review of Mikołaj Grynberg’s short story collection I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To

She thought it was better to find out you were Jewish after middle school, because any earlier and things were tough. Kids are mean, they could destroy someone that young. But Grandma, I asked, can’t they do that later on too? They can, but by then you’ve got no choice, you’ve got to stand up for yourself.

I bought this almost entirely based on loving the title. It turns out to be a collection of very short (2-4 pages each) stories about anti-Semitism in Poland. In many, Jewish ancestry is a secret that must be kept to protect oneself and one’s family from discrimination and danger; some of the characters are not aware they are Jewish until (for example) a relative’s deathbed revelation. It’s a bleak but elegantly written book.