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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.
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am 7. Juli 2000
This is certainly not a pleasant book to read. Nothing very good happens to our 6 year old narrator as he goes from gypsy village to gypsy village and witnesses one thing more horrible than the next. There are some absolutely horrifyingly graphic, disgusting shows of man's brutality but you almost becomed numbed by reading it. By the time you hit the seen with the invaders at the end who rape and torture the women, it doesn't even seem as bad as half of the other stuff. More importantly, you can see how the boy cannot go back to living with his family now that his childhood is lost. An important book although don't expect any fun here.
For my taste, I prefer the gut renching agony of Primo Levi's Holocaust memoirs and novels. At times you forget you are reading about humans since the behavior borders on primate like. I'm not sure mankind has improved that much in the intervening time between the close of WW II and the present. This is kind of like reading a Lord of the Flies with eastern European gypsies and villagers.
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am 25. Juli 2000
In The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski tells of the wanderings of a young boy during World War II. The boy, six years old, becomes the object of brutality and prejudice, all of which stems from a combination of peasant superstition and Nazi hatred. The peasants have no limit to their heartlessness: they beat the boy, molest him, and they nearly succeed in killing him-all for the color of his skin (just like Lekh's painted bird). In their minds the boy is nothing more than an ethnic curse to their village, one who could potentially incite the Germans to slaughter everyone within earshot. Just when the boy senses that the peasants will destroy him, he flees to the next village, and the whole process starts anew. In his wanderings he learns judgment and the ability to discern crescendos of violence.
The book is replete with gruesome images: bunkers filled with hungry rats that devour a living body with the efficiency of a school of piranhas; broken Jewish bodies moaning beside the train tracks; a dead woman melting under the heat of her burning shack. Death. The book is replete with it. In the midst of such desolation, the boy longs for stability and friendship and the confidence of trust. But he is disillusioned and betrayed each step of his journey, and the lessons of evil change him in ways he does not know.
The Painted Bird has torn me away from my cozy world and has shown me another sphere where people treat human life as though it is not human. The book is certainly gripping and a little disturbing; it has left in me an uncomfortable feeling that I cannot shake. I guess one hallmark of the successful book is its ability to do this.
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am 19. Juli 2000
This truly a brilliant book, no other author that I've ever read was able to capture the art of description like Kosinski. Though it will make you sick to your stomach and callenge you to question man's treatment of man, the things you will gain from the expierence will stay with you for a lifetime. I recomend all teenagers who have every question who they are or why they are here to read this book. Any adults who wander why the world is the way it is or who have never wander before should this book, because after reading it you'll never stop wandering. This book answers many question about the human soul and is a great experiment with the human phsyche. But for as many question it may answer, twice as many will be asked of the reader. It is a piece art the requires input as well as output. You become that little boy, you experienec horror, saddness, pain, loss of faith in God and in you own family. But it will also bring you to turns with mortality and let appreciate the good fortune you most likely expierence. I suggest you read this book and share it with you friends.
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This is a sad excuse for something to be taken seriously. If someone wanted to be jolted by man's insensitivity to man, "Night" by Weisel is of much more literary value. This book has none, zero, nada, as value goes. I'm sure that many injustices have occurred, but the author should have stuck to fact. There is no conclusion to his line of writing either, just an ending of his scenes.
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am 26. Mai 1999
As others have stated, this book is extremely harrowing in its depictions of brutality and violation. However, the atrocities we are forced to witness are never gratuitous. One crucial element which none of the other reviewers here have mentioned is the book's searing indictment of the desire for retribution, which is exposed as futile and senseless. So many of the abuses perpetrated therein are motivated by sheer vengefulness, including two actions by the narrator and his friends which result in the killing of innocent people (at least, to the extent that *anyone* in such a dynamic is innocent). Even when revenge is carried out against those who committed the original offense, we see that it accomplishes little or nothing and is ultimately hollow. Through all the inhumanity we are shown, this book succeeds in giving us one of the strongest affirmations of humanity I have ever read, and in doing this it is a masterpiece.
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am 21. Februar 2000
wow! the painted bird is the first book i have read that covers such a large spectrum of human emotion and ways society acts. as we go on the adventures of the protagonist, we are confronted with the different sorts of emotions he feels. from sadness, to triumph, from feeling alone, to feeling like a part of something, from shame, to pride, and from love to apathy and wrath, all within a short 200-something page book. the painted bird also reminds us how society rebukes those different from us and how events in a persons life determine who he/she will become. some of the subplots may be disturbing and grotesque, but it all adds to the effectiveness of the theme shining through. overall, the book makes you think and leaves you with a different perception of society than the one you may have had when you turned to the first page.
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am 4. April 1997
One of my favorites because it has "disturbed" me as few other books have. An unflinching exploration of the depths of human evil with an ironic twist--it is viewed from the unprejudiced eye of a child. Echoes of everything from <Huckleberry Finn> to <The Catcher in the Rye> to <American Psycho> abound in Kosinski's provocative use of first person point of view. I use this book with my World Lit. students, who never cease to be "blown away" by it. Significant as "literature" despite the common but fallacious criticism that Kosinski didn't himself experience what he depicts in this book. But of course he didn't--it's FICTION! Best exploration how the 20th century world can be "medieval" that I've ever read. Like walking into a Bosch painting
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am 1. März 1999
This is quite possibly the most amazing book I've ever read. I read it, at the suggestion of my high school English teacher, during my senior year in high school after having spent the previous year living abroad in Warsaw, Poland. Kosinski's descriptions of, among other topics, the scenary (flora) of Poland's countryside is amazingly accurate & I could EASILY imagine myself within the Woods of Poland as the young gypsy. Upon reading this I went on to other Kosinski novels, such as PINBALL, but the lessons of THE PAINTED BIRD have become a part of my soul. Thanks, Mr. High... (By the way, some of the original syntax and language in this novel can be attributed to the fact that it was written in English by a native speaker of Polish! -- It smacks of "Slavic Style"...)
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am 8. Mai 1998
For the first time in my life, I've come across a work of fiction that really upset me even as it entertained. The cruelty to which Kosinski's youthful narrator is subjected as he roams the countryside in search of shelter is enough to make you want to put the book down; however, the elegant prose keeps you riveted, and the plight of the boy becomes your own. The Grove Press edition is quite handsome, and comes with a nice Afterward, written by Kosinski in 1976, in which he describes how various Eastern European governments tried to position The Painted Bird as the work of an Americanized evil-doer -- an enemy of the peasant class he was trying to help. Read this book and you'll see why it lives on as a shockingly graphic representation of how Adolph Hitler's twisted vision destroyed lives.
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