The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird

by Jerzy Kosinski


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780802134226
Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date: 08/28/1995
Series: Kosinski, Jerzy
Pages: 234
Sales rank: 83,480
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.25(h) x (d)
Lexile: 980L (what's this?)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

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

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The Painted Bird 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 34 reviews.
Karl-Bendt More than 1 year ago
A highly controversial novel, the opinions about Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird range from gushing reviews of its scathing commentary to outbursts dubbing Kosinski a Holocaust Profiteer. The moderate approach to the book seems to be that it is indeed a work of fiction; the book never claims to represent real atrocities - but nevertheless a great story. The story of a young boy who becomes separated from his parents in the midst of World War II, he wanders around Eastern Europe. He is taken in by a number of people, all of whom assume him to be a Gypsy or a Jew treat him with suspicion and fear. Kosinski's story is all about the dangers of xenophobia, the fear of unknown things -when we forget the injustices of World War II; we are in danger of repeating them. His aim is to make the reader empathize with the awful conditions and treatment that the boy faces. Kosinski has purposefully used a young boy to show the psychological transformation that comes with the corrupting influence of war. The main theme of the book is that humans are inherently predisposed to violence and evil and that it should be avoided at all costs. In fact, the title of the book is drawn from this idea. One of the characters, when bored or upset, goes out and captures a bird and paints it. When the bird tries to join up with its flock, it is torn at until it falls from the sky, taken as an intruder. All in all, The Painted Bird is a wonderfully crafted masterpiece, but cannot be forgotten as a work of fiction. The story it portrays is indeed harrowing, but its utilization of hyperbole as the method of delivery cannot be forgotten. The ability to suspend your disbelief will come in handy while reading this, but be prepared for a dark and macabre journey.
PCakes23 More than 1 year ago
The "Painted Bird" is one of the most mind boggling books I have ever read. The book is about a young jewish boy whom is seperated from his parents during the begining of the holocaust. Kosinski's writing style really disturbed me making me feel at a loss for words. The book looks at a rough time and some of those people that were effected by it in different ways. He goes in to great detail. Sometimes to much detail. Without this though the book would not be as effective as it is. Being a jewish person myself you hear about what happened, but it nevers seems as horrible as Kosinski portrays it. When a person hears about something that sound so terrible we tend to turn away because we don't believe it. Most people if not everyone is guilty of this at one time or another. Kosinski just throws it in your face not allowing you to turn away.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Made me thinking a lot about it after done reading. Must read for all.
M.Campanella on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Where I stand now, I am unsure as to what this book is. If it is fiction, it is awful. If it is autobiography veiled as fiction, it is simply false, which is perhaps worse. I should mention that I have a strong stomach for violence in fiction (I have read Delany's Hogg, twice) so that was not what bothered me about it. What bothered me was that the violence was gratuitous and unbelievable. Each chapter was a new scene of violence, but there was absolutely no connection between one chapter and the next. Each chapter illustrates in new and creative ways how the world can be cruel, but never is their a mention about the why of this cruelty.If this book was fiction we should look at Italo Calvino's 'Il sentiero dei nidi di ragno' as it has to do with what young child witness during the second world war. Calvino's work is rich with the language of the child, and everything the child witnesses is colored by his perspective. In Calvino's book the reader not only sees and understands the follies and horror of war, but see the child narrator misunderstand the very same follies and horrors. Calvino's book is a voyage of a narrator misunderstanding the world of adults, and because all the adults around him are caught up in this war the child is forced to live by them and witness and (to some extent) participate in things he cannot understand.Kosinski's work, on the other hand, never has this. The narrator, also a child, understands exactly what is going on, at all times. He is intuitive to the point of seeming to be borderline psychic. If all children from 6 to 8 (there is no chronology whatsoever in Kosinski's work, and so it is hard to tell the age of the child) were as smart as this child, the human race would be altogether to intelligent to find itself in situations like the world wars. The child seems to be able to understand the complex circumstances of hatred that we know to be a backdrop to the second world war in eastern Europe. He knows that there are such things as Jews, he knows that there are such things as Gypsies, and more over he knows he is not of them. Does this realistically sound like something you teach a young child. "Honey, we are going to send you off to the countryside to wait out this war. Know that you are neither a Jew nor Gypsy, and that people are going to hate you because they think you are." The child narrator of this work has to well developed notions of who he is and who he is not. He sees a peasant and is able to label it exactly that, marking as well that he is not of that class. I doubt young children can pull this off.All this makes me suspect that Kosinski wrote this in hopes of convincing people that it was his (at the time of the writing) interpretation of actual past events. If this is the case, I think there is cause not to believe it. Nowhere is there any genuine compassion, very few take pity on the small child, there interest being only in persecuting him. He constantly escapes his dangers. At one point the child even manages to steal a horse drawn cart. That such carts are not intuitive, and that a child would have neither the training or strength to manage it does not seem to be considered. This whole story seems to be Kosinski's attempt to get the West to pity him. If all of this was not enough, the language used to describe the events of the books is repetitive and monotonous. Really, the books is not worth very much.
Niecierpek on LibraryThing 10 months ago
I was in awe when I first read it, but then... what he describes supposedly never happened to him. It is all supposedly plagiarized.
soylentgreen23 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
The 'Painted Bird' is a holocaust novel that mentions the concentration camps only in passing, and rarely details the Nazis and their terrible work. Instead, it focuses more on the seemingly prosaic - the rural population of a country very much like Poland - and how viciously brutal they were in the past. That this is perhaps Poland is only to illustrate the point - it could have been anywhere, such is the documented brutality of the time.Kosinski, a Jew, survived the war, hiding in a village with his father. In the book, Kosinski writes as a solitary boy, sent by his parents to a safe house in a country, from whence he fled on the death of his keeper. The story follows his 'adventures': how he survived as he travelled from village to village, looking for food and shelter, how he was punished for being a Jew or a gypsy.It is perhaps the book's most important effect to note that, during the forties in Europe, the Nazis were the most vicious bunch of thugs imaginable, though they were surely supported or at least helped by the people around them, cowed into submission or revelling in the opportunity to victimise. I have read many accounts of the holocaust, and know the suffering that the Jews and other 'undesirables' must have endured, but I had no idea about the rest. This book has helped to educate me.
booknerd06 on LibraryThing 10 months ago
What can I say? This is one of the best novels that I have ever read. I highly suggest that you will take the time on this one.
chrisv on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Supposedly based on Roman Polanskis experiences in world war 2 this presents a bleak view of a child on the run from the nazis living hand to mouth amongst villages in eastern europe.Almost like a science fiction novel, a child encounters a bizarre, archaic world of superstitious peasants. They uncomprehending of him and him comprehending of them.
jeffome on LibraryThing 10 months ago
a relatively interesting read but so heavy on the violence this young boy was subjected to that it became remarkably unbelievable that so many innocent peasant people could treat others with so little human compassion that it lost much of its potential power to impact me as a almost got silly...u know....'u think that was bad....wait til you read the next chapter'...almost gratuitous...and not to diminish all of the horrors that people endured, but it was just too unreal to fully buy into. However it is truly a rich exploration of the impact totalitarianism can have on the human condition.....and it is not a good one.
jaehnig on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Probably the most cruelty I've ever read in one book. Captivating, depressing, yet hopeful at times. Made me appreciate the life I have, and the person I have been allowed to become. Definitly worth reading.
tobiejonzarelli on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Kosinski's fictionalized portrait of a young boy's attempt to survive WWII without family or friends in Eastern Europe is a very dark read. It stuns the senses in the descriptions of savagery and violence inflicted upon this child, and at times I thought it was really over the top. However, having read dozens of first hand accounts of holocaust survivor's memoirs, and realizing that it is loosely based on the author's own history, I have to conclude that it is an unblinking look at the horror people are capable of inflicting on others. Indeed it is a grim and savage portrait of evil, visceral and unyielding in it's assault on the innocence of a child.
June6Bug on LibraryThing 11 months ago
Brutal story of a child sent to the countryside to be protected during WWII; because of his dark complexion and his parents' absence, he is subjected to horrific treatment, and he is witness to all the inhumanity imaginable.
ferebend on LibraryThing 11 months ago
To all those who would read this book, a warning. It's intense. The most intense, heavy disturbing book I've ever read. That said, it was very well written. This author knows how to evoke emotions, with a special attention to those guttural, primeval emotions that, ideally, we wish would stay buried and never rear their ugly collective head.This is the story of a young boy who gets separated from his parents when they send him to the (perceived) safety of the countryside when World War II breaks out in Eastern Europe. The boy gets lost and, through a series of increasingly unfortunate events, wanders from village to village where he is universally reviled because the people believe his dark gypsy/Jewish hair and eyes will bring the wrath of the Germans upon them. What happens to the boy - the things that are done to him, the things he sees and endures - is staggering. It's a shocking description of hell on Earth.Okay, I realize I'm not making this book sound very enticing, but I'd like to reiterate my point that it is a very good work, albeit on a very dark subject. Not for the faint of heart, but the bravest of readers will be rewarded.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Though this book was very odd, I loved it. The Painted Bird was so beautiful and darkly written, I couldn't put it down. 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Marla-Singer More than 1 year ago
I am very picky about the books that I like and although I read this book a year ago it still sticks out in my mind as one of the best. Very gruesome at some parts but really depicts the kids of struggle the young boy had to go through by constantly moving around and meeting different kinds of people.
ChicagoRoots More than 1 year ago
Read this years ago in college, and recently revisited it. Horrifying (yet believable) account of Jewish boy in WWII Poland countryside. Sent out of a city to avoid the Nazis, he is driven from one village to another. constantly brutalized and ultimately brutal himself. Liberated and befriended by Russian soldiers, he is reunited finally with his parents, but not rehabilitated. Banned in Poland for its barbaric portrayal of the peasants. Kosinski's best work IMHO.
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UnfoldsFascination More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book very much. The astonishing choice of descriptive words that Kosinski choose to use and put together definitely scared and charmed me when I was reading this book at the mere age of 16. It was a wonderful experience.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago