Critical Context

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 155

The Investigation combines the techniques of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Franz Kafka, using the conventions of detective fiction to undermine the metaphysics of the genre. Doyle and his followers present orderly worlds in which knowledge is possible. Lem, like Kafka, challenges such worldviews.

This novel differs from many of...

(The entire section contains 155 words.)

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The Investigation combines the techniques of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and Franz Kafka, using the conventions of detective fiction to undermine the metaphysics of the genre. Doyle and his followers present orderly worlds in which knowledge is possible. Lem, like Kafka, challenges such worldviews.

This novel differs from many of Lem’s other works because of the interest he shows in it about the mystery of human character. Lem must present his characters rather fully in order to reveal how incomprehensible they are. As a result, his characters seem more rounded here than in many of his works. The Investigation is unique among Lem’s works that have been published in English, being neither science fiction nor a discursive extrapolation on technology or philosophy. Nevertheless, it shares with most of Lem’s work the major themes of the human hunger for absolute knowledge and the limits of the ability of the human mind to understand.

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