Passing by: Selected Essays, 1962-1991

Passing by: Selected Essays, 1962-1991

by Jerzy Kosinski
     
 

Jerzy Kosinski's suicide in 1991 shocked the literary world. A Polish emigre who had survived unspeakable horrors as a child during World War II, Kosinski was a flamboyant figure whose death only added to the aura of mystery that surrounded him. Passing By is Kosinski's legacy, a collection of writings, never before published in book form, that answers many questions…  See more details below

Overview

Jerzy Kosinski's suicide in 1991 shocked the literary world. A Polish emigre who had survived unspeakable horrors as a child during World War II, Kosinski was a flamboyant figure whose death only added to the aura of mystery that surrounded him. Passing By is Kosinski's legacy, a collection of writings, never before published in book form, that answers many questions about Kosinski and his work - a revealing and provocative self-portrait by an author whose life was shrouded in enigma. Kosinski prided himself on his ability to hide - physically - whenever he wanted. Certainly he managed to keep his own persona and even his life something of a mystery, but here he talks about himself, some of his obsessions, and his feelings about places from New York to Poland. The man who emerges has a passion for sport (polo and skiing), a quirky sense of fun ("Learning to Levitate"), strong opinions about various locales (the streets of New York, present-day Poland, the Cannes film festival), an idiosyncratic range of acquaintances (meetings with such diverse people as Pope John Paul II, Solzhenitsyn, Warren Beatty, Nobel Prize-winning biologist Jacques Monod), and an abiding love of secrets, conundrums, and fantasies. But first and foremost - as he demonstrates in "The Real Author of Jerzy Kosinski's Books," and in major essays on his novels The Painted Bird and Steps - Kosinski is a powerful literary artist, a man who will always be remembered for his electrifying works of fiction.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
According to his widow, Polish emigre novelist Kosinski had been working on this collection of essays, lectures and fragments when he committed suicide in Manhattan in 1991. While the selections would be improved by contextualizing introductions, they portray a man who was impassioned about literature and who saw his role as confronting ``life's threatening encounters.'' He finds inspiration, he writes, from an intertwining of the Polish, Hasidic and American literary traditions, and considers America ``the last society which still modifies itself freely.'' He rails against the ``collectivism'' nourished by television and radio, and criticizes North American Jews for memorializing the Holocaust but not Jewish achievements. Other essays touch on his experiences learning polo, acting in the film Reds , living in New York City and visiting Poland in the late 1980s. Most interesting are his discussions of the original ideas behind The Painted Bird and the structure of Steps. (Nov.)
Gilbert Taylor
Kosinski had been selecting the items in this congerie before his abrupt suicide last year. The pieces reflect their first publications, which included a ski magazine, literary journals, and the mass press. As social critic, he railed against book censorship and the stupefying effects of television; as social being he frequented polo grounds, ski resorts, and the set of Warren Beatty's "Reds" (in which he appeared as Zinoviev); and as art critic he mulled over the relation between the self and the creative process. Memory, especially, was the predominant element of his self, both in his Jewishness and as an eluder of the Holocaust. His most famous novel, "The Painted Bird" (1965), figures repeatedly in these essays, as does a mordant sense of life's impermanence. When serious he angles for the Big Question (hooking the brooders on same), and when frivolous he sketches quotidian musings on New York as done by hordes of other writers. Kosinski was a popular and acclaimed novelist, but this uneven collection of his nonfiction and criticism rumbles with the absurdity of human affairs, and is unlikely to expand his readership.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780679413899
Publisher:
Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
11/24/1992
Pages:
256

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