I recall reading a story by (I think) Stanislaw Lem, about time travel. It was humorous and lightly absurdist, and included an explanation of witches' broomsticks, which he explained as being "time-cycles", looking like witches' broomsticks and making the sound of rattling chains. IIRC the narrator eventually banished all his (incompetent) staff to ancient Greece, where Harris Tottle became Aristotle, etc.

I ask because it might be relevant to a question about witches' broomsticks on worldbuilding.

I searched Lem's site without success.

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    I know it was one of the stories in Star Diaries.... I'll find it ASAP...
    – Yasskier
    Jan 30, 2016 at 0:49
  • For people who find this question when searching for stories about sending people back in time as a punishment, see also scifi.stackexchange.com/q/80267/4918 "A short story where criminals are sent back in time as punishment?"
    – b_jonas
    Feb 15, 2016 at 10:42

1 Answer 1


It is the story "The Twentieth Voyage" in the "Star Diaries" book - you can find it as an audiobook on youtube:

Ijon Tichy is asked by the future self to participate in the project that supposed to fix history of Earth and humankind. Unfortunately things don't go as they supposed to - for start lazy technicians spent few hundred millions years playing the game "who can make scarier monster" and plan to turn Mars into hospitable planet fails horribly, when some device smashes into its surface creating channels (later filled with concrete to avoid suspicions). Scientists are also not much better, i.e. dr Y. Hoovah who likes to play favourites with some small middle-east tribe by sending remote-controlled locusts on they enemies...

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