THE PAINTED BIRD by Jerzy Kosinski


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In 1939, a six-year-old boy is sent-by his anti-Nazi parents to a remote village in Poland where they believe he will be safe. Things happen, however, and the boy is left to roam the Polish countryside, trying to stay alive, looking for food, shelter, and a principle of Justice to accomodate what he Sees people do to each other and to him. To the blond, blue-eyed peasants in his part of the country, the swarthy, darkeyed boy who speaks the dialect of the educated class is either Jew, gypsy, vampire, or devil. They fear him and they fear what the Germans will do to them if he is found among them, So he must keep moving. In doing so over a period of years, he observes every Conceivable variation on the theme of horror, sadism, and bestiatity. A cockold miller gouges out the eyes of a ploughboy with the back of a spoon. He loses his voice in a pile of human excrement, almost freezes to death underneath-a frozen lake, and is 'hung by his Wrists atop a vicious dog. The boy learns Communism and the principle of revenge from two kindly Russian officers and reluctantly re-joins his parents. Kosinski appears now in the narrative voice with a tract on evil, the culpability of the peasants, the advantages of personal struggle in the country as opposed to anonymous annihilation in the city. The novel proper, without tidying-up, is purely and simply a panoply of horror, expertly wrought and disgusting. There is no more parable or symbolism here than there was at Buchenwald. Jerzy is a brilliant writer, but let the reader beware. It's very hard to take.
Pub Date: Oct. 14th, 1965
ISBN: 080213422X
Page count: 260pp
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 1965


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