The Painted Bird
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The Painted Bird

3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  9,616 ratings  ·  716 reviews
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 ma...more
ebook, 234 pages
Published January 12th 2007 by Grove/Atlantic, Inc. (first published 1965)
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Paul
Reading this one is like opening an oven door and the WHITE HOT BLAST OF HATRED from every page sears your flesh, scars your brain, and when you finish it you cram it shut with relief and throw it quickly into a box marked “Charity” although giving this to anyone would not be any kind of charitable act unless they need something to keep the fire going. What kind of a shitstorm do we have here?
For some reason I thought this was the story of a kid caught up in the Holocaust, i.e. a ghetto and co...more
Emily May
Warning: I talk about a really gross and disturbing scene from the book in this review, please do not read if you're going to be upset and/or offended by talk of graphic sexual violence.

This book is one of my dad's favourite books of all time, I don't know how many years he's been telling me to read it now and we've always had similar opinions on books before. But The Painted Bird did not live up to my expectations and the whole idea of it just left a very bad taste in my mouth.

Pretty much anyon...more
Kim
This review is serving as a spiritual tug of war. The Battle of the Conscious. I really don’t know what to think. I hesitate between 2 and 3 stars and Yeah, I know… I’m a heartless bitch. The guilt tells me to rate it higher because of all the persecution and just plain ol’ Horrors that this kid dealt with. As if I’ve lost some humanity if I don’t appreciate this more. But… another part of me is just not feeling it.

It sort of feels like rubbernecking.

Like, it starts off right away with explodi...more
Lisa Vegan
Jul 06, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: all interested in holocaust literature, anyone who doesn't need to avoid disturbing books
I read an earlier edition than this. I’ve read many, many holocaust era books and I’d already read quite a few when I read this one. And this says a lot, but this one might be the most horrifying one of them all. This was one of the most disturbing books I’ve ever read and yet I loved the book. I read it thinking it was non-fiction; years after I read it, I read that it was fiction, but that doesn’t diminish at all the impact I feel from reading it. It’s truly amazing what people can do to each...more
The Crimson Fucker
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...more
Kathryn
The night before last, I fell asleep holding my laptop, while on the couch. I could have sworn I had saved my work, which just so happened to be a review for this book, but upon logging onto Goodreads today I noticed that I did not have a review for The Painted Bird. Every time I am certain I have everything planned out in terms of writing and posting reviews, I do something stupid, such as falling asleep with my computer. Sadly, falling asleep while contemplating and discussing a book does not...more
Teresa
Ler, para mim, é como viver uma vida paralela sendo os livros as pessoas que caminham ao meu lado nessa vida.
E, tal como as pessoas, há livros que passam por mim e nem levemente me tocam, outros ficam comigo para sempre. Por norma, ficam aqueles que me proporcionaram um convívio mais prazeiroso, mas há outros, que de tão especiais e únicos, também ficam, apesar de me terem destroçado o coração.

“O Pássaro Pintado” é um livro único, pungente, cuja leitura me torturou mas que nunca esquecerei. Um...more
Ronald Morton
The Painted Bird is the story of a young boy – nameless throughout the book – who is sent away by his parents during World War II – for a substantial sum of money – to a distant village in an attempt to keep him from being interned by the Germans. Shortly after being placed with a foster mother, the foster mother dies, and the child, at the age of six, begins nomadically wandering from village to village.

All of this is disclosed in the opening paragraphs of the book. The introductory paragraphs...more
Leigh
One of the most difficult books I've ever read. There's been a lot of furor over the autobiographical "truth" of this novel, and even over the identity of its author, but it certainly feels like an aesthetically true piece of writing. It's morbidly grotesque, unremittingly malevolent, and emotionally deadening in its litany of atrocities: narrator enters town, narrator is abused, narrator leaves town, over and over again. In no way an enjoyable read, and surprising only in the creativity of its...more
Jessica
I read this book as a young person (aged 13 or 14?), having appropriated it from my father's bookshelves. I remember being truly terrified by Kosinski's story, and it was I think the first time I had to close a book because I simply could not face reading any more. Eventually I did finish it, I think I forced myself.
Years later I would learn of Kosinski's suicide (bag over head in a bathtub) and I believe there had been accusations of plagiarism-- or was it that it was fiction being passed off...more
Bookcase Jim
After reading some of the reviews on here, I'm hoping that this will bring some sanity to the steaming heaps of hyperbole. Comparisons to the Saw films, torture porn, and complaints that the violence was simply all too gratuitous are the backbone of reviews that completely miss the point and should be dismissed out of hand.

"The purpose of a picaresque narrative is to present to the reader a picture of society and societal involvement that one would otherwise rather ignore, not all truths being...more
Jess
The Painted Bird was a controversial book for years after its publication, and it's difficult to separate the book from the controversy. Artistically speaking, I was not terribly impressed by this novel - it seemed to me little more than a parade of macabre episodes. I'm a fan of such horrors when they're described so poignantly that they leap off the page; after all, I just described Blood Meridian as my new favorite novel. But Kosinski's prose is simple, his images blunt-edged and so ugly as t...more
Zoeytron
It was clear from the beginning this story was not going to be on the light side, and being a reader who typically tends toward darker material, that did not deter me in any way from launching into this book. Not even sure from whence it came, but it has been languishing in one of our bookcases for years. I almost wish I had left it there, unread. At my age, I am well aware of the inequities of life.

The atrocities seen by and committed to the little boy in the book are almost continual, before...more
Hadrian
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.
Tyler Jones
It is said that great novels can teach us how to read differently and this is certainly true of Kozinski's dark masterpiece. The Painted Bird follows a young boy wandering though the eastern Europe of world war two. Moving from one village to the next, the boy is both witness to and victim of numerous and horrific atrocities. However the book is much more than a catalogue of inhumanity, for Kosinski has created a landscape like a Hieronymus Bosch painting come to life; it is a nightmare not only...more
Heather
In high school, I was very fortunate to have one of those teachers who turned everything you thought you knew right onto its head and then back around again.
What struck me about this unusual choice of curriculum was its confounding shape-shifting- is it literature, under a subtle guise of autobiograpy, or perhaps just non-fiction?
With "The Painted Bird" as a launching point, I've crafted over time a sort of personal curriculum of Jewish "mystical" narrative, or what might also be considered "in...more
Kristin
this book helped me recognize the sadistic side of human nature when i encounter it in daily life. it made me believe that there need be no complicated motivation for cruelty- maybe boredom or a feeling of inferiority. cruelty is simple and common and dependable, and it makes a good tool. it made me understand that tendencies toward neglect and cruelty, though maybe forgivable in a single instance, become monstrous when they go unchallenged and become habitual. which is more common in isolated c...more
Aimee
Aug 27, 2007 Aimee rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition Recommends it for: strong stomachs
Shelves: favorites
I don't know how many times I have read this book, but it never ceases to amaze me. The story takes place in Eastern Europe during WWII. Families are sending their children off to hide in the backwoods (and often backwards) villages to avoid the horrors of genocide. What one child finds is equally as terrorizing. Starting at the age of four our character is scared, hungry, beaten, tortured, molested, and struggling to stay alive. This "gypsy" boy slaves his way from village to village escaping p...more
Melki
In a dark enchanted forest, a young boy wanders from village to village, looking for a home amongst the superstitious dwellers who fear anyone different.
Is the child a Gypsy or a Jew? Either one will bring bad luck and unwanted attention from the Germans...best to beat him and send him on his way.
This horrific story proves once and for all that we have nothing to fear but the actions of others.
Karyl
Most of the way through the book The End of Boys by Hoffmeister, he's given this book to read so he can read about another boy making a journey. In The Painted Bird, the unnamed narrator is a small boy who is sent from his parents in the city to the countryside to save him from the horrors of war. Instead, he is passed from person to person, from village to village, enduring horrific abuse at every turn. Each village is full of sadists and rapists, people who delight in causing pain to someone w...more
John David
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...more
Yuri Kruman
Let fools argue about Kosiński's biography and "authenticity" of experience. His supreme ability to tell a child's horrific coming-of-age story in rural Nazi-controlled Poland, where the peasants are just as gruesomely sadistic, with adult credibility and moral authority without overreaching or sentimentality, is a dark and bittersweet triumph of humanity and then also of literature.

IMHO, the book was not written as an invective against Polish peasants or Nazis alone, any more than it is solely...more
Jennifer (JC-S)
‘Was such a destitute, cruel world worth ruling?’

‘The Painted Bird’ was first published by Jerzy Kosiński in 1965, and revised in 1976. It is a fictional account of the personal experiences of a boy aged six who could be Jewish or might be a Gypsy taking refuge in Eastern Europe during World War II. It is a fictional account filled with hate for Polish peasantry and packed with excruciating, horrifying detail of rape, murder, bestiality and torture.

‘The Painted Bird’ depicts a journey through a...more
Michael VanZandt
Kosinski delivers us the picaresque tale of a small Gypsie (or Jewish, it's unclear) boy roving the rugged countryside of eastern Europe during World War II. What begins as a story of magic and wilderness spirals to reveal the ugly nature of humankind. The boy does possesses the crowning quality of humanity: the survival-instinct. As he passes through each episode, and the novel progresses through each chapter, I would wince, writhe as I read. Torment and agony twist the boy, as I was left plead...more
Alonzo
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 show...more
Ellie
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Laura
A poignant story of a boy who was left behind by his parents when World War started in central Europe. The way he was able to communicate and understand the animals is remarkable.
Julia
i was so glad when i closed the last page of this book......it's a page-turner of the worst kind: descriptions of the most perverted kind of sexuality, sheer and unwielding brutality of a whole nation against a child plus some violent scenes which will make even people with strong stomachs gag - my problem with these scenes is not that i don't want to face reality, but that i'm not too sure if they are not just there for shocking sensationalism . i've done some classes on holocaust literature an...more
Mark
This story of an orphan who wanders Eastern Europe during the final days of World War II is supposed to be a condemnation of the insanity humans are capable of inflicting on one another. However, the events of the book are presented in such a surreal and distanced manner that it's hard to be affected by much. Since the majority of the characters are only in the book for a handful of pages and have hardly any personality, you don't think of them as much more than 'the superstitious peasant' or 't...more
Shawn
Kosinski was really out there. The Painted Bird is supposed to be autobiographical, about a youngster escaping from one of the eastern bloc countries during the Nazi era, WWII. It's a good read as I recall. None of his books are for the faint of heart. Read what one of the female reviewers on Goodreads wrote about his novel Cockpit, "Kosinski's one sick fuck". Well, I can't argue with her. So just try one of his other novels before committing to his work, may as well start with Cockpit; you know...more
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Kosiński was born Josef Lewinkopf to Jewish parents in Łódź, Poland. As a child during World War II, he lived in central Poland under a false identity his father gave him to use, Jerzy Kosiński. A Roman Catholic priest issued him a forged baptismal certificate. The Kosiński family survived the Holocaust thanks to local villagers, who offered assistance to Jewish Poles often at great personal risk...more
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“There's a place beyond words where experience first occurs to which I always want to return. I suspect that whenever I articulate my thoughts or translate my impulses into words, I am betraying the real thoughts and impulses which remain hidden.” 33 likes
“It seems that what I really want is a drug that will increase my consciousness of others, not myself.” 30 likes
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