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Book Abandoned: The Painted Bird, by Jerzy Kosinski

with 6 comments

I’m usually really bad at abandoning books that aren’t working out for me. I always feel this sense of obligation to finish what I’ve started, or something, no matter what (luckily it doesn’t come up too often, because I’m pretty good at judging which books I’ll like, or at least not hate). But I’m getting better at it! I’ve successfully put down The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski without feeling any need to pick it up again.

It’s about a little boy around seven years of age, presumed to be of gypsy or Jewish descent, whose parents send him away from their city home during WWII in a last-ditch effort to keep him safe. He wanders from village to village in eastern Europe, presumably Poland, but instead of safety, he finds dehumanization and violence every step of the way. The villagers are gruff, allowing their superstitions about his hair color, eye color, and skin tone to justify their prejudice. Each chapter is the story of another beating, another rape, another torture, by yet another perpetrator.

I mean really, how many violent rapes are there in this book? There were two in the 80 pages or so I got through and there are 251 pages in the book, so I’d rather not hazard a guess. And none of these incidents seems to lead to any point other than “humanity contains a seemingly endless capacity for evil”, which I guess is the point of the book. Well, okay, point made. Is that all? From what other comments I’ve seen and heard made about the book, it seems that yeah: that is all.

It’s not that the book is bad, necessarily. There is just only so much graphic depiction of violence this reader can stand, especially if it doesn’t seem to be adding to anything, or going anywhere.

Written by Emily Jane

July 28, 2010 at 12:13 am