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Memoirs Found in a Bathtub

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The year is 3149, and a vast paper destroying blight-papyralysis-has obliterated much of the planet's written history. However, these rare memoirs, preserved for centuries in a volcanic rock, record the strange life of a man trapped in a hermetically sealed underground community. Translated by Michael Kandel and Christine Rose. The year is 3149, and a vast paper destroying blight-papyralysis-has obliterated much of the planet's written history. However, these rare memoirs, preserved for centuries in a volcanic rock, record the strange life of a man trapped in a hermetically sealed underground community. Translated by Michael Kandel and Christine Rose.


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The year is 3149, and a vast paper destroying blight-papyralysis-has obliterated much of the planet's written history. However, these rare memoirs, preserved for centuries in a volcanic rock, record the strange life of a man trapped in a hermetically sealed underground community. Translated by Michael Kandel and Christine Rose. The year is 3149, and a vast paper destroying blight-papyralysis-has obliterated much of the planet's written history. However, these rare memoirs, preserved for centuries in a volcanic rock, record the strange life of a man trapped in a hermetically sealed underground community. Translated by Michael Kandel and Christine Rose.

30 review for Memoirs Found in a Bathtub

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    “When you jump for joy, beware that no one moves the ground from beneath your feet.” ― Stanisław Lem If you are up for writing with ample helpings of the polyglotomatic and metapsychodelic, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel of screwball bureaucratic misadventure will most certainly stir your brainwaves and set your neural neurons fizzing. What a polyglot and metaphysician was our author - fluent in Polish, Latin, German, French, English, Russian, Ukrainian, Lem’s expertise ran “When you jump for joy, beware that no one moves the ground from beneath your feet.” ― Stanisław Lem If you are up for writing with ample helpings of the polyglotomatic and metapsychodelic, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, Stanislaw Lem’s 1961 novel of screwball bureaucratic misadventure will most certainly stir your brainwaves and set your neural neurons fizzing. What a polyglot and metaphysician was our author - fluent in Polish, Latin, German, French, English, Russian, Ukrainian, Lem’s expertise ranged from medicine and biology, physics and astronomy, mathematics and robotics to philosophy, literature and linguistics. And added to this intellectual mix, such a protean imagination – numerous collections of highly provocative essays, dozens of short stories and seventeen science fiction novels, many judged among the best within the genre. A twelve page Introduction (part of the novel) written hundreds of years into the future outlines how this manuscript, Notes from the Neogene, or its more commonly known title, Memoirs Found in a Bathtub, is a precious relic from Earth’s ancient past, "a period of decline which directly preceded the great Collapse," a time when paper was used extensively for writing. Among the numerous documented facts alluded to by this archaeologist of the future in his quest to discover the reasons behind the demise of that paper centered, bathroom centered, ancient civilization is a thriving cult revolving around Kap-Eh-Taahl, a deity denied supernatural existence. Yes, Kap-Eh-Taahl is “Capital,” one example of how the Introduction, scholarly and authoritative in tone, is a Stanislaw Lem-ish tour de force of word play, word blending, punning, spoonerisms, neologisms, double entendre, tongue-twisters and tongue-in-cheek. Nevertheless these introductory remarks are picture-perfect as a set up to frame the narrative that follows, an extensive firsthand report authored by a newly assigned secret agent caught in an unending network of offices, corridors, stairs, elevators and bathrooms forming part of a vast underground military compound. If this strikes you as a Kafkaesque parable of little guy versus big bureaucracy, you hit the bulls-eye – much of the spirit of Lem's novel is captured in the above Jaroslav Rona sculpture located in Prague with natty Franz Kafka atop a headless, handless giant. In the very first paragraph our disoriented narrator tells us he can’t locate the proper room amid multiple levels of departments and offices in this Pentagon-like Building as he attempts to press through crowds of marching military personnel, disguised agents and preoccupied secretaries. Kafka’s An Imperial Message comes immediately to mind, a tale where a messenger sent by the Emperor is trying to bring a special message for you alone but the messenger must push through a solid mass of humanity in an outer courtyard only to find another horde of people in the next courtyard blocking his way and so it continues, such that, alas, you will never receive your message. Anybody who has ever been obliged to deal with a bloated administrative system will hear a familiar ring. The narrator wends his way to the office of powerfully built, bald, old General Kashenblade, Commander in Chief, only to be given an unidentified special mission. The more questions he asks about the specifics of his mission, the more indecipherable the explanations, even moving out to the stars, as when the old man pontificates, “And the spiral nebulae?! Well?! Don’t tell me you don’t know what that means! SPY-ral!! And the expanding universe, the retreating galaxies! Where are they going? What are they running from? And the Doppler shift to the red!! Highly suspicious – no more! A clear admission of guilt!!” Such decidedly cerebral passages are reminiscent of another classic where imagination and erudite fancy mix with elements of physics, mathematics, astronomy and other sciences - t zero by Italo Calvino. Lem’s polyglot background frequently shines through with a light touch, a real treat for readers who enjoy heady subjects and brain teasers mixed in with their fiction. Next stop, we follow our earnest special agent, now a man on a mission, to the main office where he is approached by a young officer who introduces himself as Lieutenant Blanderdash, the Chief’s undercover aide. Whoa, Stanislaw! Was that Blanderdash or Balderdash? Blanderdash proceeds to ask the agent if he yawns or snores (the department lost many people by snoring) before leading him to the Department of Collections to view, along with a multitude of other absurdities, cabinets with millions of cuff links and glass cases filled with artificial ears, noses, bridges, fingernails, warts, eyelashes, boils and humps. Given such a display (no pun intended) of government and military intelligence brings to mind Moscow 2042 and other comic masterpieces by Vladimir Voinovich. Such a sharp satirical needle – too bad the archaeologist examining these memoirs assumes the narrator is entirely serious and completely reliable! He’s missing out on much of the irony and dark humor. I’m reminded yet again of another author, Lewis Carroll and his Alice in Wonderland, most especially the Mad Hatter’s tea party. For the more I turned the pages, the more I had the feeling special agent Undereavesdropper Blassenkash (in Chapter 2 he answers to this title and name) is trapped in a building filled with a stream of Mad Hatters spouting sheer indecipherable nonsense. I actually found this one of the more amusing and more telling aspects of the tale since the madness is accentuated by our unfortunate narrator forever remaining the serious, formal straight man. Perhaps agent Blassenkash finally comes to understand the underlying meaning of what’s going on: either all of this is a test for him to pass in his capacity as agent, or - fanfare tooted by Alice's White Rabbit on his tiny trumpet - everyone is a raving lunatic. Or, maybe he has been misled by enemy spies that have infiltrated the Building. Or, then again, his very presence in the Building is, in fact, his mission. Or a dozen other possibilities. You will have to read for yourself to decipher the code. However, be aware – there could be more than one code. As a head Building official explains, “Now, there are calling codes, stalling codes, departmental codes, special codes, and – you’ll like this,” he grinned, “they’re changed every day. Each section, of course, has its own system, so the same word or name will have a different meaning on different levels.” Stanisław Lem, age 50, at his typewriter in Kraków, Poland, 1971

  2. 4 out of 5

    Ania

    Madness... it's ALL madness. I imagine all fans of this book to look something like this: The question now becomes, am I a fan? I really don't know how to rate this book. After finishing this book I wanted to chuck it out the window. "2 days wasted!" I thought. Nothing but madness and more madness.... Then today more of it made sense, by of course, not making sense. (you're picturing the crazy cat as my face now, aren't you?) I do understand the book however, and I suppose this is why I am writing t Madness... it's ALL madness. I imagine all fans of this book to look something like this: The question now becomes, am I a fan? I really don't know how to rate this book. After finishing this book I wanted to chuck it out the window. "2 days wasted!" I thought. Nothing but madness and more madness.... Then today more of it made sense, by of course, not making sense. (you're picturing the crazy cat as my face now, aren't you?) I do understand the book however, and I suppose this is why I am writing this review: I felt no one has understood it deeply enough, only barely skimming the surface. This is the point in this review where you raise your left eye brow, look at me and ask "oh really now smarty pants? what is the meaning then??". I'll tell you what it is. *Looks around paranoid and whispers*: "there is no spoon". In the movie The Matrix Neo enters the apartment of the Oracle, where he spots a child bending spoons with its mind. When Neo picks up the spoon, the child says: "Do not try to bend the spoon, that's impossible. Instead...try to realize the truth. ... There is no spoon. Then you will see that it is not the spoon that bends, only yourself." "Huh?" I hear you say? "Exactly" *I nod.* "keep reading my friend." __________________________________________________________ The Plot The plot on the surface is quite simple yet completely maddening. It is a story of a confined universe, aka The Building, an underground secret facility where all the American elites and their body guards (the army)have hid themselves following a world crisis.(Humourously, Lem writes this "world stopping crisis" as a disintegration of all paper in the world, but it could very well have been a plague, an economic collapse, or a revolution. I'm glad he's chosen paper, it makes the book a bit less heavy than it could have been.) Being completely closed off and forgotten, the people in the building became a universe onto itself, a world within a world. Naturally, because they were paranoid their paranoia in a confined space begins to consume itself, like a snake eating its tail, the Ouroboros of total insanity and claustrophobic madness. The protagonist of this mad world is a nameless person, most likely a man who's spy adventures and misadventures we follow throughout the building. The man's mission is so secret that even he himself doesn't know what it is. He attempts to unravel the mystery but he cannot, as everyone is a spy like him, on a senseless mission to keep everyone occupied. At the end of the book (view spoiler)[he finds a man he once met, dead in a bathtub. The protagonist himself grabs the razor that was used on the other man, and presumably, commits suicide. Does he actually do it, or does the catastrophe get him first? That is up to the reader to decide. Like I said, there is no spoon. (hide spoiler)] . ____________________________________________________________ What does it all mean?? When I say that there is no spoon, I mean that the point of this book is that there is no meaning. The point is that all there is, is items and we are trapped in this world, making our own meaning out of it. "Do not try to bend the spoon [find meaning], that's impossible. Instead...try to realize the truth. ... There is no spoon.[meaning]". Only when we understand that meaning is all interpretation, a completely individual experience, then we realize that there is no meaning because it's all made up individually as we go along based on our assumptions and experiences (much like the missions in The Building). Only then can we abandon the search for meaning, which is the only liberation from the madness of meaning itself and hence, the world. What I think happens... (view spoiler)[I think this book is about a gay man who falls in love with the rebel spy he meets in the bathroom. He eventually goes on on further missions where he meets a priest who proposes they have their own conspiracy of 2 (i.e. have a relationship) but the protagonist cannot go through with it because he can't let go of the first man. He tries to free himself of his world by attempting to go out the front door but he ultimately fails and goes back trying to find the first man. He finds him nude in the bathtub with the throat slashed (i.e. murdered, possibly due to homophobia). Being unable to cope with this, the protagonist writes his suicide note (the whole story in his mad, psychotic narrative) and commits suicide himself. (hide spoiler)] Interesting Stray Observations - I think this book is not about cold war, it's too easy to say that. - I think it's interesting how women are like furniture in this book or probably more like coffee makers in skirts. - I didn't like the analogies to nature. I felt these people were trapped in this enormous bunker for a long time, most likely even born there, hence they would not be able to relate to this living world. But then again, what do I know? After all, there is no spoon. :) (view spoiler)[update 03/05/12:after much thought I realised that I often think back to this book, hence despite me wanting so passionately to destroy it when I was reading it, I now often think fondly of the madness. I know, I became the cat *meow* :P. Oh well. 4 stars it is. (hide spoiler)]

  3. 4 out of 5

    Alan Marchant

    Kafka on Prozac Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanslaw Lem follows the adventures of an agent-in-training as he wanders in search of a mission through the vast bureaucracy of a purposeless intelligence agency. The agent is anonymous. But we can call him K - because the story, the style, and the absurdist message are drawn directly from Kafka (esp. The castle]. K is an everyman, and his agency is an allegory for society. Ostensibly, the agency is the post-apocalyptic remnant of America, but it feel Kafka on Prozac Memoirs Found in a Bathtub by Stanslaw Lem follows the adventures of an agent-in-training as he wanders in search of a mission through the vast bureaucracy of a purposeless intelligence agency. The agent is anonymous. But we can call him K - because the story, the style, and the absurdist message are drawn directly from Kafka (esp. The castle]. K is an everyman, and his agency is an allegory for society. Ostensibly, the agency is the post-apocalyptic remnant of America, but it feels entirely European. The theme of the Memoirs is that one's search for individual identity (i.e. the mission) is distracted by reflections of the self in other people. Social interaction discloses layer upon layer of identity (like the numberless floors of the agency's building) but no essential purpose. Such a search wraps the individual tighter and tighter in a web of conformity. In the end, K can no longer imagine leaving the building. He becomes incapable of even attempting a mission, should he ever find one. Even his human rebelliousness turns into tragically reflexive conformity. Lem's narrative style conveys serious ideas using a simple narrative prose and pervasive, but understated humor. In this respect, Lem writes like Kafka on Prozac - with clearer ideas, faster pace, and more fun. For me, this is the best aspect of the book. The worst aspect of the book is the introduction. I advise the reader to skip it; with the intro included, my recommendation drops by at least one star. It places the Memoirs in a sophomoric (and entirely unnecessary) SciFi context and draws the connection with America. I speculate that the introduction was added to satisfy censors in 1961 Poland.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Dee

    This book blew my mind. I had to scream after I put it down! It is the story of a man who doesn't know his mission, who is on the outside of an inside joke. Everything is in code, even the code is in code, and everybody is a double, triple, quadruple or more agent. Or maybe they just make up their jobs and go about doing them-there is no way to know. This book is a tragedy in the sense that it is a comedy about someone who ultimately fails. In comedy, the hero always succeeds at the end, in greek This book blew my mind. I had to scream after I put it down! It is the story of a man who doesn't know his mission, who is on the outside of an inside joke. Everything is in code, even the code is in code, and everybody is a double, triple, quadruple or more agent. Or maybe they just make up their jobs and go about doing them-there is no way to know. This book is a tragedy in the sense that it is a comedy about someone who ultimately fails. In comedy, the hero always succeeds at the end, in greek theater. Highbrow science fiction, so far beyond genre that it is actually literature.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Bradley

    "Anything enormous, immense beyond belief or reckoning, has to be serious. -- Size, how we worship size. -- Believe me, if there were a turd the size of a mountain, its summit hidden in the clouds, we would bend the knee in reverence." Indeed. The bigger the edifice, whether building, organization, or the universe itself, the more impossible our belief that it might ever fail. I swear, this book may appear to be a far-future edifice of rampant spy-vs-spy rampant paranoia where every little thing i "Anything enormous, immense beyond belief or reckoning, has to be serious. -- Size, how we worship size. -- Believe me, if there were a turd the size of a mountain, its summit hidden in the clouds, we would bend the knee in reverence." Indeed. The bigger the edifice, whether building, organization, or the universe itself, the more impossible our belief that it might ever fail. I swear, this book may appear to be a far-future edifice of rampant spy-vs-spy rampant paranoia where every little thing is a code within a code, from farts to sighs to the shape of a wart on an old man's neck, but it's really a testament of human psychology. We grew into ourselves always looking into the dark forest looking for tiny details to conflate into huge conspiracies, whether it is a tiger, a snake, or a defector in our own ranks. Stanislaw Lem's far-future edifice of absolutely meaningless betrayals and sextuplet counter-betrayals made me think I was reading a massive nod to Catch-22 and a million spy thrillers as written by one of the most fantastic SF authors of our time. And I enjoyed it immensely. I even laughed my ass off several times. The wordplay is so smart and crazy and the sheer size of this little masterpiece of conspiracy fiction made me chortle to no end. "I am a man of the cross and the double-cross. No nails, no thorns, no spear in the side... only the boss gets a little cross."

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jose Moa

    With the Futurological Congress the most outlandish and grotesque novel of Lem i have read and perhaps the most of all i have read in my life. What a mix,surpassing all them,of Lewis Carroll,Kafka and Dick,he takes the logic to the absurd extreme as Caroll,builds a grotesque senseles burocratic world as Kafka and transmits a sense of nigmarish irreality as Dick,a real irreality without the need od drugs After a ancient plague that have destroyed all the paper and by that the histhory records ,in n With the Futurological Congress the most outlandish and grotesque novel of Lem i have read and perhaps the most of all i have read in my life. What a mix,surpassing all them,of Lewis Carroll,Kafka and Dick,he takes the logic to the absurd extreme as Caroll,builds a grotesque senseles burocratic world as Kafka and transmits a sense of nigmarish irreality as Dick,a real irreality without the need od drugs After a ancient plague that have destroyed all the paper and by that the histhory records ,in near the 4000 year the histhorians have a fragmentary record of the near to day civilization named the Neogene. After a hilarant historian satyra over the ideologic fight between capitalism and comunism the histhorians find in a big bunker in the Rocky Mountains named the Last Pentagon flooded by magma a memoirs written by a inhabitant of the building closed to the rest of the world in a claustrophobic militaristic extreme burocratic society.Narrated in first person by a man without name in a unfrutuous search of the class and meaning of a mission ordered to him, he makes a narration of a world where the characters each one more absurd ,each one in search of his existential meaning,in a chaotic organization. Lem carries the reality to the most extreme senseles,create delirant neologisms,create outlandish concepts as the desemantizacion of the words,the nested layers of encripted normal languaje,the nested layers of truth and spy in a paranoic esquizofrenic paradise. There is a duality beween the Building and a next Antibuilding with simetric interchangeable roles with perhaps a deeper open meaning.The building is the absolut maze where the characters are lost in search of his existential meaning. The book is open to several interpretations,possibly a alegoria of the despersonaliced , paranoic and senseles world of his sovietic orbit natal Poland. A unique original, nigmarish,grotesque and full of bleak humor postapocaliptic distopia. A strongly recomended masterwork in its genre

  7. 5 out of 5

    Jackfruit Goldthwait

    this book is fucked up. i don't usually say that about books but this one is wicked fucked up. i listened to an audiobook version that left the introduction out and that made it even weirder. basically this dude comes into existence in a cold war era underground government bunker and has to find out what his mission is but he's stuck in the place that drives you mad from that asterix movie so he just runs around for a while trying to navigate the insane mazes of political intrigue before realizi this book is fucked up. i don't usually say that about books but this one is wicked fucked up. i listened to an audiobook version that left the introduction out and that made it even weirder. basically this dude comes into existence in a cold war era underground government bunker and has to find out what his mission is but he's stuck in the place that drives you mad from that asterix movie so he just runs around for a while trying to navigate the insane mazes of political intrigue before realizing that the structure of the building has completely sealed it off from the world and nothing within the bunker relates to anything outside at all and nothing that anyone says has any particular meaning. i listened to most of this on a train in germany and at the end of the trip i wanted to throw myself on the tracks. 4/5

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anna

    ‘Memoirs Found in a Bathtub’ is a strange novel, but its strangeness feels somehow familiar. It reminded me of Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, Kadare’s The Palace of Dreams, the Terry Gilliam film ‘Brazil’, and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. It would probably also remind me of Kafka’s The Trial, if I’d read it. (I am going to - the library’s copy never seems to be on the shelf!) First published in 1971, Lem’s novel is an unsettling satire on the Cold War, in which an intellige ‘Memoirs Found in a Bathtub’ is a strange novel, but its strangeness feels somehow familiar. It reminded me of Ishiguro’s The Unconsoled, Kadare’s The Palace of Dreams, the Terry Gilliam film ‘Brazil’, and Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There. It would probably also remind me of Kafka’s The Trial, if I’d read it. (I am going to - the library’s copy never seems to be on the shelf!) First published in 1971, Lem’s novel is an unsettling satire on the Cold War, in which an intelligence agency (the CIA?) has retreated into a massive underground bunker. The narration begins abruptly, in the middle of a sentence, without introducing the narrator. He seems to be an agent of some sort, tasked with an important mission that no-one is willing or able to explain to him. He travels from office to office, encounters a bizarre array of obfuscating persons and attempts to discern what the hell is going on. There are some recurring themes relating to astronomy and free will, as well as a framing conceit of the memoirs as a rare document recovered thousands of years later. By this point almost all paper has been obliterated by an epidemic of some sort, so historians struggle to understand what was going just on much as the narrator does. The narrative has considerable momentum, closely resembling an anxiety dream in which you’re late, lost, and obscurely to blame for something. Thus it isn’t the most pleasant thing to read, although some of the writing is beautiful. Certain incidents are merely farcical or grotesque, but others feel profound. My favourite moment was this, towards the end: ”A priest? You turned me over to Major Erms! You only wear a cassock to hide the uniform!” “And do you only a wear a body to hide the skeleton? Try to understand. I am hiding nothing. You say I betrayed you. But everything here is illusion: betrayal, treason, even omniscience - for omniscience is not only impossible, but quite unnecessary when its counterfeit suffices, a fabrication of stray reports, allusions, words mumbled in one’s sleep or retrieved from the latrines… It is not omniscience but the faith in that matters.” I wasn’t entirely satisfied with the ending, though.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Jay

    This book is NOT science fiction. It is Kafka meets Lewis Carroll meets Alain Robbe-Grillet. A "story" of a nameless man, seemingly trapped in an underground Building of many levels, with all of the attributes of a long, long suffocating dream, a tale with its own internal "logic" but utterly outside anything rational or "real". Written and published in Polish in 1961, translated into English in 1973 and dismissed by yours truly in 2016 as a WTF entry on my bookshelves with a hallowed place betw This book is NOT science fiction. It is Kafka meets Lewis Carroll meets Alain Robbe-Grillet. A "story" of a nameless man, seemingly trapped in an underground Building of many levels, with all of the attributes of a long, long suffocating dream, a tale with its own internal "logic" but utterly outside anything rational or "real". Written and published in Polish in 1961, translated into English in 1973 and dismissed by yours truly in 2016 as a WTF entry on my bookshelves with a hallowed place between "Zen and the Art of Diesel Typewriter Maintenance" and "20,000 Wanks Under the Sheet". Hands down, this is the craziest "novel" I have ever read. The introduction or prologue, such as it is, is a "teaser" that is clumsily grafted onto the main story. Ostensibly written in 3149, the prologue introduces the "memoirs" as having been found in a bathtub in an ancient underground military-like facility destroyed by a volcanic eruption roughly 1600 years previous to their find. The prologue dwells on a cataclysmic event in earlier millennia in which a virus, accidentally introduced by space travelers returning from one of the moons of Uranus, destroyed all of the paper on Earth and all of humanity's knowledge, bringing chaos, anarchy and a new Dark Age. The memoirs and their discovery are mentioned almost as an afterthought. Written in 1961, the fictional paper cataclysm is eerily prescient of what would probably result in the wake of an electromagnetic pulse following one or more nuclear detonations over one or more continents. I have wanted to read this book for several decades, after I had read Solaris. I wanted and expected to be entertained, enlightened, and that I would walk away a "better person" for the experience. Unfortunately, I am none of these, although, looking on the bright side, I can at last check this one off my bucket list. 3 stars here, because I know it took considerable talent to conceive and execute the novel, and craftsmanship deserves a respectful nod. However, I suspect Lem's editor was a catatonic by the time the manuscript went to print. Everything has its cost.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Tom Quinn

    Funnier than Kafka, more flippant than Heller, Lem mocks and satirizes a bloated bureaucratic military complex where nobody knows what anybody is doing, not even themselves. All told, it's a pretty brilliant solution to prevent espionage: if everything is misinformation, then nothing can fall into the enemy's hands. Right?So . . . I had considered myself the center of the universe, the bull's-eye, so to speak, for all the slings and arrows the Building had to offer—and all along I was nothing, j Funnier than Kafka, more flippant than Heller, Lem mocks and satirizes a bloated bureaucratic military complex where nobody knows what anybody is doing, not even themselves. All told, it's a pretty brilliant solution to prevent espionage: if everything is misinformation, then nothing can fall into the enemy's hands. Right?So . . . I had considered myself the center of the universe, the bull's-eye, so to speak, for all the slings and arrows the Building had to offer—and all along I was nothing, just one of a series, another copy, a stereotype, trembling in all the places my predecessors trembled, repeating like a record player exactly the same words, feelings, thoughts. My melodramatic actions, the sudden impulses, false starts, surprises, moments of inspiration, each successive revelation—all of it, chapter and verse, including this present moment, was in the instructions—no longer my instructions, they weren't made for me . . . So if this was neither a test nor a Mission, nor chaos—what was left? ... Were they all crazy? Were they out to make me crazy too? Then everything would be fine, for if everyone's crazy, no one's crazy . . . But where was it all heading? (124)5 stars out of 5. Yeah, it's a little bit juvenile, mostly goofy, and very over-the-top. And the whole "paper blight" introduction didn't really need to be there. But if you think about it you'll realize it's really a secretly coded message about life and living in an over-informed, media-saturated society (I swear). And all that stuff is right up my alley.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Carla Remy

    This is the most dreamlike book I ever remember reading. Or nightmare like. A study in bureaucracy and paranoia. Including coded camouflage and artificial body parts and much much more. My American paperback is from 1971 but apparently the original is from 1961.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Griffin Alexander

    Somewhere between Kafka and PKD by way of Pynchon's Tristero-style conspiratorialism—a fever dream of the eternal Cold War between the individual and the mass of the universe pressing down on them in all its chaos, meaningful or not. Somewhere between Kafka and PKD by way of Pynchon's Tristero-style conspiratorialism—a fever dream of the eternal Cold War between the individual and the mass of the universe pressing down on them in all its chaos, meaningful or not.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nico

    I adored this piece from start to finish. Lem (or his translators) have a grasp on prose that wows and flows. This absurdist satire had me laughing and cringing throughout as the nearly 40-year-old piece rings true as a bell to contemporary themes of espionage, privacy, and deception. The story attempts to detail the complex interworking of an institution so mired in secrecy and insecurity that trust, truth, and deception swirl together in a miasma of confusion and paranoia such that any occurre I adored this piece from start to finish. Lem (or his translators) have a grasp on prose that wows and flows. This absurdist satire had me laughing and cringing throughout as the nearly 40-year-old piece rings true as a bell to contemporary themes of espionage, privacy, and deception. The story attempts to detail the complex interworking of an institution so mired in secrecy and insecurity that trust, truth, and deception swirl together in a miasma of confusion and paranoia such that any occurrence, no matter how subtle or seemingly unintentional must be a code or sign.

  14. 4 out of 5

    William Cardini

    Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a dark satire of spy bureaucracies. The introduction tells us that these memoirs were found in a bathroom of the Third Pentagon 72 years after it had been hermetically sealed to prevent a paper-destroying plague from ruining the records of this last vestige of American capitalism. But the memoirs themselves do not reference this context. The nameless narrator begins his story with an ellipses but it becomes clear that he has entered this windowless Building because Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a dark satire of spy bureaucracies. The introduction tells us that these memoirs were found in a bathroom of the Third Pentagon 72 years after it had been hermetically sealed to prevent a paper-destroying plague from ruining the records of this last vestige of American capitalism. But the memoirs themselves do not reference this context. The nameless narrator begins his story with an ellipses but it becomes clear that he has entered this windowless Building because he was summoned for a Mission from a life outside. The Building (capitalized throughout) is never called the Third Pentagon in the main text and it could just as easily skewer the KGB as the CIA. I wonder if the introduction was added afterwards to please Soviet censors who altered some of Lem's other works. I've reread both The Futurological Congress and Memoirs Found in a Bathtub in this past year. I thought that Congress was Lem's most psychedelic novel but now that it and Memoirs are both fresh in my mind it's hard to say which one is more mind altering. Congress is certainly more fun and visual – Memoirs has a lot of despair and treachery. Like Solaris, His Master's Voice, Eden, and many other Lem stories, Memoirs is about one man trying to understand a confusing system that (view spoiler)[ultimately eludes his analysis (hide spoiler)] . Unlike those other novels, which deal with aliens, in Memoirs he is trying to understand an all-too human system of agents and double agents, tests and games, and an occluding bureaucracy. The narrator is on a quest for the instructions for his Mission so he can begin it but no one will give him a straight answer. Various characters propose their explanations for how the Building and the spies within work: the confusion is deliberate – no one knows their true mission so the double agents can't discover the Building's plans; everyone is behaving randomly with no true purpose; everyone is speaking in code but there is a hidden meaning behind it; everyone in the Building has been replaced with double agents from the Anti-Building but the Anti-Building has also been replaced with double agents from the Building; and everything that happens is a test to prepare the narrator for his real Mission. This novel is both funny and disturbing. Just like The Futurological Congress and many Philip K Dick books, it can give you the feeling that nothing is real and make you very paranoid. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Toby

    Memoirs Found in a Bathtub combines biting satire with Carollian absurdity to brilliant effect. Follow the confused and paranoia-driven encounters of a government agent as he navigates the exaggeratedly complex and ridiculous set of codes and regulations enforced by the other inhabitants of the edifice known simply as The Building. He is on a mission, but no one has told him what the mission actually is yet. The introduction to the novel sets the context: Something brought back on a space flight Memoirs Found in a Bathtub combines biting satire with Carollian absurdity to brilliant effect. Follow the confused and paranoia-driven encounters of a government agent as he navigates the exaggeratedly complex and ridiculous set of codes and regulations enforced by the other inhabitants of the edifice known simply as The Building. He is on a mission, but no one has told him what the mission actually is yet. The introduction to the novel sets the context: Something brought back on a space flight destroyed all the paper in the world at once, throwing the Earth into near-chaos and simultaneously wiping out all records of a large period of history. These days what little is known of those times comes from word-of-mouth stories. That is until the Memoirs are found: "Those finds concern religious beliefs prevalent during the Eigth Dynasty of Ammer-Ka; They speak of various Perils - Black, Red, Yellow - evidently cabalistic incantations connected in some way to the mysterious deity Rayss, to whome burnt offerings were apparently made." Not make much sense? Re-read it, but this time substitute "America" for "Ammer-Ka", and "race" for "Rayss" ;) Memoirs is a more complex book than much of Lem's other works, for example, The Futurological Congress, but the complexity of the novel itself serves an important function: to emphasise and share the lost confusion felt by the protagonist and also the structured but seemingly chaotic culture of The Building. A highly recommended read! Some other great quotes: "Then he spoke of sodomystics and gomorrhoids" "Also, I dabble in decerebration and defecation - trepans and bedpans, you know - just a hobby"

  16. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    Stanislaw Lem's Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a parable of deconstruction, where all meaning is lost in intrigue. Our hero is the author of one of the last written manuscripts on earth, after a great blight destroyed nearly all written history. His body, and his memoir as a newly recruited spy in the Building are found in a bathtub. The story follows his mishaps as he tries to discover what his orders are, and what his mission means. As the ages have passed, the last vestiges of Capitalism are h Stanislaw Lem's Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is a parable of deconstruction, where all meaning is lost in intrigue. Our hero is the author of one of the last written manuscripts on earth, after a great blight destroyed nearly all written history. His body, and his memoir as a newly recruited spy in the Building are found in a bathtub. The story follows his mishaps as he tries to discover what his orders are, and what his mission means. As the ages have passed, the last vestiges of Capitalism are holed up in a mountain, and everyone, even the priest is a spy. Every word written or spoken has multiple levels of meaning, the furniture, the layout of the Building, even the way a girl eats her sandwich. Nothing can be taken at face value, or can it? Ironically, Lem would probably laugh at any review assigning meanings to symbols in his novel, but whatever. The Building, and its anti Building represent the Universe around us. Our recruit's orders represent the meaning of life, and the spies represent all those who try to find their purpose. As an English major, I should have found this book at least mildly amusing, but after the back story in the editor's note, everything went downhill. Trying to keep track of all the plots and sub plots became more taxing than amusing, and something about Lem's prose in this book makes him sound preachy. Add in a very unnecessary attempted rape scene, and by the end you'll be glad this book is only 200 or so pages.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Hank

    As a kid, I read and reread Lem's science fiction short story collection Tales of Pirx the Pilot. In fact, I'd say that book, along with Heinlein's Green Hills of Earth, really cemented my love for science fiction. To this day, I prefer that style - character and story-driven, with just enough tech babble to make it spacey. That was my only exposure to Lem, although I did know that he was a highly respected author in several genres. Because of my love for Pirx, I really looked forward to picking As a kid, I read and reread Lem's science fiction short story collection Tales of Pirx the Pilot. In fact, I'd say that book, along with Heinlein's Green Hills of Earth, really cemented my love for science fiction. To this day, I prefer that style - character and story-driven, with just enough tech babble to make it spacey. That was my only exposure to Lem, although I did know that he was a highly respected author in several genres. Because of my love for Pirx, I really looked forward to picking up this slim novel. Thank god this isn't the first thing I read by Lem, though, because damn. This kind of dry as dust (ha) anti-bureaucracy allegory has become my least favorite kind of dystopian work. This short little book took me 6 months to read, because I'd pick it up, go ten pages, and then put it down in favor of something more entertaining. Now, it's not hollow or pointless. There is plenty of there there. If you do enjoy this sort of Kafka nightmare fuel, individuals lost in twisting corridors of paperwork and location, unable to save themselves, unable to even understand why they are there and how to get free, well, there's a reason it's a classic of the genre. Lem is Polish, and paints the whole thing with a very Eastern European, cold war paranoid, Soviet doublespeak. It's effective, if you've got a taste for the style. I simply do not, in particular. http://epicdystopia.blogspot.com/2011...

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jenny (Reading Envy)

    I keep seeing comments various places that "Lem is like Kafka." I've never read Kafka. I felt I should make that clear before diving into any sort of opinion, but I'll add it to my list. This book brings up many more questions than answers. My biggest one pertains to the narrator. Is he reliable? Throughout what we read, he is being taught that everything is code, and symbolic, and that everyone is a triple agent (or more, the wonders of illogical math). So is what we're reading anything close to I keep seeing comments various places that "Lem is like Kafka." I've never read Kafka. I felt I should make that clear before diving into any sort of opinion, but I'll add it to my list. This book brings up many more questions than answers. My biggest one pertains to the narrator. Is he reliable? Throughout what we read, he is being taught that everything is code, and symbolic, and that everyone is a triple agent (or more, the wonders of illogical math). So is what we're reading anything close to what he experienced? How would we know? Does it matter? I kind of wish there was more about the destruction of papyr as detailed in the introduction, about the country that worshipped Kap-Eh-Taahl. That would have made an interesting novel too, although this was like what I imagine a bad drug trip would be like. Or socialism, wasn't that the point? The writing style once you get to the regular story has a lot of humor and confusion in it, and little tidbits made me laugh - hollowing out poppy seeds, choking on my own enigma, "We're here because we're here" and then the whole "We can't statistically be here" contradiction. The writing meanders much like the protagonist is - never seeing the light of day, barely stopping for cafeteria mac and cheese, and trying to find what the mission even is in the first place.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Jeff Crompton

    Stanislaw Lem wrote science fiction, but he wasn't really a "science fiction" writer in the commonly accepted sense of the term. Science fiction was the medium Lem chose to explore the ideas and themes which interested him. Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is supposedly a manuscript from sometime in our future, found even further in the future, which describes life in the Third Pentagon, known to the narrator only as "the Building." But it's obvious that the plot, such as it is, is not really what Lem Stanislaw Lem wrote science fiction, but he wasn't really a "science fiction" writer in the commonly accepted sense of the term. Science fiction was the medium Lem chose to explore the ideas and themes which interested him. Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is supposedly a manuscript from sometime in our future, found even further in the future, which describes life in the Third Pentagon, known to the narrator only as "the Building." But it's obvious that the plot, such as it is, is not really what Lem is interested in. The back cover blurb calls the book "an entertaining but disquieting satire of paranoia and overzealous bureaucracy," and that's probably true, but it goes deeper than that. It's about life, God, and meaning, or the lack thereof. The denizens of the Building engage in meaningless activities, convincing themselves that there is a purpose to it all. The narrator tries to figure it all out, but at one point realizes that "almost any sufficiently complex idea seemed to apply to the Building, to explain it...." This is not an easy read; it's certainly not an entertaining little science fiction story. I went through a period of exasperation with Lem's writing until I saw what he was getting at. After that, it was an intriguing read, although still not a jolly one.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Alterjess

    This is a wonderful little book, though it is clearly not for everyone (Sword & Laser folk, you know what I'm talking about). However, if you are a fan of Lem's other work, this will almost certainly delight you. It reminded me strongly of a short story out of The Cyberiad, and also of the TV series The Prisoner (original, please, not the AMC remake). The framing device makes it science fiction (the title is literal, a far-future historian discovers the memoir in a bathtub in some ruins), but the This is a wonderful little book, though it is clearly not for everyone (Sword & Laser folk, you know what I'm talking about). However, if you are a fan of Lem's other work, this will almost certainly delight you. It reminded me strongly of a short story out of The Cyberiad, and also of the TV series The Prisoner (original, please, not the AMC remake). The framing device makes it science fiction (the title is literal, a far-future historian discovers the memoir in a bathtub in some ruins), but the meat of the story takes place in the "present day," which is to say, late twentieth-century America as seen from the perspective of Russia in 1973. It's about the absurdity of bureaucracy in the world of espionage, and it is hysterical if you are the kind of person who finds it funny.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Davis

    Lem does it again!..... everything "Brazil" should have ben, what "kafkaesque" bitches want to be but can't possibly know it..... As I have seen in the shapes of his other novels, this one trudges along slowly---a quick read, but still trudging. At the end tho, Lem hits you with everything he's got, and when he does.... wowie!!! Frustrated, as you can sense when reading that the original Polish has a great deal more puns and double-meanings, humorous and thematically significant play-on-words whic Lem does it again!..... everything "Brazil" should have ben, what "kafkaesque" bitches want to be but can't possibly know it..... As I have seen in the shapes of his other novels, this one trudges along slowly---a quick read, but still trudging. At the end tho, Lem hits you with everything he's got, and when he does.... wowie!!! Frustrated, as you can sense when reading that the original Polish has a great deal more puns and double-meanings, humorous and thematically significant play-on-words which is lost in the English.... that being said, the translators(Michael Kandel and Christine Rose) of my edition did a great job, and much of the humor and wordplay still came thru. Lem over and over secures his status as one of my favorite writers, and Memoirs Found in a Bathtub is no exception. I look forward to continuing to think about this book a great deal into the future.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Christopher Turner

    It's kind of a Kafka's The Castle or Beckett's Waiting for Godot for the cold war set. One man is trapped in a labyrinthine military building as paranoia and conspiracy swirl around him in both literal and figurative ways while he attempts to complete an intelligence mission that is as absurd as it is mysterious. Lem explores themes of authenticity, the nature of knowable reality, and epistemology sometimes through actual discussion of these topics but mostly through the symbolism of the charact It's kind of a Kafka's The Castle or Beckett's Waiting for Godot for the cold war set. One man is trapped in a labyrinthine military building as paranoia and conspiracy swirl around him in both literal and figurative ways while he attempts to complete an intelligence mission that is as absurd as it is mysterious. Lem explores themes of authenticity, the nature of knowable reality, and epistemology sometimes through actual discussion of these topics but mostly through the symbolism of the characters and their actions. I liked it and you might like it, but I feel like I've seen an existential/nihilistic Alice in Wonderland done better by other authors. Be prepared for 40 page sections of what amount to, essentially, parable about the futility of discovering objective meaning and reality through the human lens, while no discernible actions occur to advance the plot.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Annelie

    This book is interesting to say the least. I have never been the BIGGEST fan of his work, but I always keep going back to his books!!! They are simply spectacular. As this is my dad's favorite book, and in my opinion Stanislaw Lem's best work, I think it deserves 4.5 stars (but I can't actually give it that, can I?). Anyway, it takes place in Stanislaw Lem's dystopian future ( as usual), and depicts a government with immense power. No one is really sure HOW to live, and how to operate. People ar This book is interesting to say the least. I have never been the BIGGEST fan of his work, but I always keep going back to his books!!! They are simply spectacular. As this is my dad's favorite book, and in my opinion Stanislaw Lem's best work, I think it deserves 4.5 stars (but I can't actually give it that, can I?). Anyway, it takes place in Stanislaw Lem's dystopian future ( as usual), and depicts a government with immense power. No one is really sure HOW to live, and how to operate. People are eating stuff no one in their right mind would dream of eating! They are being deceived in this way. This, combined with Lem's rather strange style, made me instantly enthralled with this book. I think everyone should read this book, because it is absolutely fabulous!!

  24. 4 out of 5

    Chad

    This is shelved as science fiction, but it's a bit of a stretch to call it that. If you're wanting some sci-fi, you'll be wishing the frame story was a book by itself. I'd recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz in that case. Not exactly the same, but it's a similar idea. That's not to say that this isn't a worth-while read. It's a dizzying, Kafkaesque nightmare for sure, but if you're into that sort of thing this one does it well. This is shelved as science fiction, but it's a bit of a stretch to call it that. If you're wanting some sci-fi, you'll be wishing the frame story was a book by itself. I'd recommend A Canticle for Leibowitz in that case. Not exactly the same, but it's a similar idea. That's not to say that this isn't a worth-while read. It's a dizzying, Kafkaesque nightmare for sure, but if you're into that sort of thing this one does it well.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Michał Hołda/Holda

    Pentagon in future, where every clerk is double, triple e.t.c spy, decadency of ending where is only construction "Paranoia as the last stage of militarism" Pentagon in future, where every clerk is double, triple e.t.c spy, decadency of ending where is only construction "Paranoia as the last stage of militarism"

  26. 4 out of 5

    Joseph

    This was unlike anything I've ever read. Super stressful. Lem created a maddening atmosphere. Will need some time to try to process this. Not sure how so much was packed into 188 pages. This was unlike anything I've ever read. Super stressful. Lem created a maddening atmosphere. Will need some time to try to process this. Not sure how so much was packed into 188 pages.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bernie Gourley

    If you enjoyed Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, which is to say you like gallows humor that scoffs at the folly of thinking of “bureaucratic logic” as anything other than an oxymoron, then Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs Found in a Bathtub will be right up your alley. The premise is that future archeologists are trying to decipher what happened to humanity from a dearth of remaining documentation. One of the best and most extensive of these records is the memoirs of a bureaucrat telling of his experience in a If you enjoyed Joseph Heller’s Catch 22, which is to say you like gallows humor that scoffs at the folly of thinking of “bureaucratic logic” as anything other than an oxymoron, then Stanislaw Lem’s Memoirs Found in a Bathtub will be right up your alley. The premise is that future archeologists are trying to decipher what happened to humanity from a dearth of remaining documentation. One of the best and most extensive of these records is the memoirs of a bureaucrat telling of his experience in a subterranean complex that reads a lot like a spoof on the Pentagon. The 31st century timeline in which a future generation tries to understand the intervening dark ages is only discussed in the prologue, the remainder is the first person account of this bureaucrat of ill-chosen profession. The narrator tells us about his final assignment, one that was so secret that his superiors couldn’t even tell him what it was. When he finally does get some written guidance, it’s stolen. Throughout the story, the author is shifting through various departments of this complex trying to figure out what is going on and with little initial success. At first he’s trying to figure out what his mission is, but later he’s just trying to figure out what’s real and meaningful--and if those concepts retain any usefulness. Along the way, odd and spectacular events occur that leave him thinking he’s being framed. He doesn’t know if he’s in a test, in the middle of a conspiracy, or amid a collection of lunatics. There are sections that read quite like a Monty Python sketch, and the absurdist humor is sometimes like that of Douglas Adams--though more sparing and dark. There’s a scene featuring an officer who tries to talk the narrator into confessing, and I could only picture said officer in my mind as Eric Idle. Among the absurdist elements is the explanation of office operations. We are told that command was unable to deal with accurately and swiftly circulating memos because of the volume, and so they took to a random system in which paperwork was indiscriminately circulated until it happened upon the correct desk. There’s an officer who begins to chew and swallow envelopes to prevent information from falling into the wrong hands. One of the best examples of absurdist humor is a conversation with a cryptologist who suggests that everything is a code and, ignoring messages that seem to be of military value and that are not coded, takes to using a machine to “decipher” random literature into nonsensical messages. Nothing is as it seems in this book, and the humor derives from the narrator being the only individual who insists on the world making sense. If you’ve ever been in a position where you had to interact regularly with a bureaucracy, you’ll understand the value of laughing at such humor to avoid weeping. Much of the humor comes from the desire to keep things secret while trying to know everything there is. The narrator keeps finding not-so-subtle fly-shaped spy devices on his coffee saucer. There are blatant lies about behavior that takes place right before the narrator’s eyes. When he’s institutionalized, it turns out that the other inmates are not at all who they seem to be either. If Stanislaw Lem is not an author familiar to you (he’s a Polish writer who died in 2006), this is a good work to cut your teeth on. It’s not one of his most well-known pieces, but it’s humorous and easier to follow than Solaris. Fans of Kurt Vonnegut and Robert Heinlein are also likely to enjoy this book. I recommend it.

  28. 5 out of 5

    John

    "Verify. Search. Destroy. Incite. Inform. Over and out. On the nth day nth hour sector n subsector n rendezvous with N." Cold War absurdist or Nightmare Fever Dream of a Capitalist devoid of Capital? Either way, Lem is at his sadistic best here! The obtuse language of vague bureaucracy careens into meaninglessness over and over again - banging into itself and smashing the commemorative plates hanging in the hallways. Our nameless diarist, a civilian, attempts to determine his "mission" which is a "Verify. Search. Destroy. Incite. Inform. Over and out. On the nth day nth hour sector n subsector n rendezvous with N." Cold War absurdist or Nightmare Fever Dream of a Capitalist devoid of Capital? Either way, Lem is at his sadistic best here! The obtuse language of vague bureaucracy careens into meaninglessness over and over again - banging into itself and smashing the commemorative plates hanging in the hallways. Our nameless diarist, a civilian, attempts to determine his "mission" which is as formless and nameless as he is. As he wanders around "the building (pentagon)" he encounters various officials - generals, priests, scientists, and histologists. None of these are helpful, some refuse to do their jobs, others are only interested in complaining, and still some give worthless advice. All which is incredibly accurate still today. But let us now praise bathrooms... In a world where a building exists to torment and confuse the employees who work and dwell within it, the bathroom is the last refuge of individuality and privacy. While not interested, at all, in the scatological humor or Modernist leveling of natural functions, Lem is most concerned with the hidden spaces among the utility. That is why he hides a spy in the tub. A razor near the tub. And a leitmotif of home(base) within the bathroom. Other hints and call backs associated with the bathroom - suicide, bathing, and hiding paper among a water basin. As with all things Lem, this is a strange and wonderful adventure.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Bbrown

    With Lem, you never know what you're going to get- you sit down with what sounds like a science fiction book, but will it actually be one of those, or something completely different? Make no mistake, besides the frame narrative this isn't so much a work of science fiction as it is Lem's take on Kafka. It's a shame too, for two reasons: first, I was looking for a science fiction book and not Kafkaesque metafiction, and Second, the frame narrative sets up an intriguing setting. Besides establishing With Lem, you never know what you're going to get- you sit down with what sounds like a science fiction book, but will it actually be one of those, or something completely different? Make no mistake, besides the frame narrative this isn't so much a work of science fiction as it is Lem's take on Kafka. It's a shame too, for two reasons: first, I was looking for a science fiction book and not Kafkaesque metafiction, and Second, the frame narrative sets up an intriguing setting. Besides establishing the loss of the written word and the resulting dark ages, which don't end up mattering much going forward, the frame narrative also depicts a United States that lost the cold war, and the final bastion of the U.S. government sealed away in a vast underground base. Unfortunately, the rest of the book fails to capitalize on this setting. Enter the narrative proper, a memoir of one of the inhabitants of this underground base written by a civilian agent assigned to carry out a mission, the details of which he has not been informed of. But is there a mission at all? His journey takes him through incident after incident that leave him more and more confused about what is going on, both with himself and with the building. Is he being tested? Has the building been infiltrated by enemy agents? Is there any rhyme or reason to any of this at all? As is typical of books that take after Kafka, don't expect there to be any answers here. But is there meaning? Though the book is replete with religious symbols, I couldn't uncover anything about religion that the book was trying to say. Neither was there any political message here either, besides Cold War-paranoia writ-large and cranked up to eleven. The events themselves are barely connected, so there's no real story here besides the narrator's growing desperation. Eventually, after a certain number of incidents, it ends. After finishing the work, I don't consider the theme of invented meanings, narrative self-references, and omnipresent paranoia to be anything more than gimmicks. I don't much care for Lem's take on Kafka, or his more experimental books in general (A Perfect Vacuum, for instance). If I wanted something of that sort I'd read Kafka himself, or Borges, or Dino Buzzati, or Michal Ajvaz, or Leo Perutz, or other writers who I think do that type of thing better than Lem does. Instead, I like Lem's more standard Science Fiction stories. That's what I expected to get out of this book, and was disappointed when I didn't. Even putting my personal expectations aside, however, I still don't think Memoirs Found in a Bathtub does Cold War Kafka particularly well, or says anything interesting with it. If you want Kafka with some very light science-fiction elements, I guess this could work for you, otherwise read one of the authors I've listed herein.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Matty Lapointe-Smith

    This book has a 15 page introduction from a post-apocalyptic future where paper has ceased to exist. Which is particularly terrifying in the pre-computer, pre-kindle. Cold War World of 1961 when it was written. The rest of the book is a diary found buried in (we find out) a deep underground Soviet bunker made up of offices, elevators and hallways without end. Frankly I thought this idea of an unstoppable "something" destroying all the text/knowledge would've made a really interesting story on it This book has a 15 page introduction from a post-apocalyptic future where paper has ceased to exist. Which is particularly terrifying in the pre-computer, pre-kindle. Cold War World of 1961 when it was written. The rest of the book is a diary found buried in (we find out) a deep underground Soviet bunker made up of offices, elevators and hallways without end. Frankly I thought this idea of an unstoppable "something" destroying all the text/knowledge would've made a really interesting story on it's own but doesn't do much for the rest of the book either way. Beyond just making things very bleak. And this is, indeed, a bleak story. Picture "Catch 22" meets "Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy" meets "The Lives of Others". Bleak. The action follows an unnamed man running from room and floor to floor in this underground fortress. At first he tries to be helpful and a good citizen following orders and helping out. Then he begins to fear for his life. Very quickly even that seems useless because he doesn't have any idea what's going on. As best I can tell, this gives a heartbreaking look at the type of insanity people experienced in the USSR. Obviously it's not as grounded as "Tinker, Tailor" and "Lives of Others" and intentionally spins into what are hopefully just horrific flights of fancy, but it gets the message across. You never know what to expect. You never know who you can trust. And sometimes you may not even know if you'll live to see another day. Not because you're anyone in particular. In fact, BECAUSE you're not anyone in particular. You're a cog in a machine. And cogs can be replaced when they go bad. Like I said. Bleak. With all that in mind, I would ABSOLUTELY recommend this book to everyone. Not just because it's a thrilling, insightful read, but also an intriguing POV cultural relic from the world behind the Iron Curtain. And much quicker than the 2,200 pages it would take to get the same feeling (or perhaps even worse since that's factual) from Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn's "Gulag Archipeligo Vol. I - VII" series (which I'd also recommend, but buckle up!). "The joke, after all, might very well turn out to be on us...So we pretend not to notice the indiscriminate way the universe goes about its business; we say that it is what it is, namely everything, and surely EVERYTHING can't be just a joke. Anything enormous, immense beyond belief or reckoning -- has to be serious." -- p. 168 Enjoy! And maybe have someone ready with a hug once you're done.

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