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Hospital of the Transfiguration

Stanislaw Lem

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An early realist novel by Stanisław Lem, taking place in a Polish psychiatric hospital during World War II.

Taking place within the confines of a psychiatric hospital, Stanisław Lem's The Hospital of the Transfiguration tells the story of a young doctor working in a Polish asylum during World War II. At first the asylum seems like a bucolic refuge, but a series of sinister encounters and incidents reveal an underlying brutality. The doctor begins to seek relief in the strange conversation of the poet Sekulowski, who is posing as a patient in a bid for safety from the occupying German forces. Meanwhile, Resistance fighters stockpile weapons in the surrounding woods.

A very early work by Lem, The Hospital of the Transfiguration is partly autobiographical, drawing on the author's experiences as a medical student. Written in 1948, it was suppressed by Polish censors and not published until 1955. The censorship of this realist novel is partly what led Lem to focus on science fiction and nonfiction for the rest of his career.


“Absorbing, also, to watch Lem outline many of the themes and ideas that he will later develop brilliantly in his science fiction.” —Kirkus Reviews

“Lem carefully develops his characters before he etches them away with the stresses of war, showing them as archetypes of courage, cowardice, perfidy, and love.” —
Village Voice

“A phenomenon called Lem did not grow into a writer, but sprang from the head of Zeus like Athena, full armed; but with a portable Remington instead of a spear.” —
Bloomsbury Review

The release of these new volumes seems to expand the possibilities of what a university publisher can do." —LitHub

"Fourteen years after his death, the universe is still struggling to catch up with the vast creative force that was Stanisław Lem. And for my money, it won't be surpassing him anytime soon…Enjoying the genius of Lem requires readerly dexterity and a willingness to go wherever the author takes you…These marvelous, absorbing and often hilarious books make our weary universe seem pale and undistinguished by comparison." —
The Washington Post

"In 1948, in a white heat, Lem wrote Hospital of the Transfiguration, a realist novel about a young doctor who observes moral ambiguities in a psychiatric hospital... The book is full of fine observations, such as when the doctor hears a patient shouting ‘as if practicing,’ and features the kind of philosophizing that distinguishes Lem’s science fiction."  The New Yorker

About the Author

Stanisław Lem (1921–2006), a writer called “worthy of the Nobel Prize” by the New York Times, was an internationally renowned author of novels, short stories, literary criticism, and philosophical essays. His books have been translated into forty-four languages and have sold more than thirty million copies.

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