Stanislaw Lem

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Stanisław Lem.jpg
Stanislaw Lem, 1966
Stanisław Lem signature.svg
Lem's signature

Stanislaw Lem Herman ([pronunciation staɲiswaf lɛm ] listen ? / I * 12. September 1921 in Lvov , Poland , † 27. March 2006 in Kraków ) was a Polish philosopher , essayist and science fiction - AuthorAudio file / audio sample . Lem's works have been translated into 57 languages ​​and have sold more than 45 million copies. He is one of the most widely read science fiction authors, although he did not want to call himself that because of the complexity of his work. Due to the numerous word games and word creations , his works are considered difficult to translate .

Lem is considered a brilliant visionary and utopian who devised numerous complex technologies decades before they were actually developed. As early as the 1960s and 1970s, he wrote on topics such as nanotechnology , neural networks and virtual reality . A recurring topic are philosophical and ethical aspects and problems of technical developments, such as artificial intelligence , human-like robots or genetic engineering . In many of his works he used satire and humorous means, often clandestinely exposing human superiority based on belief in technology and science as hubris . Some of his works also have somber and pessimistic traits about the long-term survivability of humanity. He often addressed attempts to communicate by people with extraterrestrial intelligences , which he processed as a major failure in one of his most famous novels, Solaris .

In the 2000s, the multi-faceted Lem became a critic of the Internet and the information society , which he had partially predicted , because these turned users into “information nomads” who would only “ hop incoherently from stimulus to stimulus”. The general increase in technical performance is "paradoxically associated with a decline in people's imagination and intelligence."


The house on Bohdan Łepki Street in Lviv where Lem, according to his autobiography, spent his childhood.

Stanisław Lem was born into a Polish-Jewish family of doctors; his father, Samuel Lem, was an ear, nose and throat doctor ; the satirist Marian Hemar was his cousin .

Lem had a sheltered childhood. From 1940 until the occupation of Lviv by German troops in 1941, he studied medicine at the University of Lemberg . His studies were interrupted by the Second World War. Lem was able to cover up his Jewish origins with forged papers ; most of his family died in the Holocaust .

"I used Hitler to realize that I was Jewish."

During the war he worked as an assistant mechanic and welder for a German company that reconditioned old material. He helped the resistance against the German occupation forces. When Poland was liberated from the Nazis by the Red Army towards the end of the war and the country came under the influence of the Soviet Union , he continued his studies in Lviv. In 1945, after his hometown fell to the Soviet Union, he had to move to Krakow .

At the Jagiellonian University in Krakow he began his medical studies for the third time. Here he worked between 1948 and 1950 at the Naukoznawcze Conservatory as a research assistant to Mieczysław Choynowski on problems in applied psychology . At the same time he met the editor of Tygodnik Powszechny Jerzy Turowicz know, who became a formative figure next to Choynowski. Wisława Szymborska also belonged to his circle of friends at the time . During this time he made his first literary attempts and began writing stories in his spare time, including the plays Jacht "Paradise" (with his friend Roman Husarski) and Korzenie, which was only found after Lem's death and published in 2009 . Drrama wieloaktowe , an anti-Stalinist satire. In 1948 he wrote his first novel Szpital Przemienienia (Eng. The errors of Dr. Stefan T. ), which could only be published eight years later due to the censorship. It was also during this time that he met his future wife Barbara Leśniak - a radiologist - whom he married in 1953.

Lem received the certificate of having completed his studies in full. However, in his last exam he refused to give answers in the sense of Lyssenkoism because he refused it. This refusal enabled him to avoid being a military doctor because the examiners failed him.

"The army took all of my friends, not for a year or two, but forever."

However, since he could not practice as a doctor because of this, he worked in research and turned more and more to writing.

Lem was polyglot : he spoke Polish , Latin (from medical school), German , French , English , Russian and Ukrainian . Lem claimed that his IQ was tested at school when he was 180.

Lem was married to Barbara Lem, nee Leśniak, until his death. She died on April 27, 2016. Her only son, Tomasz, was born in 1968. He studied physics and mathematics at the University of Vienna and graduated from Princeton University with a degree in physics . Tomasz wrote memoirs about his father, Awantury na tle powszechnego ciążenia , which contain numerous personal details about Stanisław Lem. The book cover says that Tomasz Lem works as a translator and has a daughter, Anna.

Starting in 1984, Lem's writing pattern consisted of getting up just before five in the morning and starting to write soon after, for five or six hours before taking a break.

Lem was an aggressive driver. He loved sweets (especially halva and chocolate-covered marzipan ) and didn't give up on them even when he developed diabetes towards the end of his life . He quit smoking in the mid-1980s due to health problems.

Lem's grave in the Salwator Cemetery in Krakow

Stanisław Lem died on March 27, 2006 at the age of 84 from heart disease in the hospital of the Jagiellonian University Medical School in Krakow . He was buried in the Salwator Cemetery, Sector W, Row 4, Grave 17 (Polish: cmentarz Salwatorski, Sektor W, rząd 4, grób 17). On the grave slab it says:


to German: I did what I could. May better ones do what they can.

Literary work

Compilation of the Polish first editions of Lem's works.
Part of the editions of Solaris , one of Lem's most famous novels, which has been translated into 31 languages. From below: Polish, Russian, English, German, Italian, Spanish, Hungarian, Turkish, Bulgarian, Finnish, Czech.

In 1951 his first novel Astronauci (Eng. The Planet of Death , also known as The Astronauts ) was published. His first written novel Der Mensch vom Mars from 1946 appeared in book form only in 1989. He made his first literary breakthrough in 1956 with the publication of Obłok Magellana (Eng. Guest in Space ). In the following years he wrote his most important science fiction novels, including Star Diaries , Eden , Solaris , Kyberiade . At the beginning of the 1960s his most important non-fictional work, Summa technologiae , was created, the content of which he discussed publicly with Leszek Kołakowski (until he had to leave the country in 1968).

In 1982, after martial law had been imposed in Poland , Stanisław Lem left his home country temporarily and worked at the Wissenschaftskolleg in West Berlin . A year later he went to Vienna, where his son Tomasz attended the American International School . In Berlin and Vienna, Lem wrote his last novel, Der Schnupfen , Der Flop und Fiasko , among others . During this time his health deteriorated significantly; Among other things, a benign prostate tumor that had been operated on in Poland a few years earlier reappeared. Lem did not return to Poland until 1988 in the course of the political changes.

His closest friends included Jan Józef Szczepański , Jan Błoński , Sławomir Mrożek and Jerzy Wróblewski, and later also Władysław Bartoszewski ; He also had a close relationship with his English translator Michael Kandel and his representatives in Austria ( Franz Rottensteiner ), West Germany ( Wolfgang Thadewald ) and Lithuania ( Virgilijus Juozas Čepaitis ). He corresponded regularly and extensively with all of these people. He personally knew Wisława Szymborska and Karol Wojtyła, among others .

Stanisław Lem was a member of the Polish Writers' Union , the PEN Club and, since 1972, the Poland 2000 Committee , which is under the aegis of the Polish Academy of Sciences . Since 1994 he was a member of the PAU ( Polska Akademia Umiejętności , German: "Polish Academy of Learning").

Through his utopian works, Lem earned the reputation of being one of the greatest writers in the history of SF literature. His short stories, novels and essays are characterized in particular by an exuberant wealth of ideas and imaginative linguistic creations, whereby the criticism of the feasibility and the understanding of the technical development in the context of philosophical discourses is always a central component of his works.

“Publishers who locked me in a drawer labeled science fiction did so mainly for mercantile and commercial reasons, for I was a homely and do-it-yourself philosopher who tried to anticipate the future technical works of human civilization, to the limit of the term horizon mentioned by me. "

- Lem in Risky Concepts

Lem's (self) ironic attitude to the science fiction genre is made clear in the opening sentence of the short story “Pirx told” , in which the first-person narrator says: “Utopian books? Yes, I like them, but only bad ones. "

Stanisław Lem's books have so far been translated into 57 languages ​​and have a circulation of more than 45 million. Lem died after a long illness on March 27, 2006 in a clinic in Krakow at the age of 84 years of heart failure. His grave is in Cracow in the Salwator cemetery in Plot W. At Lem's request, the inscription “Feci, quod potui, faciant meliora potentes” (Eng. “I did what I could, they like it better”) is on the tombstone who are able to do so. ").

Lem named Fyodor Michailowitsch Dostojewski , Rainer Maria Rilke , Franz Kafka and the brothers Arkadi and Boris Strugazki as his favorite writers . In the 1970s he initiated a series of publications translated into Polish SF classics at Wydawnictwo Literackie ( Stanisław Lem poleca , Ger . Stanisław Lem recommends ), including Ursula K. Le Guin and Philip K. Dick . He corresponded with the latter during this time - Dick's mental illness led him to write a complaint to the FBI against Lem (whom he believed to be a secret organization LEM ) . Lem's 1976 honorary membership in the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America was also temporarily withdrawn at Dick's instigation .

Selected figures from Lem's works

Mural in Krakow in memory of Lem.

Ijon Tichy

One of the main characters in Lem's work is Ijon Tichy (derived from Cichy, Polish for: "The Silence"). He is the main character in the star diaries and several other novels ( The futurological congress , Lokaltermin and peace on earth or the flop ). He is a kind of space Münchhausen who experiences crazy adventures on strange worlds. In connection with Tichy, his friend Professor Tarantoga also appears in some stories. Among other things, it is he who sends Tichy to the Futurological Congress.


The pilot Pirx appears in a group of short stories (among others Test, Die Jagd und Terminus, collected in Pilot Pirx ) and in the novel Fiasko . He represents a rather serious figure, but also has some amusing experiences for the reader. Pirx is killed at the latest in Fiasko, one of Lem's last novels - although the reader does not know with certainty whether it is he who is being resuscitated, or Parvis, another pilot who also had an accident in Birnham's forest on Titan .

Trurl and Klapauzius

In the Kyberiad - a collection of short stories - these two robotic beings appear as constructors. Lem consciously builds up a humorous mood with fairytale undertones in order to be able to play through his thought experiments free of technical and physical restrictions. Trurl and Klapauzius, for example, save the universe after almost destroying it with one of their inventions. You end wars and create new worlds .

Film adaptations

  • In 1960, Lems novel Planet des Todes (1954 ) was filmed in the GDR by DEFA under the title The Silent Star (director: Kurt Maetzig ); in the Federal Republic of Germany the film was shown later when the spaceship Venus does not answer .
  • The 1963 Czechoslovakian film Ikarie XB 1 (director: Jindrich Polák ) is based on Lem's novel Gast im Weltraum (1956), but does not name the author in the credits.
  • Based on Lem's short story Czy pan istnieje, Mr Jones? Andrzej Wajda shot the 36-minute television film Przekładaniec ( German  roll cake ) in 1968, the script of which Lem himself was involved in, making this film one of the few Lem adaptations with which the In retrospect, the author was satisfied.
  • 1973 came a Hungarian television series called Pirx kalandjai (directed by István Kazán and András Rajnai) on a total of five episodes.
  • In 1978 the story The Negotiation provided the basis for the Polish-Soviet joint production Test pilota Pirxa ( German  The test flight of the pilot Pirx , also test flight to Saturn ) directed by Marek Piestrak .
  • Lem's novel Solaris (1961) has been filmed three times to date: first in 1968 by Boris Nirenburg ( Solaris (1968) ), then in 1971 by Andrei Tarkowski ( Solaris (1972) ) and most recently in 2002 by Steven Soderbergh ( Solaris (2002) ). Lem himself disliked the latter two films, and his opinion on Nirenburg's film adaptation is unknown.
  • 1978/79 two different television plays were made almost simultaneously on both sides of the inner-German border based on the same model, one in 1978 for ZDF , the second the following year for GDR television: The Strange Encounters of Prof. Tarantoga (Director: Chuck Kerremans , with Richard Münch and Peter Striebeck , 100 minutes) were broadcast on ZDF in 1978, his GDR counterpart Professor Tarantoga and his strange guest (director: Jens-Peter Proll , with Eberhard Esche and Volkmar Kleinert , 59 minutes) on GDR television in 1979.
  • In 1992, BR and SWF produced the literary film narrative The Invisible Friend based on Lem's story Der Freund (director: Ray Müller , with Josef Bierbichler , Andreas Giebel and Volkmar Kleinert , 77 minutes).
  • Based on Lem's story collection The Star Diaries around the pilot Ijon Tichy in 2007 and 2011 for the ZDF the episodes of the TV series Ijon Tichy: Space Pilot - The Star Diaries (directed by Dennis Jacobsen , Randa Chahoud , Oliver Jahn ) realized.
  • The Futurama episode Planet of Robots is similar to a story from the star diaries. The holophonor as a musical instrument described in Futurama also corresponds to the genetophor instrument depicted by Lem in his novel The Guest in Space (basically identical functionality, only difference: Lem is a keyboard instrument and Futurama a wind instrument).
  • In 2013, the film was The Congress of Ari Folman on the film festival in Cannes shown. The partially animated action drama was inspired by Stanisław Lem's The Futurological Congress , although the plot differs greatly from the original. The film was praised by the Lem family and Polish Lem connoisseurs.


The Polish research satellite Lem from 2013.

In 2013, the Polish research satellite Lem, named after him, was transported into orbit with a Russian-Ukrainian Dnepr launcher as part of the international BRITE project .

The Polish Sejm declared 2021 to be Stanisław Lem year. The dedication is divided between Lem, Stefan Wyszyński , Cyprian Norwid , Krzysztof Kamil Baczyński , Tadeusz Różewicz , and the constitution of May 3rd . In the same year, the first Lem video game , The Invincible , is to appear.

The Komet Lem Festival took place in Darmstadt from October 2016 to March 2017 . The festival, organized by the Philosophical Institute of the TU Darmstadt , the German Poland Institute and the State Theater , was dedicated to Stanisław Lem with various events such as readings, plays and films, and musical interpretations of Lem's works were also performed. The exhibition Lem's animal life after Mróz consisted of drawings by the illustrator Daniel Mróz about Lem's worlds.


Stanisław Lem at a book signing in Krakow in October 2005.
Lem monument in Kielce, Poland .


The years indicate the date of first publication. Due to the political situation in Poland at the time, some of Stanisław Lem's works were initially only published in translation. There are two German translations (and often title translations) for a number of works, one in the GDR ( people and world ) and one in the Federal Republic of Germany ( Suhrkamp or Insel Verlag ).


Science fiction

Short stories (selection)

Fictional reviews and forewords

German compilations

  • Test (Stories) (1968)
  • The hunt. New stories from the pilot Pirx. Translated from Polish by Roswitha Buschmann, Kurt Kelm and Barbara Sparing , Volk und Welt Verlag, Berlin 1972.
  • The Faithful Robot (TV Drama ) (1975)
  • Mondnacht (radio and television plays) (1977)
  • The cold / test (GDR 1977)
  • The Invincible / The Hunt (GDR 1977)
  • Eden / The Mask (GDR 1977)
  • The Trap of Gargancjan (Stories) (1979)
  • Stories (1980)
  • The Fantastic Tales of Stanislaw Lem (1980)
  • More fantastic stories by Stanislaw Lem (1981)
  • Terminus (short stories) (1981)
  • The Rat in the Labyrinth (Stories) (1982)
  • Provocations (Fictional Reviews) (1988)
  • Mistakes (Tales from before 1947) (1989)
  • Technology and Ethics (Reader) (1990)
  • The discovery of virtuality (1996)


  • Yacht “Paradise”. Sztuka w czterech aktach , 1951 (together with Roman Hussarski) - play
  • Szpital przemienienia , 1955 ( Ger . Die Irrungen des Dr. Stefan T. , 1959, The Hospital of the Transfiguration (1st part of "Die Irrungen ...")) - development novel by a young doctor in pre- and post-war Poland; originally published as the trilogy Czas nieutracony with the three volumes Szpital przemienienia , Wśród umarłych and Powrót
  • Śledztwo , 1959 ( Eng . The Investigation , 1975) - detective novel
  • Wysoki Zamek , 1968 (Eng. The High Castle , 1974) - covers the childhood of Stanisław Lem (autobiographical)
  • Qatar , 1976 (dt. The sniffles , 1977) - detective story, with the 1979 Grand Prix de littérature policière awarded
  • Preface in retrospect , 1983 (German, in: Hennings / Müller / Vowe / Wersig (ed.) Information and communication structures of the future - workshop with Stanislaw Lem , Munich 1983, with contributions by Dietrich Dörner , Herbert W. Franke , Wolfgang Giloi , Winfried Göpfert , Helmut Krauch , Thomas von Randow , Franz Rottensteiner , Thomas Trautner and others), ISBN 3-7705-2199-4
  • Stanisław Lem - Listy albo opór materii , 2002 ( Eng . The Resistance of Matter: Selected Letters . Ed. By Robert F. Barkowski . Parthas Verlag, Berlin 2008, ISBN 978-3-86601-475-6 ) - Collection of letters
  • Sknocony kryminał , 2009 ( Eng . Versauter Krimi ) - detective novel (published posthumously, unfinished, written at the end of the 1950s)
  • Stanisław Lem, Sławomir Mrożek Listy , 2011 (Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2011, ISBN 978-83-08-04730-9 ) - a collection of letters between Lem and his friend Sławomir Mrożek
  • Sława i fortuna. Listy Stanisława Lema do Michaela Kandla 1972–1987 (lit .: fame and happiness. Stanislaw Lem's letters to Michael Kandel 1972–1987 ), 2013 (Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2013, ISBN 978-83-08-04934-1 ) - collection of Letters to Michael Kandel, the translator of Lem's works into English

Radio play adaptations


Literature on Lem and his work


  • Holger Arndt: Stanislaw Lem's forecast of the end of the epoch: the threat to human culture from science, technology and dogmatism. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 2001, ISBN 3-534-15139-9 .
  • Werner Berthel (ed.): Stanislaw Lem: The dialectical sage from Kraków: work and effect . Insel, Frankfurt a. M. 1976.
  • Werner Berthel (Ed.): About Stanislaw Lem . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1981, ISBN 3-518-37086-3 .
  • Stanislaw Lem, Stanislaw Bereś : Lem on Lem. Conversations . Insel, Frankfurt / M. 1986, ISBN 3-458-14511-7 .
  • Michael Düring, Ulrike Jekutsch (eds.): Stanisław Lem - man, thinker, writer. Contributions to a German-Polish conference in Greifswald and Szczecin in 2000. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 2005, ISBN 3-447-05147-7 .
  • Bartholomäus Figatowski: Between Utopian Idea and Reality: Kurd Laßwitz and Stanislaw Lem as representatives of Central European science fiction. Wetzlar 2004.
  • Alfred Gall : Stanisław Lem. Life in the future . Darmstadt 2021, ISBN 978-3-8062-4248-5 .
  • Bernd Gräfrath : Heretics, amateurs and geniuses. Crossing the border in philosophy. Junius, Hamburg 1993, ISBN 3-88506-227-5 .
  • Bernd Gräfrath: Lems Golem: Parerga and Paralipomena. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1996, ISBN 3-518-39027-9 .
  • Bernd Gräfrath: It is not easy to be a god. Ethics for world creators from Leibniz to Lem. Beck, Munich 1998, ISBN 3-406-42065-6 .
  • Jerzy Jarzębski: Chance and order. About the work of Stanislaw Lem . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt / M. 1986, ISBN 3-518-37790-6 .
  • Tomasz Lem: Zoff about gravity: Or: My father, Stanisław Lem . Harrassowitz Verlag, Wiesbaden, 2021, ISBN 978-3-447-11622-0 .
  • Florian Marzin: Stanislaw Lem: At the limits of science fiction and beyond . Corian-Verlag Wimmer, Meitingen 1985, ISBN 3-89048-208-2 .
  • Jurij Murasov, Sylwia Werner (Ed.): Science or Fiction? Stanisław Lem's Philosophy of Technology and Science , Paderborn: Fink 2017.
  • Wojciech Orliński: Lem: Życie nie z tej ziemi. Agora / Czarne, Warszawa / Sękowa 2017, ISBN 978-83-8049-552-4 .
  • Jacek Rzeszotnik: A cerebral writer and philosopher named Lem. For the reconstruction of Stanislaw Lem's author and work image in the German-speaking area on the basis of case studies. Wrocław University Press , Wrocław 2003, ISBN 83-229-2378-3 .
  • Jacek Rzeszotnik (Ed.): One Century Lem (1921/2021) . Neisse Verlag, Dresden 2021. ISBN 978-3-86276-314-6 .
  • Peter Swirski: A Stanislaw Lem Reader. Northwestern University Press, Evanston, IL. 1997. ISBN 0-8101-1495-X .
  • Zygmunt Tęcza: The word game in translation. Stanislaw Lem's games with the word as the subject of interlingual transfers. Linguistic work, vol. 367, Max Niemeyer Verlag, Tübingen 1997, ISBN 3-484-30367-0 .






  • Andrzej Klamt. Stanislaw Lem. The fairy tale of the future. ZDF / 3sat , Germany 2015.
  • Borys Lankosz: Stanisław Lem. The literary cosmonaut . Arte / TVP , Poland 2015.

Web links

Commons : Stanisław Lem  - collection of images

Individual evidence

  1. Joscha Remus: Visionary without illusions. Die Zeit, July 28, 2005
  3. On the basis of ambiguous statements by Lem, many sources state 1946 as the year of the move; however, according to Lem biographer Orliński, the move took place as early as 1945.
  4. ^ Tomasz Lem: Stanisław Lem - The Official Site. Factories. In: 2016, accessed March 22, 2017 .
  5. Tomasz Lem, Awantury na tle powszechnego ciążenia , Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie , 2009, ISBN 978-83-08-04379-0 , p. 198.
  6. ^ John Wilson: Stanislaw Lem 1921-2006, in the Washington Examiner . April 10, 2006.
  7. ^ "Barbara Lem" , a necrology in Gazeta Literacka (accessed June 30, 2021).
  8. "Lem jakiego never Znamy" , the editor for the paper note Awantury na tle powszechnego ciążenia Tomasz Lem.
  9. ^ Stanislaw Lem: Chance and Order in The New Yorker, Volume 59, pp. 88-98 . January 30, 1984.
  10. ^ Janusz R. Kowalczyk: The Many Masks & Faces of Stanisław Lem . In: . 5th October 2016.
  11. Jerzy Jarzębski: Lem, Stanisław ( pl ) 'PWN. Retrieved October 30, 2014.
  12. Grób Stanisława Lema , Dziennik Polski
  13. ^ Solaris Bibliography. In: Retrieved August 19, 2021 .
  14. See Franz Rottensteiner: An interview with Jonathan Carroll. In: Quarber Merkur No. 68, Bremerhaven 1987, pp. 51-58.
  15. See Die Jagd , Berlin 1972, p. 119
  16. Visionary without illusions, Die Zeit
  17. ^ "[...] Przekładaniec Wajdy z Kobielą w roli głównej, zupełnie mnie satysfakcjonuje. [...] "; Stanislaw Bereś; Tako Rzecze… Lem: Ze Stanisławem Lemem Rozmawia Stanisław Bereś ; Wydawnictwo Literackie, Kraków 2002, ISBN 83-08-03245-1
  18. Pirx kalandjai at , accessed November 25, 2015
  19. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung , February 19, 2003, No. 42, page 37.
  21. Article about the episode in the Futuramapedia . The Futurama co-producer names Lem as one of his role models: FUTURAMA The post-futuristic hitchhiker's Guide to Society ( Memento from February 1, 2015 in the Internet Archive )
  22. Dlaczego "Kongres" według Lema spodobał się Lemom? on (accessed September 12, 2013).
  23. The year 2021 will belong to Lem. In: Adam Mickiewicz University Press. June 24, 2020, accessed December 29, 2020 .
  24. ^ Marcel Kleffmann: The Invincible. Sci-fi thriller based on the book by Stanislaw Lem announced. In: 4Players. September 15, 2020, accessed December 29, 2020 .
  25. ^ Festival "Komet Lem". In: German Poland Institute , October 19, 2016, accessed on August 19, 2021 .
  26. ^ Exhibition "Lem's animal life after Mróz". In: German Poland Institute , January 29, 2017, accessed on August 19, 2021 .
  27. Source: Stanislav Lem: Unclean interface man / machine , in: Maar, Pöppel, Christaller (ed.): Technology on the way to the soul. Research at the brain / computer interface , Reinbek 1996, pp. 30–58.
  28. Professor Tarantoga's office hours - audio CD. ISBN 3-89584-172-2