Before Rodney McKay and Carson Beckett, before Tony Stark and Bruce Banner… there were Trurl and Klapaucius.
Whether exploring the Universe, getting kidnapped to save this princess and that nation or wanting to invent the perfect society, these two are forever getting into trouble and bantering away while getting out of said trouble, quite possibly until the end of time or even beyond it. And don’t even get me started on their mentor. I swear I had a female version of his terrifying me all through college.
Although most of the collection revolves around these two “mad” scientists, there are also a number of “fables” focused on electronic knights, their diamond-like ladies and inhospitable lands to be conquered. Although these stories are written in a fashion even more accessible than the “Cyberiad” itself (they appear to be almost bedtime stories – and rightfully so, since I recall reading fragments of these in elementary school), a closer look will lead an older reader to well-hidden meanings and a special kind of magic. Having re-read them last year, it felt almost like watching the elements from the periodic table take human-like shape and embark on great adventures. Mr. Lem somehow made chemistry romantic!
As other reviewers have done so before me, I too must praise the translator. (Un)fortunately, the only version of the Cyberiad translated in my mother tongue is a rather old one (twenty years old, to be precise). This means that the translation, while being a really good one, is singular (hence the book’s out-of-print status).
There are certain authors (especially in the science-fiction genre) who manage to turn their words into life. Stanislaw Lem is such an author. And even if this life is lived by characters made of liquid metals and noble gases, it is still life. I think that this motif, alongside Trurl and Klapaucius’ godlike abilities (and childlike behaviours) are what both surprised and impressed me most in this collection. Definitely an oldie but a goldie!