Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Angus Parvis

Angus Parvis, a spaceship pilot. Twenty-nine years old, slight, and fair-haired, Parvis arrives in confusion on Titan, a moon of Saturn, with a load of mining equipment. He discovers that his friend and teacher, Pirx, has become lost on a mission between two bases. Going out to rescue him, Parvis also becomes lost. He attempts to save himself from death by instantaneous freezing.

Mark Tempe

Mark Tempe, a spaceship pilot. Tempe may be either Angus Parvis or Pirx. He was found on Titan one hundred years after he was frozen, his body repaired and restored to life aboard the Euridyce, an interstellar ship bound for Quinta. The ship’s mission is to contact the only intelligent beings that have detected in the universe since humanity began searching with radio telescopes. After his restoration, he is assigned to help pilot the exploratory vessel that is to land on Quinta. When the mission becomes increasingly violent in the face of the Quintans’ apparent lack of interest in communication, Tempe joins forces with Father Arago to urge forms of peaceful contact. He is the only human to land on the planet. Continued misunderstandings lead to his being destroyed by his own superiors when he fails to stay on a schedule of radio contacts.

Father R. P. Arago

Father R. P. Arago, a Dominican monk. He is elderly, with almost white hair, but tall, lean, and sinewy, and of dark...

(The entire section is 557 words.)

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: World Fiction)

As in most of Lem’s works, characters are not very important in Fiasco. Lem does not create characters and relationships that lead the reader to be concerned about their fates. Instead, characters are mainly voices for ideas and approaches to problems.

Fiasco is a realistic look at the romantic desire for contact with alien civilizations. Lem plays upon this desire, tantalizing the reader with a few suggestive details about the Quintans but never allowing the quantity of information that might make understanding possible. The typical reader is likely to identify most closely with Tempe, who tries to steer a middle course between Father Arago’s Christian approach to contact with aliens and the militaristic approach the crew actually follows. Having a romantic desire “to see the Quintans,” Tempe looks for a workable plan. Though he may finally see them, Tempe finds that merely seeing is not enough. He really wants communication. As Father Arago intimates, however, even if meaningful communication between the two worlds is possible—and there is significant doubt of this—it must be voluntary on both sides. Any other approach will fail.


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

On one level Fiasco attests to Lem's fascination with problems common to the entire human race. Long sections of the novel are given...

(The entire section is 706 words.)