Tuesday, June 25, 2019

At A Loss For Words

Hard to believe by anyone who knows me, but I am.  I go back and forth in my mind about this book's context, meaning out in the greater world highlighted by "Th brutality!  The ignorance!  The peasants!"

A friend extolled it to me, saying that it was the best book he'd ever read.

In it's time (1965) it was praised and/or attacked nearly evenly.  The writer was similarly praised and attacked.

"The Painted Bird," by Jerzy Kosinski  234 pages   $7.05 (!)

The incidents in this volume sounded positively medieval.  The peasants (apparently the rich, educated had other things to do)  in their superstitions, fables and morals.  As brutal as animals during their respective mating seasons.

The narrator is a 6 year old boy whose parents sent him to strangers in a small Slav village, to avoid the gathering drum sounds of WW2 in 1939.  Misadventures propel him forward from one to another.

Over and over, as I made it to page 110, I marveled at the brutality of their lives - horse and cart - carrying around a tin container of moss and a banked fire to use as a weapon and as a necessary item of survival, ready to be used as a portable oven/stove.  Woe betide the person who let his die.  

The writing is matter-of-fact; such as:  descriptions of eyes rolling on the dirt floor after being forcefully enucleated from the owner who was ogling the peasant's wife.  The boy speculates on their future possible uses - supplement his own eyes by putting them (somehow) on the back of his head.  Such is Kosinski's  realistic portrait of a boy that age.

And what appalled me after nearly every page was the thought, "OMG this actually happened!  No one could make these up."

 I wanted to see the boy in adulthood, living happily in America but from a quick cheat at a page at The End, I know this isn't going to happen.    Back to the library with my best wishes for a less horrifying experience for another.

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