I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To

Stories

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.

Praise

“Mikołaj Grynberg’s characters yearn for connection, though the relationships with their family, their people, and their country, are fraught. One of the most brutal of Grynberg’s vignettes describes the casual inherited anti-Semitism of children. But what becomes of these children when their parents, late in life, reveal that they are Jewish? How do they make sense of who they are and where they belong in the world? An absolutely gripping, emotionally exhausting book. Highly recommended.”
—Goldie Goldbloom, author of On Division
“The incredible vividness of these monologues, the realism, the sadness and the black humor, all combine into an enthralling, multi-faceted story of Jewish and Polish fate. . . . I’ll come back to this book, and I’m sorry I can’t take any of these stories as fiction. All of it is true. Unfortunately.”
—Wojciech Szot, Zdaniem Szota
“The vital English-language debut from Grynberg, a photographer, psychologist, and oral historian, features thirty-one first-person vignettes narrated by Jews and gentiles in Poland who belong to the generation born after the Holocaust. . . . Grynberg knows the value of capturing a moment in time; through these narratives, the reader sees, as translator Bye notes, ‘something we might not have seen with our own eye.’ These views of a tragic past are brought sharply into focus.”
Publishers Weekly
“Grynberg writes with a careful, almost stoic format. . . . His style is both erudite and cautious. . . . Like cracking an egg open, Grynberg peels away the outer, protective layers of ego, leaving bare the pathos of bigotry and the relentless striving toward understanding.”
New York Journal of Books
“This is a real bomb of a book. . . . Written with an amazing eye for detail, with crisp conciseness. . . . And everything here is seasoned with a heavy sprinkling of spot-on black humour.”
European Literature Network
“A moving and often wryly funny portrait of Polish Jewishness. . . . At times witty, at others devastating, Grynberg’s first foray into fiction is a major triumph.”
Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Grynberg’s writing is sharp, edged with a sarcastic wit and a touch of black humour, yet underlined by an air of tragedy. . . . I’d Like to Say I’m Sorry is not only insightful, but also an important read.”
Canadian Jewish News
“Grynberg renders the specific and universal messiness of individuals and families trying to connect, avoiding connection, and longing to find some kind of peace in complexity.”
—Maia Ipp, contributing editor of Jewish Currents
“It is with a lump in my throat that I read these luminous cameos. Such a range of voices, often revealing for the first time what had been hidden for a lifetime. In Grynberg, psychologist and artist by equal measure, they have found a vessel into which they can pour their hearts. With exquisite clarity, his spare prose lays bare the conundrums with which they have lived and died—as Jews in postwar Poland.”
—Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Ronald S. Lauder Chief Curator of the Core Exhibition at the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
“Wrenching, astonishing, surprisingly humorous. . . . Polish photographer/psychologist Mikołaj Grynberg alchemizes his documentary nonfiction into a superb collection of 31 short stories poignantly revealing the Polish Jewish experience.”
Shelf Awareness
“A poignant short story collection about being a Polish Jew.”
Foreword Reviews
I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To revisits the plight of the second and third post-Holocaust generations without any documentary constraints. . . . These soliloquies of doubt, grief, rage or sheer bewilderment appear without gloss or commentary, as minimalist micro-dramas. . . . [Mikołaj Grynberg’s] speakers span many stages of life and states of mind, flexibly captured in the salty, speedy English prose of Sean Gasper Bye.”
The Wall Street Journal
“Grynberg’s fiction debut is a sobering glimpse into a particularly difficult kind of diaspora life. For Grynberg, the book is a way of asserting belonging in a country that has tried to deny its Jewish history and its complicity in Jewish persecution.”
The Forward
“Drop everything and get a copy of Mikołaj Grynberg’s collection of short vignettes, I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To.”
Religious News Service

News and Reviews

Jewish Currents

Watch a dramatic reading of I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To hosted by Jewish Currents with the book&rsquos author Mikołaj Grynberg and translator Sean Gasper Bye and featuring actor Wallace Shawn, short story writer Deborah Eisenberg, and translator

Jewish Currents

Read an excerpt from I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To, originally published in Polish as Rejwach, in Jewish Currents.

Publishers Weekly

Read a review of I’d Like to Say Sorry, but There’s No One to Say Sorry To in Publishers Weekly.

Goodreads Reviews