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Ratings and reviews for The Painted Bird

Ratings and reviews for The Painted Bird
based on 119 rating(s)
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Price: $16.00 $12.17 (24% off)
Trade In Value: $0.26
Author(s): Jerzy Kosinski
Binding: Paperback
Format: Notebook
Number of Pages: 234
Studio: Grove Press
Manufacturer: Grove Press
Dewey Decimal Number: 813.54
Product Group: Book
Edition: 2nd
Sales Rank: 29609
Originally published in 1965, The Painted Bird established Jerzy Kosinski as a major literary figure. Kosinski's story follows a dark-haired, olive-skinned boy, abandoned by his parents during World War II, as he wanders alone from one village to another, sometimes hounded and tortured, only rarely sheltered and cared for. Through the juxtaposition of adolescence and the most brutal of adult experiences, Kosinski sums up a Bosch-like world of harrowing excess where senseless violence and untempered hatred are the norm. Through sparse prose and vivid imagery, Kosinski's novel is a story of mythic proportion, even more relevant to today's society than it was upon its original publication.
ISBN: 080213422X
UPC: 080213422X

Reviews 1 to 10 of 119
Pageof 12
amazon logo the HEART of darkness
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. I'm a bit surprised, having taught high school English myself, that this would be recommended to a young reader, even though I read it when I was about sixteen. It definitely wasn't on my school's list of recommended reading. I don't agree with some reviewers here 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.
82 of 95 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo In defense of Kozinski
OK, I admit, I should have been older than 14 years old when I first read this novel... it is more graphic than your average WWII book or movie. This novel is an unusual perspective on the holocaust. There are no factories full of jewish labor slaves, no ghettoes, no concentration camps. Instead, there is a small child, seperated from his parents in time of war, lost in the countryside of rural central Europe. In the course of the novel, we discover how the social chaos brought about by WWII plays itself out among common peasants in the countryside as they are reduced to the lowest behaviors imaginable in the absence of peace, stability, clear governance, and a socially agreed-upon sense of right and wrong. And the victim (or victims) is the child who witnesses (and lives with) this state of violence.

In response to the review title "More lies about Jerzy", I find it shallow and naive of the reviewer to call this book gratuitous violence invented for entertainment simply because the events depicted are not truly autobiographical. It is a novel. Last time I checked, novelists seem to make stories up on a regular basis. No need to discount the value of the narrative because of its condition as fictional. As for the suggestion that Jerzy did not write this book, I wouldn't be surprised if he had help smoothing his prose into readable English. Kozinski is not a native speaker of English. In fact, he learned the language as an adult. So he needed help with the language... who cares? The plot, characterization, and overall design of the book bear the creative mark that no proof reader or ghost writer could put on a narrative. I don't doubt that this is Jerzy Kozinski telling this story, and the spirit of the narrative, the pain the child feels (he is so traumatized by his experiences that he becomes mute and needs to undergo therapy as an adult to recover his ability to speak) is an expression of WWII as Kozinski experienced it. We don't need to know if Kozinski is the boy in the narrative. The knowledge that Kozinski could identify and describe this violence in a way that actually upsets you and makes you angry is enough for me. Kozinski has written an excellent novel about WWII and its aftermath, which, unlike Schindler's List, doesn't make you feel warm and cozy about how all the good people triumphed in the end... this novel will leave you with the lasting impression that there is no end-of-story resolution/redemption for those affected by war.

51 of 64 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Distorted and Twisted
Before you pick up this "novel", please read a biography of Jerzy Kosinski's life by author James Park Sloan --Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography. In 1982, Kosinski was completely discredited by the Village Voice for fabricating his auto-biographical, The Painted Bird, and for plagarism found in his most of his other books. He slandered an entire nation (Poland) in The Painted Bird even though he was actually saved by Polish Catholics and lived in safety during the duration of the war. Instead of writing what was a true war experience he decided that shock and brutality would give him more notariety. He became rich and won countless awards and accolades for his damaging lies.
Before he committed suicide in 1991 he tried to make amends for the damage he caused to the Poles but it was too late. The Painted Bird has been deemed a "truth" and has been included on the reading lists of many Holocaust Study Courses. I feel sorry for the Poles -- that this work produced by a sick, deviant and demented pathalogical liar could be taken as a true experience --it's like spitting on the graves of all those, Jews and Poles alike,that died in the hands of the Nazis during WWII. It is a terrible injustice.
37 of 64 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo So horrible I wouldn't give it any stars
This book is out and out ridiculous. There is no plot to it whatsoever. A child goes from one unrealistic situation to the next in circumstances so bizarre they're actually laughable. Being a Black female I have always been interested in history and different cultures. I have never read a book this atrocious before and I hope I never do again. I do not think it is even close to a true portrayal of anything Mr Kosinski lived through. I find it VERY hard to believe this is a "semiautobiographical" novel or that it paralleled anything in his life. I think he is a storyteller with a very vivid, disturbing imagination. Maybe he has some realism issues and can't tell the difference between fantasy and the actual life that he lived. If I met him in real life I would definitely stay far, far away from him.
19 of 61 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Hauntingly brilliant, but not for the weak of stomach!
"The Painted Bird" offers a haunting, deeply disturbing look into the psychological impact of war, and how it can drive even the most civilized and the most innocent of people to do unspeakable things. The book opens in the fall of 1939. An unnamed, black-haired, dark-eyed 6-year-old boy is separated from his parents at the beginning of World War II. Wandering the countryside alone, the boy is mistaken for a Gypsy or a Jew by the fair-haired, blue-eyed rural villagers, and accordingly shunned. Even those who do shelter and feed him usually treat him with cruelty. But, even more disturbing, the boy's eyes are opened to the superstition-driven brutality with which these country folk treat their own neighbors, and even their own family members.

This is not an uplifting read. The cruelty the boy witnesses and experiences often defies the imagination. Kosinski makes no attempt to censor his gruesome descriptions, nor should he. To gloss over the atrocities of World War II would be an injustice to those who suffered through it. Though the book is not, as some would argue, autobiographical, events like those depicted here did indeed happen during the war. It is probably safe to assume that the story takes place in Poland, though Kosinski has deliberately left out place names in order to keep the narrative separate from his own life. As he says in the author's note at the beginning, he intended the book to stand alone.

The story actually spans the entire war, taking the boy from age six to age twelve. Over the course of the book, we witness his gradual loss of innocence. He tries repeatedly to make sense of a senseless world. For a while he throws himself fully into church, hoping that endless prayers will deliver him. When this fails, he decides that the only way to escape suffering is to make a pact with the devil. And when this, too, fails to relive his misery, he becomes entirely disillusioned with humanity. We see him begin, bit by bit, to embrace the very violence that has caused him so much pain. It is the only way to survive in the war-torn world around him.

"The Painted Bird" is tragically disillusioning, yet weaves a brilliant picture of the boy's psychological transformation. It will leave you feeling empty, but raises crucial issues to the reader's attention. Kosinski has deliberately used a very young, innocent child as the protagonist in order to emphasize the destructive, corrupting nature of war. At a time when war is a distant thing, taking place on other continents, it is easy to glorify it and to forget what a hell it is for those experiencing it first-hand. For this reason, books like "The Painted Bird" are especially necessary, forcing us to look at the physical and emotional havoc war can wreak on a person. Though I would highly recommend the book to anyone, it is not for the weak of stomach. Be prepared for a dark and disturbing journey.
48 of 58 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Never Again! Wish I could RETURN IT!
I had to read this for a gothic lit class. Words cannot describe the horror, the perversion, the disgusting nature of this book. Perhaps I am a little delicate, or perhaps I know GOOD literature when I read it. This is too graphic to even work with the plot. All you can remember is the sequence of horrid images. NOT RECOMMENDED...unless you are an insatiable sick minded creep.
16 of 54 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Plot-less violence
Maybe it would help if I weren't a sophmore reading this for history class. I have never enjoyed manditory reading. Then again, maybe not. This book had no plot. Almot every chapter had the young boy in a different situation, the author seems to have wanted to show as many horrible situations as possible. The violence, even if it was true to the time period, was incredibly graphic and drawn out. I get nauseous whenever my thoughts accidently flip to the eyeball scene. Besides, every young boy I know would have fainted dead away if he saw what the boy saw. I don't know, nor do I much care, if Kosinski made up every single word (it's a novel: historical FICTION). But for anyone who dislikes being made to feel sick and enjoys a plot should stay far away from this book.
14 of 43 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Collection of pornographic short clips
This is a sad excuse for something to be taken seriously. If someone wanted to be jolted by man's insensitivity to man, "Night" by Weisel is of much more literary value. This book has none, zero, nada, as value goes. I'm sure that many injustices have occurred, but the author should have stuck to fact. There is no conclusion to his line of writing either, just an ending of his scenes.
15 of 41 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Not What You Think
I ordered this book from Amazon based on the positive reviews, as so many found this book to be praiseworthy. I agree to a limited extent. While the subject matter is unwaveringly wretched, the story is compelling in an horrific way, and the prose outstanding, considering English is not the author's native tongue. I did, however, regret reading The Painted Bird for, as it turns out, it is a sham.

Having widely suggested that it was semi-autobiographical, Mr. Kosinski recounts horror after horror experienced by a six-year old boy sent away to escape the Holocaust. It seems, however, that the story is not at all autobiographical, but rather a product of his imagination.

Now, I have nothing against an author's dark imagination, and in fact, enjoy reading tales of misery and maltreatment. I do, however, object to being misled, for then one must reevaluate the misery depicted (and the appreciation thereof) in context of its believability; in this case negating the fact that this story really took place, and therefore having to negate the outrageous behaviors as believable. If the story is indeed made out of whole cloth, then one sees The Painted Bird merely as a series of unrelated ugly scenes pieced together, endlessly, with no redeeming value. It turns out the Polish peasants were not the aberations depicted; the violence not founded; and the sexual monstrosities exaggerated for the maximum effect. In which case, the story becomes little more than a violent piece of sadism and pornography, not a realistic portrayal of the savageness of WWII, and therefore unbelievable even as a work of fiction.

I strongly suggest you read James Park Sloan's biography of Jerzy Kosinski before you read The Painted Bird. You will see a picture of the author that will make you think twice about whether this book is the masterpiece some think it is. I wish I had read it first.

26 of 40 people found this review helpful.
amazon logo Fraud - fantasy passed off as history
This book is mostly lies, and I don't mean the subtle kind common in such works - I mean flat out fabrications and inventions. It isn't worth a real review. For G-d's sake, if you must read it, check it out from a library or buy it used.

If you don't believe me, check around, that's what Google is for.

This fraud, Kosinsky, defames all those who suffered in WWII with his shameless gold-digging.

16 of 40 people found this review helpful.

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