“Perfect Imperfection” – Jacek Dukaj and the power of evolution

Posted on 01/24/2012


Jacek Dukaj rocks. Another  Polish science fiction writer, after Stanislav Lem, has a chance to become a cornerstone on the road of science fiction. His “Ice” will be soon translated into English. We should campaign for translation of “Perfect Imperfection” as well. Here’s why.

It suffices to read the synopsis of Dukaj’s book “Perfect Imperfetion” (2004) to become aware of  the reach of his dashing vision. The vision, contrary to what many SF writers produce these days, is rooted in the hitherto scientific knowledge and remains at least coherent with the potential future prospect of science. What is more – and very important for me as a philosopher – it is also coherent with the hitherto state of the art in psychology, social sciences and philosophy.

Dukaj envisions a world I would deem “probable” in spite of the fact he pushes the narrative nine centuries ahead. A world in which “Homo Sapiens” as we know it is a relatively inferior race among other races, many of which take the form of disembodied intellects that treat the carriers of their sensors as a secondary and replaceable items (Lem’s ideas from “Golem XIV” come to mind immediately, rather than Stapledon “Last and First Men”).

What is interesting, in Dukaj’s vision evolutionarily higher beings are not hostile towards the non-augmented biological humans. Quite to the contrary – the latter, although not very numerous,  are treated with reverence characteristic for the monks. After all, leading analog life with a low information processing ability is a hard task and deserves respect. A population of traditionally living humans pin-points what humanity is and remains an ethical point of reference for those who left flesh behind.

The plot of this monumental work starts when Adam Zamoyski, who used to live in XXIst century, is brought back to life. To cope with the overabundance of stimuli and psychologically unharnessed phenomena he initially perceives the world through a “veil” that downgrades the reality he lives in through brain implants, thus allowing to process it without overheating. But the implants malfunction as a result of an assassination attempt. Moreover, Adam learns that, technically speaking, he is a property of some rich gentleman…

The ideas of human evolution presented in the book are holistic and will be fascinating even for the geeks that consider themselves already well acquainted with the perspectives of our science and civilization. I will not write more about the book here, as there is a very well written essay in English by Luke Maciak, where you can find – among others – a consolation from booksellers in case you do not read Polish: an English translation of Dukaj’s another novel (“Ice”) is being prepared.

Atlantic Books acquired world rights, excluding Poland, to Ice by Jacek Dukaj, a “philosophical and historical adventure”. Nic Cheetham, publishing director at imprint Corvus, bought the rights directly from Pawel Ciemniewski at Wydawnictwo Literackie, Dukaj’s Polish publishers. Corvus plans to publish Ice, which won the Polityka Prize for the “Most Important Polish novel of the last 20 years”, in June 2012.

Time will come for “Perfect Imperfection” as well.

So arm yourself with the virtue of patience and take some action by sending an email in English here –  j.dabrowska@wydawnictwoliterackie.pl, telling you’re a very influential public person and nagging: “When will the English translation of Perfect Imperfection be ready?”

In the meantime, you can read the links below.