An exquisitely original collection of darkly funny stories that explore the panorama of Jewish experience in contemporary Poland, from a world-class contemporary writer
“These small, searing prose pieces are moving and unsettling at the same time. If the diagnosis they present is right, then we have a great problem in Poland.” —Olga Tokarczuk, Nobel Prize laureate and author of Flights
Mikołaj Grynberg is a psychologist and photographer who has spent years collecting and publishing oral histories of Polish Jews. In his first work of fiction—a book that has been widely praised by critics and was shortlisted for Poland’s top literary prize—Grynberg recrafts those histories into little jewels, fictionalized short stories with the ring of truth.
Both biting and knowing, I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To takes the form of first-person vignettes, through which Grynberg explores the daily lives and tensions within Poland between Jews and gentiles haunted by the Holocaust and its continuing presence.
In “Unnecessary Trouble,” a grandmother discloses on her deathbed that she is Jewish; she does not want to die without her family knowing. What is passed on to the family is fear and the struggle of what to do with this information. In “Cacophony,” Jewish identity is explored through names, as Miron and his son Jurek demonstrate how heritage is both accepted and denied. In “My Five Jews,” a non-Jewish narrator remembers five interactions with her Jewish countrymen, and her own anti-Semitism, ruefully noting that perhaps she was wrong and should apologize, but no one is left to say “I’m sorry” to.
Each of the thirty-one stories is a dazzling and haunting mini-monologue that highlights a different facet of modern Poland’s complex and difficult relationship with its Jewish past.
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Average rating from 9 members
wow. so good. Grynberg's monologue-eque short stories give glimpses at hidden family histories, lingering resentments, realities of "the Jewish experience" in contemporary Poland, particularly post-Holocaust generations. the stories keep a great clip and evoke the perfect dark-funny tone, I couldn't stop reading. I was also interested to read at the end that the author is known for his non-fiction work presenting oral histories of the children of Holocaust survivors (Oskarżam Auschwitz. Opowieści rodzinne). Ethnographic work isn't necessary for writing good fiction, of course, but does lend some at least imagined authenticity, and these monologues really did feel real or at least conceivable, even with their quick and winky quality. I really enjoyed this collection, it does feel like a perfect little nod to ongoing antisemitism in post-war / contemporary Poland, in a period neglected in English-language lit. would definitely recommend.
When I first read the title of this book, I was hooked. Then I read the description and realized this book may be perfect. Then I read it and discovered it is. I'd Like to Say Sorry, But There's No One to Say Sorry To is a beautiful collection of short stories, told through first-person interviews. The writing flows and manages to convey so much meaning with so few words and does so in a way that you won't easily forget. As a Jew myself, this collection was especially difficult to get through, simply because of the subject matter it deals with. Many of the small details and aspects were poignantly rendered. I can guarantee you that you'll finish this book with a much greater understanding of the Jewish experience, historically and presently, than you began with. I would recommend this if you're a lover of literature or interested in the lives of Jews. My new favourite book.