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the HEART of darkness
am 3. Mai 2000
My byline refers not only to the fact that both Conrad and Kosinski were Polish authors writing in English. There are also similarities in Marlowe's journey into the darkness of the Congo and Kosinski's young narrators' voyage through the surreal landscape of wartime Eastern Europe. Both investigate the darker regions of the human psyche. Both are the antithesis of a "picaresque" novel. Both are told from the point-of-view of a relatively innocent narrator, whose original naivete is transformed by the scenes he witnesses into an understanding of the "horror" and a comprehension of man's capacity for evil. I read The Painted Bird over 30 years ago and many of its images still remain vivid in my imagination. I will never forget the couple caught copulating (you'll have to read Kosinski's description yourself - I'm not going to go there) and the boy-narrator's harrowing account of being thrown into a pit of excrement. I'm a bit surprised, having taught high school English myself, that this would be recommended to a young reader, even though I read it when I was about sixteen. It definitely wasn't on my school's list of recommended reading. I don't agree with some reviewers here that the book is pornographic. Far from it. The sex depicted is hardly meant to arouse. Kosinski's later work might have fallen into that category (he did a lot of short-story writing for Playboy and Penthouse), but this is far too brutal a work to be anywhere near titillating. If you would like to take a harrowing walk into the heart of darkness, and are equipped to handle visions of one of the most depraved landscapes you are likely to encounter in literature, then this book's for you.