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The Painted Bird Paperback – 4 Jan 1996

4.3 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Paperback, 4 Jan 1996
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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Black Swan; New edition edition (4 Jan. 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0552996599
  • ISBN-13: 978-0552996594
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.8 x 2.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,977,912 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

Review


"One of the best. . . . Written with deep sincerity and sensitivity."--Elie Wiesel, "The New York Times Book Review"

"A powerful blow on the mind because it is so carefully kept within the margins of probability and fact."--Arthur Miller

"Of all the remarkable fiction that emerged from World War II, nothing stands higher than Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird. A magnificent work of art, and a celebration of the individual will. No one who reads it will be unmoved by it. The Painted Bird enriches our literature and our lives."--Jonathan Yardley, "The Miami Herald"

"Extraordinary . . . literally staggering . . . one of the most powerful books I have ever read."--Richard Kluger, "Harper's Magazine"



One of the best. . . . Written with deep sincerity and sensitivity. Elie Wiesel, "The New York Times Book Review"
A powerful blow on the mind because it is so carefully kept within the margins of probability and fact. Arthur Miller
Of all the remarkable fiction that emerged from World War II, nothing stands higher than Jerzy Kosinski s The Painted Bird. A magnificent work of art, and a celebration of the individual will. No one who reads it will be unmoved by it. The Painted Bird enriches our literature and our lives. Jonathan Yardley, "The Miami Herald"
Extraordinary . . . literally staggering . . . one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Richard Kluger, "Harper s Magazine"
" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Format: Paperback
`The Painted Bird' was first published by Jerzy Kosiñski in 1965, and revised in 1976. It is a fictional account of the personal experiences of a boy aged six who could be Jewish or might be a Gypsy taking refuge in Eastern Europe during World War II. It is a fictional account filled with hate for Polish peasantry and packed with excruciating, horrifying detail of rape, murder, bestiality and torture.

'The Painted Bird' depicts a journey through a very brutal and brutalising hell. There are no safe places, really, for this boy. He may have escaped with his life but he can never escape his experiences.

There are good reasons to not like this book: it is not, as has been thought, an autobiographical account of Kosiñski's own experiences. Additionally it relies on the proximity of the Holocaust to intensify its own horror; it demonises Polish peasantry as both cruel and backward; and it wallows in violence. But for all of that, it has its own haunting power.

I've first read this novel at least 20 years ago and recently revisited it. I do not like the graphic, seemingly unending violence. The point is made and reiterated: man's inhumanity to man takes many forms and vulnerability is often relative rather than absolute. Did Kosiñski really regard the world as being beyond redemption? Is that the question he was posing in this novel? Is that why he committed suicide in 1991? Did he write this novel to give voice to his own despair as a consequence of the events of World War II? For me this novel raises far more questions than it answers. And some of those questions about the author and his intent colour the way I read this novel. I cannot `hate' it: it is far too well written for that.
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Format: School & Library Binding
My byline refers not only to the fact that both Conrad and Kosinski were Polish authors writing in English. There are also similarities in Marlowe's journey into the darkness of the Congo and Kosinski's young narrators' voyage through the surreal landscape of wartime Eastern Europe.
Both investigate the darker regions of the human psyche. Both are the antithesis of a "picaresque" novel. Both are told from the point-of-view of a relatively innocent narrator, whose original naivete is transformed by the scenes he witnesses into an understanding of the "horror" and a comprehension of man's capacity for evil.
I read The Painted Bird over 30 years ago and many of its images still remain vivid in my imagination. I will never forget the couple caught copulating (you'll have to read Kosinski's description yourself - I'm not going to go there) and the boy-narrator's harrowing account of being thrown into a pit of excrement. Some reviews I've come across state that the book is pornographic. Far from it. The sex depicted is hardly meant to arouse. Kosinski's later work might have fallen into that category (he did a lot of short-story writing for Playboy and Penthouse), but this is far too brutal a work to be anywhere near titillating.
If you would like to take a harrowing walk into the heart of darkness, and are equipped to handle visions of one of the most depraved landscapes you are likely to encounter in literature, then this book's for you.
Kosinski himself, before his suicide, had come under attack for inventing a lot of stories about his past. It turns out that during WWII, rather than suffering the deprivations and persecution he had earlier claimed, he passed the duration of the war in middle class comfort. His personal fabrications should not influence a reader's attitude when approaching this book however. He captures the Goyaesque horror of war brilliantly and it is, after all, a work of fiction, to be judged on its own merits.
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Format: Paperback
Deeply controversial book by Konsinski. Since the Berlin Wall collapse the Polish population queued to read creating reverberations for Jerry. Allegory or reality; many who knew the Kosinski family stated it was not true of their life. The American right disliked it because Kosinski paints the red army as caring and human. The religious right shun it due to the sex content, the Soviet angle and the lack of religious redemption. The Communists dislike it because it lacks 'social realism', highlighting their anti semitism with partisans behaving badly.

Kosinski managed to inflame everyone. The Poles revealed it was not an autobiographical struggle as deemed by the US liberal literati. It was plagarised from earlier Polish novels. Konsinski's family were in reality saved by Polish Catholic peasantry. They lived well by the standards of the day. Konsinski became tainted by those "deceived" as churning out 'holocaust pornography'. Nothing like a liberal spurned, He became viewed as an erudite Mr. Ripley.

It becomes porn if reading visions of sex between brother and sister or conjugal relations with animals girds the loins. Any description of the sex act, including the Kinsey Report of 1948, becomes porn in the eye of the beholder.

This is still a great novel despite the various critiques. It gained plaudits not just because it fitted the zeitgeist. It has a fleshed out De Sadean Justine, with flickers of Juliette. Elements of the other great cataloguer of human lust, inflicting violence to release the power hormones. This runs with the same strong current. Echoes abound, erasing rules then unleashing perversions of power. Maybe this is the pornographic vision? Suggesting why it needs to be strictly bound, gagged and banned, to be kept away from prying eyes.
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