to the required curriculum for Polish junior-high school students in the 1990s.[2][better source needed]

Pirx universe[edit]

From various details it may be concluded that the stories are set in the 21st or 22nd centuries, in a futuristic Western world (as opposed to a Communist Utopia where some of Lem's other novels take place), however without the "Iron Curtain".[3] "The romantic times of astronautics have long gone"[4] and mankind is busy colonizing the Solar System, has some settlements on the Moon and Mars, and is even beginning the exploration of the other star 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.


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.[5]


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. An exception is "The Hunt", translated by Michael Kandel.

Tales of Pirx the Pilot

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

More Tales of Pirx the Pilot

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

The Hunt for Setaur

Russian title -> Latvian title - English title (Polish title)
  • Испытание -> Pārbaudījums - "The Test" (Test)
  • Условный рефлекс -> Nosacītais reflekss - "The Conditioned Reflex" (Odruch warunkowy)
  • Патруль -> Patruļa - "On Patrol" (Patrol )
  • Альбатрос -> «Albatross» - "The Albatross" (Albatros)
  • Терминус -> Terminuss - "Terminus" (Terminus )
  • Охота на Сэтавра -> Petaura medības - "The Hunt" (Polowanie )
    • The hunted is runaway robot Setaur = Samoprogramujcy Elektronowy Trojkowy Automat Racemiczny = Selfprogramming Electronic Ternary Automaton with Racemic memory = Самопрограммирующийся электронный троичный автомат с рацемической памятью


A television mini-series, Pirx kalandjai (The Adventures of Pirx), was released in Hungary in 1973.[6] A Polish-Soviet feature-length film, Inquest of Pilot Pirx, was released in 1979.[7]


Dave Langford reviewed More Tales of Pirx the Pilot for White Dwarf #42, and stated that "The perfect thinking machine is never perfect because it's been built by fallible us. 'A robot that can match man mentally and not be capable of lying or cheating is a fantasy.' So much for Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics!"[8]


  • Review by Bob Mecoy (1980) in Future Life, May 1980[9]
  • Review by Ian Watson (1981) in Foundation, #21 February 1981
  • Review by George Zebrowski (1981) in The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, April 1981
  • Review by Bruce Gillespie (1981) in SF Commentary, #62/63/64/65/66
  • Review by David Langford [as by Dave Langford] (1981) in Paperback Inferno, Volume 5, Number 2
  • Review by Bob Mecoy (1982) in Heavy Metal, August 1982
  • Review by Norman Beswick (1991) in Paperback Inferno, #88

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Tales of Pirx the Pilot Latvian Zinātne 1966
  2. ^ Forrester, Sibelan. "Stanisław Lem, Solaris". Swarthmore College. Archived from the original on 2009-03-26. Retrieved 2011-12-02.
  3. ^ Eva Näripea, Transnational Spaces of Science Fiction: An Estonian-Polish coproduction The Test of Pilot Pirx (Test pilota Pirxa / Navigaator Pirx, 1978), Kinokultura, 2010
  4. ^ Stanislaw Lem, The Hunt
  5. ^ Swirski, Peter (2006). The art and science of Stanislaw Lem. McGill-Queen's University Press. p. 161. ISBN 0-7735-3046-0.
  6. ^ Pirx kalandjai at IMDb
  7. ^ Test pilota Pirxa at IMDb
  8. ^ Langford, Dave (June 1983). "Critical Mass". White Dwarf. Games Workshop (42): 18.
  9. ^ "Title: Tales of Pirx the Pilot".

External links[edit]