Annihilation by Piotr Szewc, Piotr Szwec |, Paperback | Barnes & Noble


by Piotr Szewc, Piotr Szwec

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Annihilation is about a day in the life of a Polish-Jewish town shortly before World War II and the Holocaust, a town that soon will be annihilated by Nazi atrocities. With grace, wit, and love for the people and place that will be destroyed, Piotr Szewc creates a hymn to the victims of the Holocaust, as well as a literary masterpiece whose brilliance is evidenced


Annihilation is about a day in the life of a Polish-Jewish town shortly before World War II and the Holocaust, a town that soon will be annihilated by Nazi atrocities. With grace, wit, and love for the people and place that will be destroyed, Piotr Szewc creates a hymn to the victims of the Holocaust, as well as a literary masterpiece whose brilliance is evidenced on every page.

Editorial Reviews

Tygodnik Powszechny
"This melancholy Galician town, people separated from history and locked in banality, everyday living broken up into details--all of this creates the novel's peculiar atmosphere and brings to mind the writings of Musil, Schulz, Roth, and Hrabal."
Quotidien de Paris
This homage is neither nostalgic nor anecdotal. By capturing the fugitive, it is beyond reality, both metaphysical and mystical, like a biblical canticle.
"Though the story takes place during the 1930s, we feel the future on every page, or rather the absence of a future. If the author works assiduously and with an engaging simplicity to chronicle 12 hours, only 12 hours in the life of this small city, it is because he knows, and we know, that is has already been annihilated substantially if not totally. The parks and the buildings are perhaps still there, but not the Jews, engulfed in the shadows.

It feels like an album by Roman Vishniak: a series of photographs annotated by an author who sees clearly and knows where to look and what to keep. When he does not know, he admits it. And he proceeds to another person, another fate.

Men and women, children and adults, Jews and Christians, some dreamlike, others nightmarish: Capturing them in his 'camera,' or incorporating them into his memory, and into his reader's, the author offers to eternity what we can only hope to find in a few lucky encounters. . . .

He knows, Szewc knows, that life is made up not of years but of instants. So he collects them and welcomes them between two blinks, between two sighs, between two regrets. He knows, and so do we, that the city in his story no longer exists."
Elie Wiesel

All Things Considered
[Szewc's] aim here is to make a story like a sharply etched grainy photograph of all the minor actions and events that make up ordinary life in an ordinary day. To see, he says, to remember, to record scrupulously, to follow what disappears, not to miss anything. . . . He captures all of this, amazing to do it in a hundred pages or so. He hasn't missed a thing."

Alan Cheuse

Annihilation is an exotic book from any angle you approach it. Beautifully translated. . . . Annihilation is exquisite and compelling.
Jewish Currents
Annihilation . . . is one of the most extraordinary, tremblingly beautiful and chilling novels I have ever read. . . . The author has managed a miracle of enshrining not only every moment of this day, but of recreating, like jewels, each dust mote, each pop of bubble in the nearby stream, and every whir of the pigeons that fly above. Szewc's writing resembles the sharp perceptivity of Proust and the bizarre but lifelike gamboling of Chagallian scenes. . . . Annihilation is a sob choked in the throat of all who remember.
World Literature Today
A finely woven web of minute details, as ephemeral as the characters' lives may prove to be in a darkly glimpsed future.
The Polish Review
Szewc is to be commended for not having succumbed to the temptation of enhancing his novel by introducing yet another account of Nazi barbarism. His book is written as if in accordance with Elie Wiesel's belief that no fiction can do justice to the atrocities committed in that time. Instead, the serene portrait Szewc paints, complacent as it is, and devoid of the horrors to come, adequately serves his purpose in offering an original approach to that period in history. The strength of Szewc's book lies in this concept.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Nearly bereft of dialogue, this daring, beautifully understated experimental novel recreates a single day in the life of a Polish-Jewish town doomed to be destroyed in the Holocaust. On this single day in 1934 nothing much happens: children play; a lawyer visits a prostitute; cheerful Hasidim dance in the streets; merchants, policeman and citizens go about their business. Although the Nazis are nowhere in sight, the townsfolk's premonitory dreams hint of disaster to come. In meticulously re-creating an ordinary day, the omniscient voice of the narrator consecrates the everyday reality of a world he wishes to save from annihilation. Seemingly trivial events--a Gypsy reading fortunes, a rooster's crowing--take on momentous import given the horrific foreknowledge that the town will one day be obliterated. The smooth translation conveys the elegiac tone and underlying tension of Polish novelist Szewc's jolting first novel. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Your home town is about to be annihilated. What would you save? What epitomizes this place that will soon be no more? Szewc's answer to these questions is an elegiac meditation that reconstructs individual moments in the life of his hometown, razed by Nazis years before his birth in 1961. The tastes, smells, and mundane activities of an ordinary day in a small eastern Polish town are preserved here for posterity. A single day is minutely and lovingly resurrected, all of its lost opportunities and inconsequential details savored. All life here is cherished and suspended, innocent and ignorant of the passage of time. This first English translation of a mesmerizing first novel published in Poland in 1987 is highly recommended for all who revel in poignant imagery.-- Ruth M. Ross, Olympic Coll. Lib., Bremerton, Wash.
Harvard Review
“Piotr Szewc's first novel is a considerable literary achievement. . . . A deeply moving novel.”
The Hollins Critic
“This remarkable first novel . . . is a powerful statement, an annihilation of our pretty dreams. It is, if you will, a warning that the ravages of history can occur now and here. And isn't this message so disturbing that we will no doubt refuse to heed it?”
Cleveland Free Times
“In certain respects Annihilation can be compared to Our Town or Under Milk Wood, but there's this difference: we know the region and its way of life are soon going to be destroyed, many of its inhabitants killed; therefore it seems somehow to be a trip to a land that never existed.”

Product Details

Dalkey Archive Press
Publication date:
Coleman Dowell Series
Product dimensions:
5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.40(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Meet the Author

Piotr Szewc was born in 1961 in Zamosc, the eastern Polish town that is the model for the town in "Annihilation", his first novel. He has published poems, essays, and translations, and works in Warsaw as a free-lance writer.

Ewa Hryniewicz-Yarbrough is a graduate of both Wroclaw University in Poland and Virginia Tech. Her work has appeared in publications such as "The New Yorker, Paris Review, TriQuarterly, Ploughshares", and the "Chicago Review". Piotr Szewc's "Annihilation" was her first translation.

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