The truth however was completely different. He was only six when the World War II broke out. Fair Use. The villagers took them in and protected from the Germans, despite the death penalty that awaited them if they were found out. In her opinion, the people who sheltered his family during the war deserve to be named Righteous Among the Nations. In , he emigrated to the United States, where he graduated from Columbia University.
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Jerzy Kosinski 's harrowing narrative, The Painted Bird , earned accolades from critics, yet also stirred a great deal of controversy when it was published in the United States in The novel, based on Kosinski's own experiences in Poland during World War II , centers on a young, unnamed boy's struggle to survive during the war by hiding in several remote villages in an Eastern European country.
His parents had sent him to live with a foster mother while they hid from the Nazis, but when the foster mother dies, the boy is forced to wander alone from village to village. Due to his dark eyes and complexion, the villagers suspect he is a Jew or a gypsy and so continually torment him.
While some critics have found the novel's violence excessive, most applaud its realistic depiction of the horrors of World War II. Andrew Field in Book Week defends the novel, admitting:. So awful … is this book that I can scarcely 'recommend' it to anyone, and yet, because there is enlightenment to be gained from its flame-dark pages, it deserves as wide a readership as possible.
Kosinski suffered years of torment after the novel's publication. The book was banned in Poland, his homeland, and he and his family suffered continual verbal and physical attacks by Eastern Europeans who considered the book slanderous to their culture. The novel endures, however, because of its powerful statement on the nature of cruelty and survival. In the Afterward of the second edition of The Painted Bird , Kosinski notes the impetus for the novel and for much of his writing: when his parents described their experiences during the war and their witnessing of "young children being herded into the trains," he writes, "it was therefore very much for their sakes and for people like them that I wanted to write fiction which would reflect, and perhaps exorcise the horrors that they had found so inexpressible.
When referring to his novel The Painted Bird in an "Afterword" published in its second edition, Jerzy Kosinski insists that he "remained determined that the novel's life be independent of mine. Kosinski was born on June 14, , in Lodz, Poland. His father, a scholar of the classics, and mother, a concert pianist, provided him with a sheltered childhood until Nazi Germany invaded Poland at the outbreak of World War II, when Jerzy was six years old. In an effort to save his life, his parents sent him to live with a foster mother while they went into hiding.
After his foster mother's death a few months later, Jerzy was forced to find shelter and food in various peasant villages in Poland until he was reunited with his parents at the end of the war. The traumatic events he suffered through during this period caused him to become mute when he was nine.
In an interview with Barbara Leaming for Penthouse , Kosinski commented, "Once I regained my speech after the war, the trauma began. The Stalinist [system in Poland] went after me, asking questions I didn't want to hear, demanding answers I would not give. Kosinski studied sociology and political science at the University of Lodz and earned a bachelor's degree in He also earned two master's degrees there, one in history in and the other in political science in While studying for his Ph.
Soon after, Kosinski created an elaborate plot to gain his freedom from his Communist-controlled homeland. He invented four scholars who he claimed were sponsoring research that needed to be completed in the United States. As a result, more than two years later, in , he arrived in New York City—without finances or connections. He soon learned English and continued his graduate studies at Columbia University.
In his first book, The Future Is Ours, Comrade: Conversations with the Russians , a collection of essays written under the pseudonym Joseph Novak, Kosinski outlines the injustices of the Communist system. The work became an immediate bestseller.
In , he became a naturalized citizen, the same year his first novel, The Painted Bird was published, and it gained him more notoriety. Other successful novels followed, including Steps , which won the National Book Award in and Being There , which was made into a critically acclaimed film in —earning him an Academy Award for best screenplay. Kosinski is also noted for his photography, which he exhibited throughout the world, and for his portrayal of Grigory Zinoviev in the film, Reds.
On May 3, , while suffering from severe heart disease and depression, Kosinski committed suicide in New York City. The Painted Bird starts in a large Eastern European city, in the fall of A six-year-old Jewish boy is sent by his parents to live in a village, while the parents go into hiding. World War II has just begun and Jews in German-occupied countries are being executed or sent to concentration camps.
Within two months, Marta, the woman who is taking care of the boy, dies, leaving him alone to fend for himself. He is soon taken in by a farmer, who beats him. One day, an elderly woman called Olga the Wise One buys him and takes him to her hut.
She teaches him valuable survival skills, including how to build and use a "comet," a can filled with slow burning materials that provide a constant heat source.
She is the first one to tell him an evil spirit possesses him. Others in the village fear him because of his dark hair and eyes and so often set their dogs on him. One day, one of the villagers throws him into the river and he drifts miles away from Olga and the village. He survives, due to the skills Olga has taught him, and comes to another village. A miller, nicknamed Jealous, who often quarrels with his wife and "mercilessly" beats her for her suspected infidelities, takes the boy in.
One evening at dinner, the miller, his wife, and his plowboy watch two cats mating. When the miller asks the plowboy if he lusts after his wife, the plowboy does not answer.
The miller gouges out the plowboy's eyes, and the stunned boy runs away. Lekh, a young man who sells birds in neighboring villages, takes the boy in. Lekh is in love with Stupid Ludmila, a wild, lustful woman who often seduces the village men. One day, a mob of village women savagely beat Ludmila and she dies. The boy finds Lekh inconsolable and leaves.
The boy then lives with a carpenter and his wife, who are convinced that his black hair will attract lightning to their farm. As a result, during thunderstorms, the carpenter takes the boy out to the middle of a field, away from his home.
The boy comes to believe he has this power when, during one storm, he stays in the barn and sees it catch on fire after being struck by lightning.
When the carpenter catches him, the boy pleads for his life and lures the carpenter to an old, abandoned military bunker, which is full of ravenous rats. After the carpenter accidentally falls in, he is ravaged by the frenzied rats.
The boy moves to a village that is regularly occupied by German soldiers—who take the villagers' food and materials needed for their army. He lives with a well-respected blacksmith and his family, who treat him relatively well. Sometimes partisans come to the village and the house demanding assistance. One night, some partisans accuse the blacksmith of helping "enemies of the Fatherland" and beat the family. The partisans find the boy and turn him over to soldiers at a German outpost. One soldier is ordered to lead the boy off and kill him, but the soldier allows the boy to escape into the forest.
The boy then moves in with a farmer in another village, where he sees trains full of Jews and Gypsies headed toward concentration camps.
The peasants tell him that the Germans' extermination of the Jews is God's punishment for the crucifixion of Christ. The boy wonders "whether so many Jews were necessary to compensate God for the killing of His son" and worries whether God will punish him, too.
He decides that fair-haired, blue-eyed people are God's favorites and tries to think of ways people could change their looks so they could avoid the ovens.
One day, Germans capture the boy and a Jew who has also been hiding in the village, and transport them to a nearby police station. As they travel, groups of peasants beat them. A priest intervenes, but the Jew is killed. The boy is enthralled with a German officer's clean, hard appearance and becomes ashamed of his own by comparison.
The boy declares, "I had nothing against his killing me. Garbos has a "dead, unsmiling face," and often beats the boy for no reason or sets his vicious dog on him. When the priest notices the boy's bruises and welts, he tells Garbos to bring the boy to the church. There, the boy begins preparations to become an altar boy and learns the rituals and beliefs of the Catholic Church.
He decides that prayers will save him from harm, but Garbos finds new ways to torture him. While serving as an altar boy at a church feast, the boy accidentally drops the missal during an important moment in the service. Angry peasants throw him into a large manure pit, insisting the boy is a Gypsy vampire who will bring evil to the village.
When the boy emerges, he discovers that he has become mute. Later, the head of the village gives the boy to a farmer, Makar, who has been shunned by the village. The farmer lives with his son and daughter on the outskirts of town. Ewka, the nineteen-year-old daughter, teaches the boy how to sexually pleasure her. When the boy botches the killing of a rabbit, Makar kicks him so hard in the stomach that he is immobilized for several weeks. One night he sees Ewka have sex with a goat under the direction of her father, and determines that the family "is in league with the Devil.
When he sees Ewka having sex with her brother, the boy leaves. In another village, Labina, a woman who works as a domestic to some of the richer peasants, takes him in. He feels safe with her, although he is disgusted by her sexual activities with the men in the village. As the Germans begin to lose the war, the front comes close. Soon Kalmuks, Soviet deserters who had fought with the Germans, invade the village, raping and murdering the inhabitants.
The boy decides that God has not helped him because he is of the same tribe as the savage, black-haired and black-eyed Kalmuks. Soon, the Red Army saves the village. The boy stays with the Red Army regiment that encamps near the village. The soldiers provide him with a safe, "calm and well-ordered" life. One of the soldiers, Gavrila, teaches him to read and explains the role of the Communist Party.
Another soldier, Mitka, introduces the boy to poetry and sings songs to him. Through their influence, the boy accepts the Party's doctrine and determines to live as a communist.
When drunken villagers kill some of Mitka's friends, Mitka takes revenge by perching in a tree and randomly shooting several villagers. The boy decides that revenge is a responsibility one must take. When the war ends, the soldiers send the boy to an orphanage to await a reunion with his parents. There the boy pretends to be Russian and refuses to learn reading and writing in his own language.
From Painted Bird to Ugly Bird: What is the truth behind Kosiński’s acclaimed autobiography?
Jerzy Kosinski’s Traumas, Real and Invented
Jerzy Kosinski 's harrowing narrative, The Painted Bird , earned accolades from critics, yet also stirred a great deal of controversy when it was published in the United States in The novel, based on Kosinski's own experiences in Poland during World War II , centers on a young, unnamed boy's struggle to survive during the war by hiding in several remote villages in an Eastern European country. His parents had sent him to live with a foster mother while they hid from the Nazis, but when the foster mother dies, the boy is forced to wander alone from village to village. Due to his dark eyes and complexion, the villagers suspect he is a Jew or a gypsy and so continually torment him.
The Painted Bird
It was only upon its publication by Houghton Mifflin that he quietly refrained from making such claims any further. The book describes the wandering boy's encounters with peasants engaged in all forms of sexual and social deviance such as incest , bestiality and rape , and in other forms of extreme violence exciting lust. The book title was drawn from an incident in the story. The boy, while in the company of a professional bird catcher, observes how the man took one of his captured birds and painted it several colors. Then he released the bird to fly in search of a flock of its kin, but when the painted bird came upon the flock, they saw it as an intruder and viciously attacked the bird until it fell from the sky.