- File Size: 922 KB
- Print Length: 230 pages
- Publisher: Grove Press; 2nd edition (December 1, 2007)
- Publication Date: April 1, 2018
- Sold by: Amazon.com Services LLC
- Language: English
- ASIN: B004I6DD2E
- Text-to-Speech: Enabled
- Word Wise: Enabled
- Lending: Enabled
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #33,693 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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|Print List Price:||$16.00|
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The Painted Bird Kindle Edition
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|Length: 230 pages||Word Wise: Enabled||Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled|
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One of the best . . . Written with deep sincerity and sensitivity. --Elie Wiesel, The New York Times Book Review
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 forget it; no one who reads it will be unmoved by it. The Painted Bird enriches our literature and our lives. --Jonathan Yardley, The Miami Herald --This text refers to the hardcover edition.
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While the book takes place in occupied Poland during WWII, this book is not about WWII. It is not a book about the Holocaust: indeed, "Jewishness" plays at best a trivial role in the book, and the camps but a minor role. Nor is this book an indictment of Nazi Germany: if it were it seems rather odd that an SS officer is one of the kinder people toward the boy (the unnamed, main character of the book). But then it is entirely false to the book itself to try to read it as an historical narrative.
_The Painted Bird_ is, rather, a mythic tale, in many ways told in the nature of a European fairy tale. It is the story of a mythic hero cast by circumstances outside his control into a symbolic "journey through hell": beginning in what to all purposes are medieval peasant villages, then moving loosely through time into the larger "village" that is the communism of the Russian liberators. (But not moving "historically" through time; in this strange world there is no past or present; just the mythic now.) The question here is not whether the boy will survive the journey or be killed: the question is whether he will emerge the mythic hero on the other side of the journey, or fail and become lost, permanently, in the dark otherworld. To that end, there are two, primary, greatly inter-related energies within the book. The first is that which goes to painting the Bosch-like (not my phrase, but a good one) vision of hell. The second lies in the philosophies of being that the boy encounters, that he learns directly or indirectly through those individuals he meets on his journey. It is through these philosophies of being that the boy seeks not only the means to endure the physical difficulties of his journey, but more importantly -- and here we get to the central conflict of the book -- the means to maintain his individuality against the cruelties of cultural groups that at its core cannot tolerate individuality. It is a book about painted birds, yes, birds that are destroyed by the flock because they are different. But it is also a book about how the birds get painted in the first place. Most importantly, it is a book about psychical individuality.
The book is wholly a literary work: well conceived and designed and very well crafted. Yes, the violence is to the extreme, but it is well used to the end of pulling the book out of an historical world and into a mythic world. (Even within the violence and sex one can find mythic, fairy tale, and old-world-religious thematics.) If you can enter this work removing it from the discourse of Holocaust literature that tried to claim the book as its own, you will discover quite an aesthetic, literary experience. _The Painted Bird_ is literature of a higher caliber, and it deserves to be preserved and praised as such.
To note: I use the idea of the mythic hero with the intention of the connection being made to such works as Jospeh Campbell's _The Hero with a Thousand Faces_. The more I think about _The Painted Bird_, the more resonance I find between the journey of Kosinki's boy and the mythic journey as described by Campbell. Those energies go all the more to the symbolic and literary value of the work.
Also to note, it is worth getting the second edition of the book (the current edition) so as to have the Afterward, written a decade after the original publication. In my edition the Afterward comes first in the text. I would recommend not reading it until after you have finished the book. In truth, the afterward is mostly about the reception of the book, not the book itself. As such, it may create false ideas that might be brought into the book. However, once you have read the book, the Afterward easily slips into its rightful context.
Not to diminish the horrors & suffering but I think I’d rather read a non-fiction / biography of an actual person’s experience.
After finishing the book, (which was truly a horrific experience for the Boy), I did more research and learned that when the author first wrote the book he was claiming it was his personal story... then when it was published (1950’s) he denied it....probably knowing people would be able to figure it out.
Anyway - gruesome experience the Boy went thru...but it was fiction and for whatever reason I can’t get over that.
Top international reviews
OK I was very young and impressionable and the read had a profound effect on myself and many of my generation.
The book, when read today, still has the same effect---- its horrific, sexy, gory, disgusting, sickening in parts and conveys a warped, nihilistic aspect of life purportedly experienced and written by Kosinski during the 2nd World War.
The events depicted are far worse than anything I've read about or seen in a modern post-apocalyptic novel or film.
I suspect that much of the content is based on the actual experiences of survivors of that period, probably Polish and Russian, and not first hand suffering as claimed by the author. That claim discredited his work immensely and he committed suicide a few short years after publication, before we could really understand his rationale after the dust had settled so to speak.
A magnificent work, but I could never recommend it to a wide audience.
There is a film coming out in 2019 some 50 years plus since the novel was first published (I had expected a film in the free 'n easy 1970's but it didn't happen). Some walked out of the theatre when shown at a film festival, while others gave the film a standing ovation, so the composition, whether written, audio or now on film, will always be controversial.
I also have the audio version of the book, 10 hours on 9 cd's. As powerful as the image taken from 'The Last Judgement' from Hieronymus Bosch, an oil on panel painting sometimes used on the cover of the novel.
I read up on the author before starting to read it and I would advise anyone thinking of purchasing it to do the same
quite a dark chap
It had to stop reading few times as it was a bit too much for me but i have managed to complete it in 5 days.
Its definitely a weird classic.
WOULD RECOMMEND THIS BOOK TO ANYONE INTERESTED IN WARTIME STORIES.
Not sure if other have a similar experience; but I have often noticed that Amazon or their delivery partners would send emails/SMS and notifications that the item is out for delivery. However it would not come that day and only the next business day. It so happens that I was travelling on Sunday and needed this book (which was notified to be delivered on Saturday); I waited entire Saturday and alas no delivery (as I feared). Eventually it was delivered on Monday which put me in additional mess, since I to make sure that there was someone available to receive the package. Infuriating. I don't mind the delay usually; but at least stick to what you yourself promise.
Feedback on the book itself:
The book was in the mint condition and this helps when you are eagerly waiting to read it. Kosinsky describes the onset of WWII from the eyes of an innocent and young Jewish Boy forced off from his family and set adrift among the peasants of rural Poland. The boy, wide-eyed like a camera with its shutter perpetually open, witnesses the life and times (including brutal atrocities, degradation, social stigma, superstition) that defy the imagination. The title itself refers to the hobby of a man who likes to capture a bird, paint its feathers in different bright colors and free it amongst its former fellows (and as they tear it apart as an intruder).
This surreal story of moral and physical depravity is made further gut-wrenching when viewed from the point of the view of a boy, who tries to make a sense of it all.
This is a brutal tale showing people at their worst.