You may have noticed that here at Flavorpill, we’re pretty big fans of Andrei Tarkovsky – indeed, the unexpected archive of his Polaroids that we stumbled across a while back is one of our favorite ever Flavorwire posts. We’re also big fans of Solaris, the novel by Polish writer Stanislaw Lem that Tarkovsky so famously adapted into a strange, wonderful feature. Apparently, however, Lem never liked the English translation of his novel, mainly because it was a double translation from the French version, which he didn’t like much either. Translating the book twice gave results akin to feeding something through Babelfish a few times, a situation not helped by the translator’s penchant for rewriting as they saw fit — and it means that by all accounts, the English version of Solaris the novel is markedly different to the original Polish. However, that’s all about to change with the first direct Polish-English translation of the book. Rejoice!
Solaris: The Definitive Edition was translated by Indiana University’s Bill Johnston, who told The Guardian earlier this week that he was “shocked at the number of places where text was omitted, added, or changed in the 1970 version.” Apparently, not only is the translation fairly ropey at times, there are parts that were completely rewritten from the original text – Johnston cites several instances where dialogue was removed and replaced by description, while the names of characters and places were also changed arbitrarily. “The new translation,” he says, “will finally allow English-language readers to experience Lem’s extraordinary, prescient, ever-relevant novel in all its fullness.”
Before you get all excited, though, the bad news is that while Lem’s family apparently love Johnston’s work, they’ve also said a paper edition of the new translation is “impossible due to legal issues,” although they hope that “recognition of the new translation might persuade the publisher to rethink their position.” In the meantime, the new version will be available as an eBook “within six months.” If you’re desperate, though, there’s an audiobook version available right now here.