I just finished reading Kilmartin and Cox's translation of Stanislaw Lem's Solaris, and one particular passage stood out to me. I'm hesitant to ask a question about the Kilmartin and Cox translation, because I found out after reading it that (1) it's a very poor translation, most likely due to the fact that (2) it's not a direct translation, it's a translation of a French translation of the Polish text. The passage occurs on page 30 of my translation, where one character is referred to as a "Negress" and described using racially coded language:
Suddenly, looming up in the opening which led to the communal bathroom, a tall silhouette appeared, barely distinguishable in the surrounding gloom. I stood stock still, frozen to the spot. A giant Negress was coming silently towards me with a smooth, rolling gait. I caught a gleam from the whites of her eyes and heard the soft slapping of her bare feet. She was wearing nothing but a yellow skirt of plaited straw; her enormous breasts swung freely and her black arms were as thick as thighs. Less than a yard separated us as she passed me, but she did not give me so much as a glance. She went on her way, her grass skirt swinging rhythmically, resembling one of the steatopygous statues in anthropological museums. She opened Gibarian's door and on the threshold her silhouette stood out distinctly against the bright light from inside the room.
On one hand, I feel like I'm missing some things in translation here: the word "Negress" seems weird to me, and I'm not sure if this is due to Kilmartin and Cox's translation. On the other hand, the passage appeals to several racial stereotypes, such as the reference to the "grass skirt," and the "statues in anthropological museums."
I have three interrelated questions. How much was this passage altered in translation? How would the language have been understood by Polish readers? And why did Lem code this particular character as black?