Miłoszewski’s A Grain of Truth as a Non-classical Conspiracy Narrative

In Zygmunt Miłoszewski’s A Grain of Truth, the main crime plot deals with a triple homicide. Near the remains of a woman whose throat has been slashed, the police find a strange knife, defined by Teodor Szacki, the officer in charge of the investigation, as a “razor-machete.” The knife turns out to have been originally used in Jewish ritual slaughter. This clue immediately directs suspicion toward a Jewish perpetrator. And because this takes place in Sandomierz, where to this day there hangs in a church a picture depicting the legendary extraction of blood from Christian children in order to make matzoh from it, the Jewish thread has dramatically heightened resonance. “I think it’s all very odd and theatrical,” Szacki remarks with regard to the knife. “Even with squalid crimes of passion, every drunken thug remembers to take the murder weapon with him. I don’t believe it was left in those bushes by accident.” If a traditional investigation involves attaching signs to their signifieds – and is therefore fundamentally a semiotic operation – then the overly obvious presence of a murder weapon by the body tells the experienced detective to double-check the simplest interpretation.