Neha Patil

The Magellanic Cloud

Updated on
Share on FacebookTweet on TwitterShare on LinkedIn
Author  Stanisław Lem
Cover artist  Jan Młodożeniec
Language  Polish
Original title  Obłok Magellana
Country  Poland
Genre  Science fiction

The Magellanic Cloud (Polish title: Obłok Magellana) is a 1955 science fiction novel by Polish writer Stanisław Lem. The novel was the basis for the Czech film Ikarie XB-1.


Major literary tropes include interstellar travel, "first contact", with a good deal of psychological fiction, and most of all, Communist utopia complete with the criticism of the capitalist militarism, which Lem himself characterized as an "extract of the times of Socialist realism".

Fragments of the novel were published earlier, in 1953-1954, in the magazine Przekrój.

Plot summary

The novel is set in the 32nd century, in a communistic Utopian future. Humanity has colonized all of the Solar System, and is now making its first attempt at interstellar travel.

Aboard a vessel called Gaia, 227 men and women leave the Earth for the Alpha Centauri system.

After almost eight years of travel, they find signs of organic life on a planet orbiting Proxima Centauri, possibly originating on another planet within the Centauri system.

One of the planets orbiting Alpha Centauri turns out to be inhabited by an advanced civilization.

The expedition meets a lifeless human ship of "Atlants", which turns out to be an old artificial war satellite of the United States and its NATO allies, carrying still active biological weapons and nuclear warheads, which had accidentally left Earth orbit and got lost in space during the Cold War era.

Censorship and criticisms

When the novel was first published, parts of it were censored by the Communist authorities. Lem famously denounced the censored version, calling it too optimistic about Communism. At the time, this was a bold sign that demonstrated Lem's confidence that his singular status as a Polish author of international renown would protect him from state repression. A complete version was published in the 1990s after the fall of Communism.

Because at the time of writing cybernetics was a banned "bourgeois pseudoscience", Lem invented the term mechaneurystyka ("mechaneuristics").


The Magellanic Cloud Wikipedia

Similar Topics
Golden Apples of the Sun (film)
Hany Armanious
Marina Petrella