Ben Crandell's Reviews > The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosiński
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Jan 29, 2011

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I thought this would book would be a nice way for me to learn more about World War II. Instead it was a rather unpleasant way to learn about the realities of war. The story is about a little Jewish boy who is sent away from his home by his parents when the Nazis come to his Polish village. He miraculously survives from one danger to the next. I kept waiting for a compassionate character to come along and give the poor boy a bowl of soup or something. But the point of the book is to show how cruel humans can be. Through ignorance, strange superstitions, and fear the peasants of Poland prove to be no safe haven for a lost Jewish boy. The story gets its name from a scene in the book where a strange peasant, who keeps the boy as a slave for a bit, paints a captured bird then releases it back to its own kind. The birds, sensing something different about the painted bird, would all fall upon it and peck it to death. Whenever this strange peasant was in a fowl (sorry for the pun) mood he would paint one of his caged birds and set it free. The result was that a bird wins back its freedom, finds its fellows, and for reasons unknown to the bird, is viciously attacked and murdered. The young boy sees himself as a painted bird.
The Author lived a very similar life to his character, and insists that his novel is an accurate depiction of Poland in those times. In fact, he goes so far to say that the reality of rural Poland during WWII could only truly be shown in fiction.
Don't expect any warm moments. Be prepared to thank God for your pleasant state of affairs in comparison.
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