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Level upon level of illusion
on April 4, 2003
Ijon Tichy is the calm, but worried and fascinated witness of a world gone astray. In the book's first part, he arrives at the Hilton hotel to participate in the eighth futurological congress, which is soon ruined by the local revolution; the situation degenerates further when the governement awkwardly tries to control it by using various substances. After what appears to be a 40 year-long 'stay' in liquid nitrogen, Tichy has to encounter a world profoundly affected by 'psycho-chemistry'. In all of the worlds - 'real' or illusory - that he visits, Tichy walks in the middle of prisoners (in the Platonic sense) rendered defenseless in the bottom of their cavern; the prisoners are not only the unknowing victims of the illusions, but also the vain and mischievous demiurges who perpetrate them. In such worlds, craving for knowledge has been reduced to a mere search for formulas and chemical products whose only role is to provoke the desired reactions and keep all the citizens in a state of sleep. Tichy is alone in perceiving what is positive about getting rid of complete servitude, but the world Lem depicts in the book is so oversaturated with different levels of illusions that such a hope can only lead to failure. Thus, even though Tichy is one of the sole half-liberated prisoners of the whole book, he remains a prisoner all the same and is ultimately comforted by the least threatening of the various lies. Like the others, Tichy is caught up in a world whose web of illusions he can't totally understand.