Find your next favorite audiobook

Become a member today and listen free for 30 days
The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird

Written by Jerzy Kosinski

Narrated by Fred Berman and Michael Aronov


The Painted Bird

Written by Jerzy Kosinski

Narrated by Fred Berman and Michael Aronov

ratings:
3.5/5 (42 ratings)
Length:
10 hours
Released:
Mar 30, 2010
ISBN:
9781615730810
Format:
Audiobook

Description

Originally published in 1965, The Painted Bird established Jerzy Kosinski as a major literary figure. Called by the Los Angeles Times “one of the most imposing novels of the decade,” it was eventually translated into more than thirty languages. A harrowing story that follows the wanderings of a boy abandoned by his parents during World War II, The Painted Bird is a dark masterpiece that examines the proximity of terror and savagery to innocence and love. It is the first, and the most famous, novel by one of the most important and original writers of this century.
Released:
Mar 30, 2010
ISBN:
9781615730810
Format:
Audiobook

About the author


Related to The Painted Bird

Related Audiobooks
Related Articles

Reviews

What people think about The Painted Bird

3.7
42 ratings / 31 Reviews
What did you think?
Rating: 0 out of 5 stars

Reader reviews

  • (1/5)
    Shouldn't review this book, because I could not read it, though it was included in a syllabus of a course that I taught, had taken over after the syllabus designer stepped down (ill, I think, but forty-five years ago, so...) At the time I think the author was teaching at Yale, and I recall being astonished that his unreadable novel was actually valued, and sold very well. I conclude that many who bought it did not read it.* It is an assault. Followed by an assault. Leading to an assault. Maybe it appeals to masochists, serious ones?I must admit Kosinski wrote one fine line, his Suicide note,"I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call it Eternity."("Newsweek, May 13, 1991/Wikipedia) One critic, Pognowski, says Kozinski's novel is an attempt to profiteer from the Holocaust. Other critics have said Kozinski wrote in Polish, and had it translated; moreover, many of the terrible brutalities it recounts, supposedly on known Jewish children in a known Polish family, never happened. JK got around this by insisting it is fiction, but people credited the book as autobiographical. Also, may I wonder where suicides have become so prominent in modern American literature, from Sylvia Plath to Berryman to the Jerzy boy. Not that I disapprove suicide for the terminally ill--which may in fact have been the case here; indeed, I agree with the Stoics that the mortally ill may take "exitus rationis," reasonable departure. Why should we put animals out of their misery, but not humans--okay, okay, Christianity values suffering. But not me. Especially the reader's suffering, I do not value. As here.*I suspect many other books are bought, but not read through: Eco's Name of the Rose, even Walden, which I consider a dipper's book, filled with great essays, but for that reason, a wall after a fence after a hurdle.
  • (3/5)
    This novel was okay, but I don't really understand why it was included in Time's Top 100 Novels list. I don't believe that it merits that position. The prose is clunky, and I've read that the actual thing is entirely fictionalized rather than based on any truth-- besides the general subject matter of course. The characters felt forced and the dialogue was disjointed and rang untrue. Also, the plot was something dilly-dally and meandering from one story point to the next. Overall, a disappointing read.
  • (5/5)
    The officer surveyed me sharply. I felt like a squashed caterpillar oozing in the dust, a creature that could not harm anyone yet aroused loathing and disgust. In the presence of such a resplendent being, armed in all the symbols of might and majesty, I was genuinely ashamed of my appearance. I had nothing against his killing me.

    Much as Nietzsche detonated a shaped charge and blew away all hope of a totalizing meta-narrative, it was books like The Painted Bird which left me ashamed, almost permanently. I don't harbor much hope of a recovery. Kosiński left us a catalog of horror. Hope and Justice appear cheaply broacaded within. I still think about the phone ringing at the end of the novel.
  • (1/5)
    Wat een tegenvaller! Al bijna vanaf pagina 1 geeft Kosinsky een staalkaart van grote en kleine gruwelijkheden en wreedheden, maar op zo'n manier dat je begint te vermoeden dat hij er een absoluut genoegen in schept daarmee indruk te maken op de lezer. In een inleiding uit 1976 probeert Kosinsky zijn roman nog te verkopen als holocaust-getuigenis, maar na 100 bladzijden blijft daar niets van over. Als hij ook niet de auteur van Being There was geweest, dan zou ik fel gaan twijfelen aan zijn geestelijke vermogens. Bijkomend minpunt: literair stelt dit boek echt niets voor. Vlug doorspoelen.
  • (4/5)
    I have no idea what the hell to make of this.

    A catalog of horrors, unflinching, hammering them into your skull. The main character is totally broken. You yourself almost become disillusioned, and almost used to violence and shit and horror.

    A frightening book.
  • (1/5)
    Wat een tegenvaller! Al bijna vanaf pagina 1 geeft Kosinsky een staalkaart van grote en kleine gruwelijkheden en wreedheden, maar op zo'n manier dat je begint te vermoeden dat hij er een absoluut genoegen in schept daarmee indruk te maken op de lezer. In een inleiding uit 1976 probeert Kosinsky zijn roman nog te verkopen als holocaust-getuigenis, maar na 100 bladzijden blijft daar niets van over. Als hij ook niet de auteur van Being There was geweest, dan zou ik fel gaan twijfelen aan zijn geestelijke vermogens. Bijkomend minpunt: literair stelt dit boek echt niets voor. Vlug doorspoelen.
  • (5/5)
    Every few pages brings another basic question of life as observed through the eyes of a child rapidly gaining life experiences without enough life experiences to put them in perspective. Fundamental questions of purpose, existence, reason, are brought to the forefront with each new act of brutality.

    The simple, direct style adds to the impact of the story's events. Use of metaphor is expert and something I began to see as a treat with each new encounter.

    It is a book I plan to reread, but not too soon. The emotional cost of reading it, if you allow yourself to invest in it, is high. I approached it too lightly at first and felt myself cringing with the repeated acts of violence.
  • (1/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    I've finished the Jerzy Kosinski novel, The Painted Bird. It's a story about the tangential nature of savagery and terror to love and innocence. A dark haired boy is abandoned by his parents during the second world war and wanders alone around a group of Slavic villages. He is sometimes sheltered and other times hounded and beaten. He is always learning something. I can think of no other novel like it. It evokes fear, shame and sadness because we know at the moment of reeling horror that we are, nevertheless, contained within our own concepts of probability and fact.
  • (5/5)
    When I first read this book (1965) it was clearly labeled a novel. It seemed obvious to me that it was fiction and not pretending to be anything else. Somewhere along the line it got "upgraded" to a memoir, and then denounced as a hoax. As Vonnegut would say, "so it goes." But. As a novel, this is a terrific story. We didn't have the term "magic realism" back in the sixties, but this fits that description. The stories are grim, wild, and sometimes beautiful in their very ugliness, and I don't know if I read a single other book by this author that I even mildly liked. I think this is one of those things that happens only once in an author's lifetime. How it got put together, translated (if indeed it was) edited, collaborated with, who knows what, doesn't matter. The book transcends the author and the circumstances of its creation.That said, at least two out of three readers are going to hate this more than any other book they have ever read.pp
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    I was in awe when I first read it, but then... what he describes supposedly never happened to him. It is all supposedly plagiarized.
  • (4/5)
    This is an excellent and important novel. The horrors it describes are necessary in remembering how terrible this period was and the importance of the lack of human rights. The analogy of a painted bird is perfect in describing the ostracizing of one solely because of color and a different appearance.
  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    It feels weird to like this book. It's the type of book I generally enjoy, but taken a bit further.... Too far, even.My favorite books are dark, strange, and unpredictable. This book was all of that, but instead of the happy ending to create some cathartic conclusion to the madness, it just sort of... Ended. You realize that this lad is completely, irrevocably, altered from the person he was before the war. There's no going back. Considering the rape, mutilation, murder, torcher, abuse, and unhappiness the central character experiences throughout the story, the end doesn't really balance much of that out.It's kind of hard to describe this book, but for the most part, each chapter finds the character in a new hell. He's an orphaned boy whose parents tried to shield him from the horrors of the war by handing him off to someone at the beginning of it. He is separated from the guardian,and goes to guardian to guardian for almost every new chapter. But I really do think this is a book many people should read, despite the horrors. It's important to read about what could have happened. I'm not sure if every single one of the things he experiences is a viable thing during that period, but considering the madness and cruelty of man, I wouldn't be surprised if many of these events did occur in some shape or form to someone during the war.It's a pretty ambitious work, full of so much darkness and sadness. If you're charmed by the title of the story, you should be warned that even that basis is not happy. It refers to a story the character sees in the book, about one of his "guardians" who "watches" after birds in a small village. It's sad, it's bleak, and it's depressing, essentially from start to finish, but I believe that it is still an important book to read to recognize what many people were capable of doing back then, and how some people in today could be capable of doing similar things.This book is not for the faint of heart, nor for the kind of person looking for a quick, beachside novel while they bask in the sun. It takes the life force out of you, in a way.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (4/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    I read this book 25 years ago and it made an everlasting impression on me

    1 person found this helpful

  • (1/5)
    The Painted Bird is the fictional story of 7 year Polish child (not named) who is sent to the remote Polish countryside by his parents in an attempt to keep him safe during WW II. Unfortunately the person he is sent to live with dies and he spends the next 5 years going from one village to another trying to avoid the Germans and the violence of the Polish peasantry. At every turn this child (because of the way he looks—dark like a “gypsy”) is exposed to violence, torture, humiliation—not always at the hands of the Germans but mostly by the Polish villagers. The boy has suffered so much that it is hard to believe that he survives the war—but in reality he really has not—he may be physically alive in the end, but his soul is dead. There is no redemption, hope or inspiration in this novel. I can’t believe that I was able to finish this novel—it felt like violence pornography—every other page was unbelievable violence (bestiality, rape, murder, torture, incest, extreme beatings) directed at this boy! Pointless, mindless, disgusting--I would not recommend this book to anyone. 0 out of 5 stars.
  • (1/5)
    I am widely read and no stranger to brutality and debasement. Violence is part of life, and thus part of literature. But when the author shoves it in your face, to no other apparent purpose, then it's time to say goodbye. His knowledge of Polish fables could have been put to much better use if his "message" was at all modulated.
  • (5/5)
    Harrowing novel of a young boy's journey though war-torn Europe. full of horrors. It was the book that established him as a major writer, and it'll still curl your hair today.
  • (5/5)

    1 person found this helpful

    This book was recommended to me by my high school French teacher, John Goodman( 1970); it was he who first taught me about the holocaust and he described this book as one you read and after each chapter you have to remember to breathe again; he was right .This story is visceral and truly disturbing ; I agonize over the child protagonist each time I read it and wonder where Mr. Goodman has got to so I can thank him once again.

    1 person found this helpful

  • (2/5)
    I couldn't even finish this book because I found it so boring. I wanted to read it because I found it on a list of 'disturbing' literature. The only thing disturbing about this book is how bad it is.
  • (5/5)
    Everything the blurbs on the cover said. It is heartbreaking, amazing, powerful. At times you want to turn away, but you don't; then, you realize that life is not always nice. The protagonist changes many times throughout the book. He changes in order to survive, he changes because he sees something that he believes is better, or he changes because his eyes are opened and he sees how life really is.Kosinski was accused of betraying his country, he was also accused of not going far enough in showing the horrors of war as the boy experienced them. Maybe it's autobiographical, maybe it's not. What is important is that it is a true picture of what happened to many during the years of the Second World War.The author pulls no punches, so be prepared to read about depravity, hatred, racism, violence and even death when you pick up this book. And prepare to be changed. I was.
  • (4/5)
    The first rock thrown again
    Welcome to hell, little Saint
    Mother Gaia in slaughter
    Welcome to paradise, Soldier



    Is all BS! All of it! We a failure as a society, as a species, as individuals! We suck! There’s no way in hell anybody can convince me other wise! You know why? Cuz like millions of years ago some sort of ameba divided itself in 2... You know what the first thing it did when It separated itself? It attacked the other weaker part… and that’s what we been doing for fucking millions of years now! One its born and life fuck you in the butt! That’s it! Some people may call me emotionally damaged because I laugh at others demise… what they fail to noticed is that when I’m laughing is because that person had a hell lot of chances to avoid all the shit that befall him/her! As somebody said… “a fool deserves all the foolery that befalls him” or something like that! Anyway, that’s how I see it! But this poor kid broke my heart today! Damn man! This poor little kid was just walking around and shit went down on him and only him! There was nothing he could do to avoid it! He was just there walking minding his own busyness and BANG! It felt like the whole universe decided to defecate on that poor kid! Superstitious crazy old ladies hitting him (x), getting molested by crazy nympho (x), being chased by fucking Nazis (x), people telling him he has a demon inside of him and making him feel horrible for being “different” (x), being molested by some crazy chick and falling in love with her just to later watch her getting freaky with her father, brother and a goat (mother fucking check!), watching some crazy cock blocker bitches put a glass bottle inside the local nympho’s vagina and then kicking her to death (again holy fuck, check!), that’s pretty much all I’ve seen so far! I’am finish reading it tomorrow… I’m pretty hard to impress and easy to amuse… I mean I’m a sick fuck! But god damn! I’m impressed! And shock! And disgusted! And depressed!
  • (3/5)
    Writing about tragedy is a tricky business. Even when a literary voice does come across as authentic, the writing sometimes seems more interested in using its characters as allegorical, historical foils instead of respecting their individuality of experience. This always strikes me as untrue to the spirit of writing about history in the first place (even if it is in the form of fiction), and especially something as historically close and horrifying as the Holocaust. That’s the major problem that I had with “The Painted Bird,” and I think Kosinski might be the most egregious offender in the small selection of Holocaust literature with which I’m familiar. The content is very difficult, with its relentless violence, and not infrequent incidents of rape, bestiality, and physical abuse of a very young child (the narrator). Soon after being separated from his parents, he is shuttled from village to village and peasant to peasant to be looked after, nearly all of them suspicious of his “Gypsy” dark features. He is the disenfranchised bastard of History. Almost all of these would-be caretakers are physically brutal, superstitious, and backward. To read this, and to know that there were children who lived through experienced that very much paralleled the narrator’s, one might think that it was impossible to live through this without deep, permanent psychological scars. The unyielding violence, however, doesn’t allow for a single moment of reflection. You always have to be on your feet, anticipating the next rape or beating. And while the violence never became anaesthetizing as it has in similar novels, I couldn’t help but feeling that the narrator was simply a cipher for Kosinki’s philosophy of history: we are thrust into this cruel word, helpless and naked, only to be teased and kicked and humiliated, and then you die. He has no problem with letting you know that God won’t be there to help you, and that political parties are just as cruel and manipulative as history itself. Considering the course of twentieth century history, there are many good reasons for coming to such conclusions. In a piece of fiction, though, a reader needs room to breathe and space in which the characters can have thoughtful self-reflection. The narrator is denied all of that here – simply because he’s trying to make it to the next day.There is the occasional book that fails not because of its message, but because of the way in which the writer tries to communicate it. There are important ideas about human nature and how inhumane it can so often be, but using a character as both a figurative and literal whipping boy for history can never succeed as a novel. It just doesn’t ring true.
  • (3/5)
    The story of a small boy, in World War II Eastern Europe, sent to a village for protection from the Nazis, but faces his own horrors of cruelty, ignorance, and intolerance. He was thought to be a foundling, or a gypsy, and sent from place to place within the village. Never having a permanent place or a home and trying to navigate a world in which he isn’t prepared. Each chapter could stand alone as its own moral narrative. In one chapter, he describes how a bird hunter, captures a bird, and paints it. He then sends the bird back into the flock only to see him attacked as an intruder and killed. The boy’s story in these villages mirrors that of the bird. An animal analogy matches almost every story in the book. The horrors just deepen as the narrative goes, the boy is chased into the forest, beaten up, given to a farmer for hard labor. This farmer, thinking the boy has cursed him, hangs him up in a shack and if the boy fails to hold himself up, then his dog will attack him. He sees the full horror of war as he sees people being shipped to concentration camps, and an attack on his village by awol soldiers. Things keep getting worse until he decides that there is no one that anyone can rely on, but oneself. It begins to change the boy, and when at the end of the war, his parents find him again, he is a different boy. (There seem to be a great many Lord of the Flies kind of references here, a wild life, and now a life tamed). “I could not readily accept the idea of suddenly becoming someone’s real son, of being caressed and cared for, of having to obey people, not because they were stronger and could hurt me, but because they were my parents and had rights which no one could take away from them. P. 226I didn’t read all the controversy surrounding this book until after I finished it. It seems that most people had assumed (originally claimed by the author) that this work is semi-autobiographical. The book is, in fact, a work of fiction. The work was also banned in Poland for twenty years for its description of the peasants in the area as cruel, superstitious, and sexual deviants. I think the author’s point is to contrast the young innocent boy against adults in a time of war. It is a difficult book to read because of that, and to know that there are so many stories of World War II filled with these sorts of atrocities. (less)