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The Painted Bird
The Painted Bird
The Painted Bird
Audiobook10 hours

The Painted Bird

Written by Jerzy Kosinski

Narrated by Fred Berman and Michael Aronov

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

3/5

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About this audiobook

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.
LanguageEnglish
Release dateMar 30, 2010
ISBN9781615730810
The Painted Bird

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Reviews for The Painted Bird

Rating: 3.0614285714285714 out of 5 stars
3/5

700 ratings34 reviews

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  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    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

  • Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    4/5
    I read this book 25 years ago and it made an everlasting impression on me

    1 person found this helpful

  • Rating: 1 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    5/5
    For over 50 years people have been arguing over whether this book is autobiographical or fiction, original or plagiarized, written by Kosinski or by ghost riders.

    I. Do. Not. Care. I couldn't put it down.

    Trigger alerts abound so look out. It's non-stop cruelty and brutality. Men, women, children and animals. Beating, torture, rape, murder, incest, bestiality...you name it, it's in here.

    If you like imagery, no matter if the picture is beautiful or hideous, and can handle things like GOT, TWD, Stephan King, this book is for you.

    Here is an example involving gouged out eyes. Those of you with weak stomachs should look away now.

    "And with a rapid movement such as women use to gouge out the rotten spots while peeling potatoes, he plunged the spoon into one of the boy's eyes and twisted it.

    "The eye sprang out of his face like a yolk from a broken egg and rolled down the miller's hand onto the floor. The plowboy howled and shrieked, but the miller's hold kept him pinned against the wall. Then the blood-covered spoon plunged into the other eye, which sprang out even faster. For a moment the eye rested on the boy's cheek as if uncertain what to do next; then it finally tumbled down his shirt onto the floor.

    "It all had happened in a moment. I could not believe what I had seen. Something like a glimmer of hope crossed my mind that the gouged eyes could be put back where they belonged...

    "...The eyeballs lay on the floor. I walked around them, catching their steady stare. The cats timidly moved out into the middle of the room and began to play with the eyes as if they were balls of thread. Their own pupils narrowed to slits from the light of the oil lamp. The cats rolled the eyes around, sniffed them, licked them, and passed them to one another gently with their padded paws. Now it seemed that the eyes were staring at me from every corner of the room, as though they had acquired new life and motion of their own.

    "I watched them with fascination. If the miller had not been there I myself would have taken them. Surely they could still see. I would keep them in my pocket and take them out when needed, placing them over my own. Then I would see twice as much, maybe even more. Perhaps I could attach them to the back of my head and they would tell me, thought I was not quite certain how, what went on behind me. Better still, I could leave the eyes somewhere and they would tell me later what happened during my absence."

    I mean, come on! That's great stuff from the mind of our narrator, a 6-yo little boy in a rural village in Poland in 1939.
  • Rating: 1 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.
  • Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    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.
  • Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
    3/5
    This was brutal. It is about a child surviving WWII after being sent to the country to be "safe." But his caretaker died and he was left to fend for himself. There is abuse and exploitation in all its varieties. I don't think any trigger is missed.