The Investigation

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First edition (publ. MON)
cover art by Antoni Boratyński

The Investigation (original title Śledztwo) is a science fiction/detective/thriller novel[1] by the Polish writer Stanisław Lem, published in 1959. At the same time the novel incorporates a philosophical discourse on explanation of unknown phenomena.[1]

The novel is set in London. A young Scotland Yard lieutenant is charged to investigate the mysterious disappearance of corpses from London morgues. The only "explanation" is an abstruse statistical theory that correlates the body snatching with local cancer rates. The detective, however, since the very beginning suspects the same statistician being the perpetrator. Reality, however, proves less mundane and certainly less comprehensible than he had hoped. It appears that as if the corpses "resurrect".[2]

In The Investigation the classic procedural police mystery is turned into a metaphysical puzzle, in which Kafkaesque themes, although updated, are not missing. As in almost all Lem's production, philosophical and epistemological questions are presented under the simple surface of the plot: what is the role of scientific inquiry? What does the existence of competing explanations mean for that goal? The novel also introduces a theme that will later be present in Lem's works, in particular, in his major essay, The Philosophy of Chance: that observations are formed by the properties of the observer's mind, rather than by any properties of the observed.

The novel was put on screen in Poland twice: in 1973 as a TV film (director Marek Piestrak [pl])[3] and in 1977 as a TV play (director Waldemar Krzystek).[2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Swirski, Peter (2006). The Art and Science of Stanislaw Lem. McGill-Queen's Press. p. 164. ISBN 0773575073.
  2. ^ a b ŚLEDZTWO Spektakl telewizyjny
  3. ^ ŚLEDZTWO Film fabularny - telewizyjny