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Hospital of the Transfiguration Paperback – Jul 2003


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--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 228 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books (July 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156028891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156028899
  • Product Dimensions: 38.9 x 20.1 x 11.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

This first novel by the prolific science fiction author and essayist was completed in 1948, but wasn't published in Poland until 1975, after Lem's reputation was well established. Appearing in English for the first time, this is very much the work of a brash writer finding his way. As Poland falls to the Nazis during WW II in 1939, Stefan Trzyniecki, a young doctor, finds employment at a provincial insane asylum. He has been lured there by a fellow medical student who promises, "It's like being outside the Occupation, in fact it's even like being outside the world!" Stefan hopes that the asylum will be "a kind of extraterrestrial observatory" with "a delicious solitude in which a man naturally endowed with a fine intellect could develop in peace." But the insanity of the outside world soon intrudes on the madness within. While corrupt and callous doctors perpetrate hideous abuses on mental patients, the Nazis are capturing Polish resistance fighters nearby. When the Nazis move to liquidate the asylum and turn it into an SS hospital, betrayals abound; Stefan survives, but he has been transformed. Lem, who attended medical school in Poland, evokes the monstrosities of an archaic mental institution with the knife-edged clarity of bitterness. The ironies of Stefan's existence, which are echoed in many ways in Kundera's recent The Unbearable Lightness of Being , reveal much about how the author found his voice.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

"Insane asylums have always distilled the spirit of the age." So claims one of the central characters in this, Lem's first novel, written in 1948 before he began his career in science fiction. And so Lem chose to set in a mental institution this gripping story of a young Polish doctor's attempt, following the Nazi invasion of 1939, to make sense of his world. The institution proves a microcosm of the chaos outside, for here doctors seem as deranged as their patients. That one patient is a famous poet also allows Lem to probe into the nature of art and provides insight into his literary development. Obviously the work of a young author, both in its passion and its occasional pontification, this should appeal particularly to college students but is highly recommended for all. David W. Henderson, Eckerd Coll. Lib., St. Petersburg, Fla.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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By A Customer on Feb. 3 1999
Format: Paperback
This is one of his earliest, and it kinda let me down. A guy working in an insane asylum. Kinda haunting at times, not terribly interesting though. It sounds as if Sekulowski is supposed to be saying some really neat stuff, but it all sounds like a bunch of fluff to me. Not the greatest, but it's Lem.
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Format: Paperback
I loved this book. Lem's partially auto-biographical Transfiguration is set in a WWII era insane asylum in Poland. He tells a compelling story of a time and place when you had to look hard to tell the difference between the doctors and the patients.
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By A Customer on Sept. 1 1999
Format: Hardcover
Though some of it is a little fluffy, over all i found this book to be intresting and spellbinding.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 6 reviews
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A trip into the surreal Oct. 13 2006
By Kostandin Pajcini - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The symbolism and philosophical insight in this book is astounding. The setting is Poland, following the Nazi invasion, but it seems that by starting a new job in an insane asylum, the protagonist escapes the outside world and his "lost motherland" only to join an alien landscape where deranged and yet fascinating people live. You can almost see that even in his first book Lem was already thinking science fiction by reading some of the case histories of the patients. The story almost carries you to another world and until the last chapter you seem to forget the reality of the precarious situation that mental patients faced during Nazi occupation. While I truly enjoyed the story and the dialogues between Stefan and Sekulowski, this book lacks a coherent plot, and suffers from detailed focus into inconsequential details, such as the appearance of a graveyard in the winter and the rays of sunlight shining through the window of a room.
Great writing from one of the greats. But be warned: not one of his SF novels. Nov. 8 2013
By lucifer's shadow - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Stanislaw Lem is mainly known as a science fiction writer, but he transcends this distinction in many ways. He was part of the wave of SF writers working in the 70s that brought us the first masterpieces of Ursula Le Guin, Samuel R. Delaney, and so many others who were using their fiction to comment on the failure of the 60s milieu to change the culture, especially since the 80s brought on the rise of a conservative class that was enmeshing America into a more materialistic stance. But it would be ironically in the 80s that SF was finding its sea legs as a respectable literary genre.

That said, Lem is a Polish writer, and inasmuch as he participated in the SF scene of the 70s, his scholarly work suggested he found in SF something other than its readers were expecting. Since he was highly critical of the American writers whom he didn't think were reaching truly literary strength, he suggested that the idiom of the genre was being more led by writers like Philip K. Dick, someone who was less interested in the science in fiction but the more transcendent properties inherent in manipulating reality. Lem's "Transfiguration" novel is actually not a SF novel, but war literature depicting the Nazi abuses in Poland around 1939 as seen through the eyes of a doctor superintending a clinic for the insane. It would be then a searching examination of the abuses of a minority culture not just in the Nazi's who kind of just show up on cue at the climax of the novel, but also in the various ways the doctors who are really ignorant of how to improve the conditions of the people they are supposed to be helping.

Once the doctor has decided to take his friend's advice, after the death of his father, and taken up a position in the psychiatric hospital, we can be struck by how mundane the descriptions of the residents are. Lem seems to rely on popular notions of what the insane might have looked like to outsiders as descriptions of them come to seem stereotypical. In fact, many of those residing in the hospital are simply there because they see it as a way to avoid homelessness. The doctor eventually befriends a man who is presented as a sage, and wholly sane except for his eccentric forays into esoteric philosophy. This is where the ideas of the novel reach full expression, as the doctor kind of intuits that the sagely properties of his inmate may just help himself reach a form of transcendence. This may be trading on the ancient ideal that the insane were "touched" by God, giving this population its first stigma as crazy but somehow having God's ear. Examining the reports of middle ages mystics may just lend credence to this view, as their visions seemed to contain signs of what we would call mental illness now. As to whether this constitutes an actual pathology or not remains to be argued, but this idea powers Lem's narrative. Once the Nazi's show up, of course we have to have the obligatory killing of the disabled which the Nazi's were known to do, but Lem is a truly literary writer, and shows s strength of style that makes him one of the great stylists to have ever worked in SF (albeit this is not exactly SF). But genre issues aside, great literature may sometimes skirt around the more vaunted ways we want to view it, but this novel bears reading for the true sense of mastery that pervades its pages. If you haven't been exposed to Stanislaw Lem before, you might not want to start with this novel, but make your way through his canon until you're ready for this example, which is essentially war literature. And if you haven't been exposed to war literature before, well, I wouldn't exactly suggest Sartre either, as impenetrable as he can be, but if you have a hankering for meaty ruminations which we often find in those who've rubbed shoulders with the Nazi's, maybe get a sense of the absurdity of it all by diving into Quentin Tarantino's "Inglorious Basterds," and then maybe make your way into Philip K. Dick's "The Man in the High Castle," an alternate history novel giving us the horrific possibility that Japan and Germany actually won the war. This book predates that 70s milieu, but Dick is a 60s writer, whatever decade we happen to find his books in, so if you're interested in SF as a reaction against powerful forces, Dick and Lem are great authors to get acquainted with.
Five Stars Oct. 17 2014
By Julie Pagitt - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Lem's first novel. I can't wait to read it.
2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
I don't know what the other reviewers read, but... June 26 2001
By C. Valverde - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
I loved this book. Lem's partially auto-biographical Transfiguration is set in a WWII era insane asylum in Poland. He tells a compelling story of a time and place when you had to look hard to tell the difference between the doctors and the patients.
2 of 6 people found the following review helpful
one of lem's best Sept. 1 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Though some of it is a little fluffy, over all i found this book to be intresting and spellbinding.

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