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The Painted Bird

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,364 Ratings  ·  986 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 eventuallly 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
Paperback, 234 pages
Published August 9th 1995 by Grove Press (first published 1965)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paul Bryant
Jun 20, 2010 Paul Bryant rated it liked it
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
Emily May
Dec 03, 2012 Emily May rated it it was ok
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
Glenn Russell
Nov 02, 2014 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The cover of the Mass Market Paperback edition from the 1970s of The Painted Bird features a small section of Heironomous Bosch hell-landscape -- dressed in sickly green and wearing a white hood, a creature with a man's body and head of a long-beaked bird walks on crutches carrying a large wicker basket on its back, and in the basket a small black devil with spiky fingers touches the shoulder of a wary young boy as he whispers into the boy's ear. This is an apt cover for Jerzy Kosinski's fiction ...more
Bookcase Jim
Nov 11, 2013 Bookcase Jim rated it really liked it
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
Jul 13, 2016 Carmo rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: polónia, bib-l
Quando Hitler invade a Polónia e começa a selecionar população para os campos de concentração, um casal tenta salvar o filho deixando-o com uma idosa numa aldeia miserável no meio da floresta.
A porta de fuga tornou-se a porta de entrada num mundo de horror tão cruel quanto os guetos nazis.
Quando a mulher morre num incêndio, ele parte sozinho e aqui começa a saga de perseguição e fuga, deambulando de aldeia em aldeia por entre a floresta, procurando abrigo e, sobretudo, aceitação e algum carinho.
Kee Saitama
On deciding for the title of this novel, writer Jerzy Kosinki was inspired by the symbolic use of birds in literature which "allowed certain people to deal with actual events and characters without the restrictions which the writing of history imposes". He states that there was a certain peasant custom he witnessed as a child before in which he describes it as follows:

"One of the villagers' favorite entertainment was trapping birds, painting their feathers, and then releasing them in the air to
May 30, 2015 Jonfaith rated it it was amazing
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 perma
Dec 14, 2009 Kim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultured, warfare, mmix
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
Lisa Vegan
Jul 06, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Jun 25, 2015 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
The Crimson Fucker
Dec 23, 2009 The Crimson Fucker rated it really liked it
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
Apr 08, 2011 Kathryn rated it liked it
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
João Carlos
6 Estrelas Pintadas - "The Painted Bird" - Book Opening by Bob

“I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call it Eternity.” – esta é a frase da nota de suicídio de Jerzy Kosinski (1933-1991), encontrado morto a 3 de Maio de 1991, na sua casa de Manhattan, nos Estados Unidos da América, depois de ter ingerido uma quantidade letal de comprimidos e álcool e ter envolvido um saco plástico em volta da sua cabeça.
Com a publicação do cont
Yuri Kruman
May 12, 2013 Yuri Kruman rated it it was amazing
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
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
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.
Jan 23, 2009 Jessica rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Tyler Jones
Sep 16, 2011 Tyler Jones rated it it was amazing
Shelves: violence
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
Vit Babenco
Sep 10, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Cry havoc and let slip the dogs of war
The Painted Bird is pitilessly graphic and graphically merciless…
“One day, when the pigeon was trying as usual to consort with the hens and chicks, a small black shape broke away from the clouds. The hens ran screaming toward the barn and the chicken coop. The black ball fell like a stone on the flock. Only the pigeon had no place to hide. Before he even had time to spread his wings, a powerful bird with a sharp hooked beak pinned him to the ground and struc
Jan 23, 2008 Kristin rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 01, 2011 Melki rated it it was amazing
Shelves: holocaust, fiction
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 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.
Oct 22, 2008 Jess rated it liked it
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
Feb 03, 2014 Zoeytron rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 18, 2015 L. rated it did not like it
Mam wrażenie, że tak to właśnie miało być.
David M
Mar 22, 2016 David M rated it it was ok
Speaking of Pasolini's Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom (the most horrible movie ever made, by a considerable margin: just 100 minutes of children being tortured and raped), Italo Calvino wrote, “the idea of situating Sade’s novel in the times and places of the Nazi-Fascistic republic seems the worst possible one from all points of view. The horror of that past that is in the memory of so many who lived it cannot serve as background to a symbolic and imaginary horror constantly outside the [realm] ...more
May 03, 2016 Shelley rated it really liked it
Shelves: literature
This book is fiction but the author explains in the introduction that the real-life horrors of living as a Jew or a Gypsy during the Holocaust were as bad or worse. To convey what it was like to live as a child through that time, he had to bring to your attention details that may seem unbelievable but reach the level of atrocity he did experience.

It's like when someone who has lived through childhood sexual abuse is trying to describe how it feels to someone else. You struggle to come up with a
John David
Oct 25, 2012 John David rated it liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
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
Aug 27, 2007 Aimee rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 02, 2011 Ellie rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 19, 2016 M. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bütün toplumların eşit derecede vahşi olduğunu, Batı medeniyetinin de kökenlerine inildiğinde -kendi reklamlarının aksine- en az Doğu toplumları kadar yobaz bir geçmişi barındırdığını; Batı-Doğu algısının sentetik bir şey olduğunu bir defa daha gördüm bu kitapta.

Müthiş bir kitap, genç çağa gelmiş herkesin okuması gerek.
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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
More about Jerzy Kosiński...

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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.” 51 likes
“It seems that what I really want is a drug that will increase my consciousness of others, not myself.” 37 likes
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