Told in the second person plural, Annihilation
takes us on a one day
tour of a small Polish-Jewish town just before the Second World War.
We can move around at will — onto rooftops, from street to street around
the town, and even, following memories, into the past — but are limited
to an external perspective. We watch cloth merchant Hershe Baum and his
family, woman of loose virtue Kazimiera M, a pair of policemen, attorney
Walenty Danilowski, tavern-owner Rosenzweig, a group of visiting Hasidim,
and gypsy woman Rosa. And every so often we stop to frame photographs.
The photographs are presumably among those Szewc had before him while
writing Annihilation — the town it describes is based on the town he
grew up in, but he was born in 1961 and must have relied on secondhand
sources. Szewc also brings to his tour a photographer's feeling for
light and space and perspective. The framework might not have sustained
a longer work, but Annihilation is a striking and original short novel.
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