The Magellanic Cloud

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The Magellanic Cloud
First edition
Author Stanisław Lem
Original title Obłok Magellana
Cover artist Jan Młodożeniec
Country Poland
Language Polish
Genre Science fiction
Publisher Iskry
Publication date
Pages 422
LC Class PG7158.L399 O2
Preceded by The Astronauts
Followed by Sezam

The Magellanic Cloud (Polish title: Obłok Magellana) is a 1955 science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem. The novel was the basis for the Czech film Ikarie XB-1.[1][2]

Major literary tropes include interstellar travel, "first contact", with a good deal of psychological fiction, and most of all, Communist utopia complete with the criticism of the capitalist militarism, which Lem himself characterized as an "extract of the times of Socialist realism".[3]

Fragments of the novel were published earlier, in 1953-1954, in the magazine Przekrój.

Plot summary[edit]

The novel is set in the 32nd century, in a communistic Utopian future. Humanity has colonized all of the Solar System, and is now making its first attempt at interstellar travel.

Aboard a vessel called Gaia, 227 men and women leave the Earth for the Alpha Centauri system.

After almost eight years of travel, they find signs of organic life on a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, possibly originating on another planet within the Centauri system. One of the planets orbiting Alpha Centauri turns out to be inhabited by an advanced civilization.

The expedition meets the lifeless human ship "Atlants", which turns out to be an old artificial war satellite of the United States and its NATO allies, carrying still active biological weapons and nuclear warheads, which had accidentally left Earth orbit and got lost in space during the Cold War era.

Censorship and criticisms[edit]

When the novel was first published, parts of it were censored by the Communist authorities. Lem denounced[citation needed] the censored version, calling it too optimistic about Communism. At the time, this demonstrated Lem's confidence that his singular status as a Polish author of international renown would protect him from state repression.[citation needed] A complete version was published in the 1990s in post-Communist Poland.

Because at the time of writing cybernetics was a banned "bourgeois pseudoscience", Lem invented the term mechaneurystyka ("mechanheuristics").[4]


  1. ^ Sim, Krystal (16 September 2013). "Ikarie XB-1 DVD review". SciFi Now. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  2. ^ O'Neill, Phelim (31 August 2013). "This week's new DVD & Blu-ray Ikarie XB-1". The Guardian. Retrieved 23 November 2013. 
  3. ^ Information about the novel on the website dedicated to Stanislaw Lem
  4. ^ Владимир Борисов, "Голос жителя Земли", Новое литературное обозрение (М.). – 2006. – № 82. – С. 315-325. (online) (in Russian)

External links[edit]