Mankind has lost the ability to sleep

«- Kris, come here!

– You’re just in time. He takes a walk every morning for at least an hour. I forbade him to come back earlier. He’s had a lot of work, sometimes staying up all night. These Solarists! He reminds me of a bookkeeper, preparing his accounts. (…)

– It’s so pleasant here. This house reminds me of my grandfather’s house. I really liked it. So we decided to build one just like it. I don’t like innovation. (…)


“- On the 21st day of our expedition, radiobiologist Vishyakov and physicist Fechner went on an exploratory flight over the Solaris Ocean in a hydroplane. When they failed to return after 16 hours, we declared an emergency. The fog was thick and we were forced to call the search off. All of the rescue craft returned to the station except for the helicopter operated by Burton. Burton returned an hour after dark. Once out of the helicopter, he ran to his quarters. He was in a state of shock. This was highly unusual for a man with 11 years of experience flying in space. He recovered in a couple of days, but he would never leave the station and refused to approach the window overlooking the Ocean. Later he wrote to us from the clinic. He was preparing a statement of great importance, one that would decide the fate of Solaristics. Let’s hear what he has to say. (…)

– When I first descended below 300 meters, I had trouble maintaining altitude. There was a strong wind. All of my attention went towards operating the ship. I did not look out of the cabin. As a result, I wound up in a fog.

– Was it an ordinary fog?

– Of course not. It seemed to be colloidal and viscous. It coated all of the windows. Because of the fog’s resistance, I began to lose altitude. I couldn’t see the sun, but the fog glowed red in its direction. After half an hour I came out into a large, open space. It was almost round, a few hundred meters across. At that point, I noticed a change in the Ocean. The waves disappeared. The surface became almost transparent, with clouded patches. Yellow sludge gathered beneath it. It rose up in thin strips and sparkled like glass. Then it began to seethe, boil and harden. It looked like molasses. This sludge or slime gathered into large lumps and slowly formed different shapes. I was being drawn into the fog, so I had to struggle against this for some time. When I looked down again, I saw a sort of garden.

– A garden?

– Attention, please.

– I saw shrubs, hedges, acacia trees, little paths. Everything was made of the same substance. (…) Then everything began to crack and break. Yellow sludge poured out of the fissures. Everything began to boil even harder, and foam appeared. You can see for yourselves. I used a camera from time to time. Everything I saw before and after should be on film.

– Then I propose we interrupt these discussions and see everything with our own eyes. (…)

– But we don’t understand. You filmed clouds. Why did you film clouds?

– That must be the fog I told you about.

– I wasn’t expecting this.

– All of this could be the result of Solaris’ biomagnetic current acting on Burton’s consciousness. We now know the current is not only a gigantic cerebral system, but a substance capable of thought processes. (…) Burton’s statements appear to be the result of a hallucinatory complex brought on by the planet’s atmosphere, as well as symptoms of depression exacerbated by inflammation of the associative zone of the cerebral cortex. This report in no way, or in almost no way, corresponds with reality.

– What do you mean “almost”? (…)

– Professor Messenger offers a different opinion. He believes that Burton’s statements could be founded in reality and merit further study.

– I saw it all with my own eyes.

– I would like to offer another opinion. We stand on the brink of an enormous discovery. Our decision should not rely on the observations of a man without any scientific qualifications. Although any researcher may envy this pilot, his presence of mind, his gift of observation. Moreover, in light of recent information, we are morally obligated to continue the exploration.

– I can understand how Professor Messenger feels. I understand him. But let’s take a look at the road we’ve traveled. Solaristics is exactly where it began. Years of work have been in vain. Everything we now know about Solaris is negative and has come to resemble a mountain of disjointed, incoherent facts that strain credulity. We’re in exactly the same situation today. Solaristics is degenerating. But what we’re talking about is far more serious than just the study of Solaristics. We’re talking about the boundaries of human knowledge. Don’t you think that by establishing artificial barriers we deliver a blow to the idea of limitless thought? By limiting our movement forward, we facilitate moving backwards.

– I nevertheless repeat my question. What do you mean by saying the report of my observations in almost no way corresponds with reality? I saw everything with my own eyes. What do you mean by “almost”?

– “Almost no way” means that some real phenomena could have triggered your hallucinations, Burton. When it’s windy, it’s easy to confuse a swaying bush with a living being, especially in a foreign planet. I meant no offense, Burton. None.

– I’d like to know what impact Professor Messenger’s opinion will have.

– Practically none, which means that exploration in this area will be discontinued.

– Just a moment.

– Yes…

– I’d like to make a statement. The commission has not offended me, but it has offended the spirit of the expedition. Therefore, I consider it my duty to announce… (…)”

– Nowadays it’s considered good manners to laugh when Burton’s report is mentioned. (…) I’d like to speak to your son alone. I don’t want to look like an idiot in front of you yet again. I’ll wait for you outside by the swing.


– What a ridiculous man.

– You have no reason to say that.

– He’s ill at ease. He thinks he’s getting in the way of our farewell. He’s a tactful man. If he decided to come, it’s because he considers this important. Although, I admit, I’d rather not see anyone now. You and I rarely get a chance to talk.

– I’m glad to hear you say that. Even if it’s on the last day.

– The last day. One always feels awful after a big farewell.

– Here comes your aunt. Let’s meet after lunch. We need to talk.

– Why did you have to invite this Burton today of all days?

– Where are the guests going to sleep? Next to you, or in the room upstairs?

– Upstairs, I guess.

– Well, I’m off to my meeting by the swing.

– Maybe…

– Just a moment. You and your rooms can wait! Listen, Kris…


– What happened?

– What’s standing over there?

– What are you afraid of?

– In the garage, staring at me…

– It’s a horse.

– Don’t. I’ve seen it already.

– Come on. He’s gentle. Look how beautiful he is.


– You understand, I think Solaristics has reached an impasse as a result of irresponsible daydreaming. I’m interested in the truth, but you want to turn me into a biased supporter. I don’t have the right to make decisions based on impulses of the heart. I’m not a poet. I have a concrete goal: either stop the research and remove the station from orbit, thereby legitimizing the Solaristics crisis, or take extreme measures. Perhaps bombard the Ocean with heavy radiation.

– Not that!

– Why not? Didn’t you say research should continue at any price?

– You want to destroy that which we are presently incapable of understanding? Forgive me, but I am not an advocate of knowledge at any price. Knowledge is only valid when it’s based on morality.

– Man is the one who renders science moral or immoral. Remember Hiroshima.

– Don’t make science immoral. It’s strange…

– Strange? There’s nothing strange about it. You yourself can’t be sure that what you saw wasn’t just hallucinations.

– Thank you very much. It seems there’s nothing more to discuss.

– What happened?

– I’m leaving.

– Where are you going?

– He’s an accountant, not a scientist. You were right.

– You and I are friends, but that doesn’t mean you can say that about him.

– Great. You and I have known each other for 20 years. It had to end someday.

– Are you leaving the boy?

– What did you have to offend him for? You’re too harsh. It’s dangerous to send people like you into space. Everything there is too fragile. Yes, fragile! The Earth has somehow become adjusted to people like you, although at what sacrifice! What, are you jealous that he’ll be the one to bury me, and not you?


– Thus, it had been established that the Solaris Ocean is a distinctive brain. Right after that, an even more daring hypothesis came out, suggesting that the Ocean is a thinking substance. Incidentally, this hypothesis still cannot be confirmed or refuted.

– It’s a program about Solaris.

– There are few believers left. First of all, there are those connected to the fate of the Solaris station. On this huge station built to house 85 people there is now a crew of three. They are: astrobiologist Sartorius, cyberneticist Snaut, and physiologist Gibarian, who deal with the problem…

– I’m calling from the city. Burton.

– Anna, leave for a minute. We need to talk.

– I didn’t talk to Kris about what was most important: about Messenger, who voiced a different opinion at that meeting. He became very interested in Fechner, who died in the Solaris Ocean. It turns out that Fechner
has an orphaned son. He had left his family. Messenger and I paid a visit to Fechner’s widow, and I saw this boy with my own eyes.

– You never told me about that.

– I never got the chance.

– Fine. Go on.

– This child was identical to the one I saw on Solaris. Of course, he wasn’t four meters tall. He shouldn’t think about this too much before lift off, but he should keep it in mind.


– There’s no point in keeping these papers. The ones to hold on to are in my room. My research notes, my thesis… I wonder why I kept these.

– If something happens, I’ll find someone to take care of them. I’ll come up with something.

– Don’t look for that film. I’m taking it with me. (…)


– Ready, Kelvin?

– Ready, Moddard.

– Don’t worry about a thing. Have a great trip. Send our regards.

– When is the lift-off?

– You’re already flying, Kris! Take care.

– Solaris station! Do something! I’m losing stability. This is Kelvin, over. Hey, where is everyone? You’ve got guests.

– Dr. Snaut? Snaut? I’m Kelvin, the psychologist. It looks like you weren’t expecting me. Did you receive the radiogram?

– Yes, of course.

– What’s with you?

– Forgive me.

– Where’s Gibarian? Where’s Sartorius?

– Sartorius is in his quarters. Gibarian is dead.

– What do you mean “dead”?

– Suicide.

– I beg your pardon? I knew Gibarian and he would never have…

– He was almost always in a state of deep depression ever since these disturbances began…

– Why don’t you go rest, take a bath? Take any room and come back in an hour.

– I would like to see Gibarian, I mean, Sartorius.

– Later. I doubt he’d see you now. He’s upstairs, in the laboratory.

– Listen, Snaut, I understand that something extraordinary has happened and maybe…

– Dr. Kelvin… You understand… Come back in an hour. Please. Go and rest. Listen, there are only three of us: you, me and Sartorius. You know us from our photographs. If you see something out of the ordinary, something besides me and Sartorius, try not to lose your head.

– What would I see? I don’t know. That sort of depends on you.

– Hallucinations? No. Just remember.

– Remember what?

– That we’re not on Earth.

– You know, it would be better if you came back in the evening, or at night. No, let’s make it tomorrow morning.




– Hi, Kris. I still have a little time left. There are some things I must tell you, and some things I must warn you about. By now you’re at the station and know what happened to me. If not, Snaut or Sartorius will tell you. What happened to me… is not important. Or rather, it cannot be explained. I’m afraid that what happened to me is only the beginning. I wouldn’t, of course, want it to happen… but this could happen to you and the others. Here, it could probably happen to anyone. Just don’t think that I’ve lost my mind. I’m of sound mind, Kris. Believe me. After all, you know me. If I have enough time, I’lI tell you why I did everything. I’m telling you this so that, if it does happen to you, you’ll know it’s not madness. That’s the most important thing. As for continuing research, I’m leaning towards Sartorius’ proposal, subjecting the Ocean’s plasma to heavy radiation. I know it’s prohibited, but there’s no other choice. We… You will get mired in it. It may offer a way of breaking this deadlock. This is our only chance to make contact with this monster. There is no other choice, Kris. If…


– Dr. Sartorius, I am Kelvin. I arrived two hours ago. Listen, this is ridiculous. Either open up or I’ll break down the door.

– All right, I’ll open the door, but don’t come in. I’ll come out.

– Fine.

– My name is Kelvin.

– Go on.

– You must have heard of me. I work, or worked, with Gibarian.

– Go on.

– Snaut told me about Gibarian.

– Then you already know the story.

– Yes, it’s horrible. I don’t know the details, but he’s dead.

– That’s not the problem. We all die. But he insisted on being buried on Earth. Is space really such a bad grave for him? But Gibarian wanted to be in the ground, with the worms. I wanted to disregard it, but Snaut insisted.

– Have you ever heard of Burton?

– He was the pilot who…

– Yes, he was in the search party for Fechner.

– Fechner died a magnificent death, but Gibarian was a coward.

– There’s no point talking badly of him now.

– It’s at least worth talking about duty.

– Duty to whom?

– To truth.

– You mean to people.

– You won’t find truth there. Look.

– Your position is absurd. Your so-called courage is inhuman! You hear me?

– Go away. You’re too impressionable. You must get used to everything. Good day.


– I spoke to Sartorius. He’s a rotten person.

– He’s a very talented scientist.

– I think I’m a little sick.

– There’s nothing wrong with you. You just won’t take advice.

– Snaut, aside from the three of us, is there anyone else on the station?

– Did you see someone?

– What were you warning me about?

– Whom did you see?

– Was it a human being? Is she real? Can she be touched? Wounded? You saw her today.

– And you? Who the hell are you?

– Quiet. Where did she come from?

– Leave me alone.

– You’re afraid. Don’t worry. I won’t think you’re insane.

– Insane? God, you know absolutely nothing! Insane… That would be a blessing.

– Listen, Snaut…


– It’s all so senseless. They won’t understand me. They think I’ve gone crazy. Do you see, Kris, how it’s not entirely absurd? I have to do this because I’m afraid they’ll come in here. I mean Snaut and Sartorius. They themselves don’t understand what they’re doing. I’m afraid, Kris… I can’t… Nobody will be able to understand.

– Open up! You hear, Gibarian? Open up! Don’t be stupid. It’s just us – Snaut and Sartorius. We want to help you.

– They want to help me. Just a second. Quit knocking. I am my own judge. Have you seen her? Kris, understand that this is not madness. It has something to do with conscience. I really wanted you to get here in time, Kris.


– So you had guests? Well, I see you took good care of them. It’s nothing. You won’t die from it. Did you at least start out modestly? Narcotics, poisons, barbiturates, eh?

– If you plan to clown around, you might as well leave.

– Sometimes you become a clown without wanting to.

– Don’t tell me you haven’t tried a rope or a hammer. Did you happen to throw the inkwell like Luther? No? So, one, two, and into the rocket, and that was that. Next time, don’t panic. And push the button from the corridor. You could get burned. (…) What you saw was the materialization of your conception of her. (…) Everything began after we started experimenting with radiation. We hit the Ocean’s surface with strong X-ray beams. But it… Incidentally, consider yourself lucky. After all, she’s a part of your past. What if it had been something you had never seen before, but something you had thought or imagined?

– I don’t understand.

– Evidently the Ocean responded to our heavy radiation with something else. It probed our minds and extracted something like islands of memory.

– Will she come back? She will… and she won’t.

– Hari the Second.

– There may be an endless number of them. (…)

– There’s talk about liquidating the station. That’s why I was sent here. If I submit a report, will you sign it?

– And what if we suddenly make that long-awaited contact?

– Night is the best time here. It somehow reminds me of Earth.

– Attach strips of paper to the air vents. At night it sounds like the rustling of leaves. It was Gibarian’s invention. So simple, like all genius. I adopted it right away. Sartorius made fun of us, but he has one in his room. He hides it in the closet. (…)

– Hari! The door opens the other way. (…)

– Kris, what’s wrong with me? Maybe it’s epilepsy?

– This is my wife. (…)

– So, as far as I can tell, they are constructed…

– Let’s just call them “guests.”

– Fine. While our structure is made of atoms, theirs consists of neutrinos. But neutrino systems are unstable. They seem to be stabilized by Solaris’ force field.

– You’ve got a superb specimen.

– That’s my wife.

– Wonderful. Perfect. Then take a blood sample from your wife.

– Why?

– It’ll sober you up a bit. (…)

– I burned the blood with acid, but it’s restoring itself.

– Regeneration? In essence, immortality – Faust’s problem. Excuse me. There’s no need for cotton. Are you qualified to perform an autopsy?

– I’ve already told you – she’s my wife. Don’t you understand?

– I think these experiments are more human than testing on rabbits. Don’t you agree?

– It doesn’t matter. It would be like cutting my own leg off. Did you feel pain when you broke through the door?

– Pain? Of course.

– So, if I ever catch you doing anything…

– You’re lucky.

– How so?

– It’s meaningless, yet you’ve managed to establish emotional contact with them. It may be pleasant…

– What are you, jealous?

– Maybe I’m jealous.

– No, you’re not jealous. After all, you’re not guilty of anything.

– Of course.

– But I am guilty.

– Of what?

– When you turn into an utter cripple with no arms or legs, call us. We’ll empty your chamber pot.

– But whom have you wronged?

– You, among others. (…)

– Listen… I don’t know myself at all. I don’t remember. When I close my eyes, I can’t recall my face. And you?

– What?

– Do you know yourself?

– Like all humans.

– That woman in the white coat hated me.

– Don’t make things up. She died before you and I met.

– I don’t understand why you’re deceiving me. I remember perfectly. We drank tea and she kicked me out. Naturally, I stood up and left. I remember perfectly. What happened after that?

– After that, I went away, and we never saw each other again.

– Where did you go?

– To a different city.

– Why?

– I was transferred.

– Why did you leave without me?

– You didn’t want to come.

– That I remember. (…)

– What happened?

– The regeneration is slowing down. For two or three hours we can be free of them.

– You came in the middle of the night to tell me that?

– I’ll tell you why I came. Sartorius and I were thinking: If the Ocean derives guests from us while we dream, maybe it makes sense to transmit our waking thoughts to it.

– How?

– With beams of radiation.

– Perhaps it will understand and spare us from all these apparitions.

– Again these ridiculous X-ray sermons about the greatness of science?

– We’ll modulate the beam with the brain waves of one of us.

– And “one of us” means me, of course. An encephalogram! A transcription of all my thoughts! What if I suddenly want her to die? To disappear! Entrust everything to that… that mass of jelly? It’s already invaded my soul.

– Kris, we’re running out of time. Sartorius has proposed another project: the annihilator. Self-destruction of the neutrino systems.

– What is this? Blackmail?

– I convinced him to start with the encephalogram. (…)

– Don’t shout. She sleeping.

– Sleeping? She’s already learned how to sleep? (…)

– Get some sleep.

– I don’t know how to sleep. It’s not sleep. It’s somehow around me. It’s as if it weren’t just inside of me, but much farther away.

– It’s probably still sleep. (…)

– “They come at night. But one must sleep sometime.”

– That’s the problem. Mankind has lost the ability to sleep. (…)

“I know only one thing, señor. When I sleep, I know no fear, no hope, no trouble, no bliss. Blessings on him who invented sleep. The common coin that purchases all things, the balance that levels shepherd and king, fool and wise man. There is only one bad thing about sound sleep. They say it closely resembles death.” (…)

– Science? Nonsense. In this situation, mediocrity and genius are equally useless. We have no interest in conquering any cosmos. We want to extend the Earth to the borders of the cosmos. We don’t know what to do with other worlds. We don’t need other worlds. We need a mirror. (…)

– I think that Kris Kelvin is more consistent than both of you. In inhuman conditions, he has behaved humanely. And you act as if none of this concerns you, and consider your guests – it seems that’s what you call us – something external, a hindrance. But it’s a part of you. It’s your conscience. (…)

– You’re not a woman and you’re not a human being. (…) You’re just a reproduction, a mechanical reproduction. A copy. A matrix.

– Yes. Maybe. But I… am becoming a human being. I can feel just as deeply as you. Believe me. I can already get by without him. I… love him. I am a human being. (…)

– Doesn’t a man who’s ready to give up his life just to make cursed contact in order to know more about it have the right to get drunk? (…)

– I’m going to see Faust. In the laboratory, our Faust – Sartorius – is seeking a remedy for immortality. (…)

– The station is changing its orbit. At 5 a.m. there will be 30 seconds of weightlessness. Don’t forget. (…)

– The more she’s with you, the more human she’ll become.

– She will appear again and she’ll keep appearing. Don’t turn a scientific problem into a common love story. (…)

– I can never get used to all these resurrections. (…)

– What does it matter when you’re worth more to me than any science could ever be? (…)

– Gibarian didn’t die of fear. He died of shame. Shame – the feeling that will save mankind. (…)

– How… how did it…

– Annihilation… A burst of light and wind. (…)

– Things weren’t working out between us towards the end. Listen, Snaut. Why are we being tortured like this?

– In my opinion, we have lost our sense of the cosmic. The ancients understood it perfectly. They never would have asked why or what for. (…)

– Since we transmitted your encephalogram, none of the guests have come back. Something incomprehensible is starting to take place in the Ocean. Islands have begun to form on the surface. First one. Then the next day there were several more. (…)

– When man is happy, the meaning of life and other eternal themes rarely interest him. These questions should be asked at the end of one’s life.

– But we don’t know when life will end. That’s why we’re in such a hurry.

– Don’t rush. The happiest people are those who are not interested in these cursed questions.

– To ask is always the desire to know. Yet the preservation of simple human truths requires mystery. The mysteries of happiness, death and love.

– Maybe you’re right, but try not to think about all that now.

– To think about it is to know the day of one’s death. Not knowing that day makes us practically immortal.

– Anyway, my mission is finished. But what next? Return to Earth? Little by little, everything will return to normal. I’lI even find new interests and acquaintances. But I won’t be able to give myself to them fully. Never. Do I have the right to turn down even an imagined possibility of contact with this Ocean which my race has been trying to understand for decades? Should I remain here? Among things and objects we both touched? Which still bear the memory of our breath? What for? In the hope that she’ll return? But I don’t harbor this hope. The only thing left for me is to wait. I don’t know what for. New miracles? (…)

– You know, Kris… I think it’s time you returned to Earth.

– You think so?»

– Excerpts from the script of “Solaris” (1973) by Tarkovski.


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