For all intents and purposes, Jerzy Kosinski was on the fast track for fame under fire with the publication of his third novel, The Painted Bird. “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. The Painted Bird Poster. A young Jewish boy somewhere in Eastern Europe Writers: Jerzy Kosinski (novel), Václav Marhoul (adaptation) | 1 more credit».
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This novel is a text so overwhelmed by its various contexts that it is almost impossible to read. It was still ubiquitous as a semi-illicit paperback when I was a child in the late s and early s, reputed to kozinski an overwhelmingly intense and filthy book. It also, famously, made an impression on David Foster Wallacewho might have learned a thing or two from its brevity. I abandoned any plans I had to read The Painted Bird when I discovered that it was regarded as a sham, that its author a kind of counterculture celebrity in the late s and early s had falsely advertised the novel to his publishers as autobiography, and that many of his works may have been either partially plagiarized or partially written or translated for the author, still uneasy in the English language, by editors.
So it is surprising to turn to the actual text of the novel, as I finally have, and to find a carefully composed narrative, delicately written and thematically unified. Scholars and critics differ as to the actual provenance of the text, except to note that the horrors it narrates are decidedly not autobiographical: In paknted, The Painted Bird is so manifestly symbolic, the extreme events it narrates so difficult to credit, that I have a hard time believing anyone could have taken it as an unvarnished memoir.
The Painted Bird : Jerzy Kosinski :
Elie Wiesel, to be fair, acknowledges as much in his New York Times review, quoted at length on the first page of my edition:. If we ever needed proof that Auschwitz was more a concept than a name, it is given to us here with shattering eloquence in The Painted Birda moving but frightening tale in which man is indicted and proven guilty, with no extenuating circumstances.
The premise of the tale, as noted by D. The Painted Bird is notorious for its horrors: That he died by his own hand suggests that his answer, finally, was No. Another blurb, this one on the back of my old paperback edition, where it is jarringly discordant with the grotesque wraparound cover illustration, compares Kosinski to Anne Frank. He witnesses incest and bestiality, he is systematically tortured by a peasant with a fearsome dog, he is nearly drowned in an iced-over pond, he is thrown into a pit of manure by an incensed mob, and he is even captured by German soldiers, only to be josinski in a mysterious act of mercy by a glamorous Thf officer, whose power and command the boy admires:.
The instant I saw him I could not tear my gaze from him. Jerxy entire person seemed to have something utterly superhuman about it. Against the background of bland colors he protected an unfadable blackness.
In a world of men with harrowed faces, with smashed eyes, bloody, bruised, and disfigured limbs, among the fetid, broken human bodies, of which I had already seen so many, he seemed an example of neat perfection that could not be sullied: Every movement of his body seemed propelled by some tremendous internal force. To support an interpretation that emphasizes individualism, consider the titular metaphor. The Cold War moral is clear: The effect within the book of this continuity between worlds and beliefs works not only on the grand scale but also to the specific.
For example, when we meet Lekh the bird bidr, and read of the demise of the bird painted by Lekh, the whole of the scene is likewise brought into the mythic unity of the book.
The scene is not an artificially inserted metaphor: As such, the antagonism between the individual and culture that is the center kosknski The Painted Bird is from the start inherent to the whole of the world through which the boy passes.
In turn, through that unity, that antagonism is brought out of the historical and into the mythic. When contemplating the ideological possibilities of an individualism untethered from morality, it is a relief that such a vision produces in this novel only a version of aestheticism, only the voice to tell the tale, rather than anything more severe.
In this sense, Kosinski pits the paint of the painted bird against the violence of the flock; the novel implicitly and ultimately exalts the artist, who birs only his own idiosyncrasy, over the officer who marches on behalf of a collective. Its crisp narrative is a well-paced succession of sensory detail given in a style that is simple without being affected like that of a Hemingway epigone or someone imitating the paratactical style of the Bible; the novel would repay strictly formal study by the student.
The Painted Bird
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You are commenting using your Facebook account. Notify me jerz new comments via email. Elie Wiesel, to be fair, acknowledges as much in his New York Times review, quoted at length on the first page of my edition: Kosinsk witnesses incest and bestiality, he is systematically tortured by a peasant with a fearsome dog, he is nearly drowned in an iced-over pond, he is thrown into a pit of manure by an incensed mob, and he is even captured by German soldiers, only to be released in a mysterious act of mercy by a glamorous Nazi officer, whose power and command the boy admires: From the uncredited cover illustration of the Pocket Books edition.
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