Annihilation

Piotr Szewc

translated from the Polish by Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough
Dalkey Archive Press 1999
A book review by Danny Yee © 2004 http://dannyreviews.com/
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.

September 2004

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%T Annihilation
%A Szewc, Piotr
%M Polish
%F Hryniewicz-Yarbrough, Ewa
%I Dalkey Archive Press
%D 1999 [1987]
%O paperback
%G ISBN 1564782050
%P 107pp