Kosinski

Here are my notes… I need to edited them down to separate posts, each spotlighting one particular theme.

Kosinskihttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jerzy_Kosi%C5%84ski

According to Eliot Weinberger , an American writer, essayist , editor and translator , Kosiński was not the author of The Painted Bird . Weinberger alleged in his 2000 book Karmic Traces that Kosiński was not fluent in English at the time of its writing.

In a review of Jerzy Kosiński: A Biography by James Park Sloan, D. G. Myers, Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University wrote “For years Kosinski passed off The Painted Bird as the true story of his own experience during the Holocaust. Long before writing it he regaled friends and dinner parties with macabre tales of a childhood spent in hiding among the Polish peasantry. Among those who were fascinated was Dorothy de Santillana, a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin , to whom Kosinski confided that he had a manuscript based on his experiences. Upon accepting the book for publication Santillana said, “It is my understanding that, fictional as the material may sound, it is straight autobiography.” Although he backed away from this claim, Kosinski never wholly disavowed it.” 17

M. A. Orthofer addressed Weinberger’s assertion by saying: “Kosinski was, in many respects, a fake – possibly near as genuine a one as Weinberger could want.

Kosinski famously liked to pretend he was someone he wasn’t (as do many of the characters in his books), he occasionally published under a pseudonym, and, apparently, he plagiarized and forged left and right.” 18

Kosiński himself addressed these claims in the introduction to the 1976 reissue of The Painted Bird , saying that “Well-intentioned writers critics, and readers sought facts to back up their claims that the novel was autobiographical. They wanted to cast me in the role of spokesman for my generation, especially for those who had survived the war; but for me survival was an individual action that earned the survivor the right to speak only for himself. Facts about my life and my origins, I felt, should not be used to test the book’s authenticity, any more than they should be used to encourage readers to read The Painted Bird . Furthermore, I felt then, as I do now, that fiction and autobiography are very different modes.” 19

The Painted Bird is a fictional account that depicts the personal experiences of a boy of unknown religious and ethnic background who wanders around unidentified areas of Eastern Europe during World War II and taking refuge among a series of people, many of whom are brutally cruel and abusive, either to him or to others.

Soon after the book was published in the US, Kosiński was accused by the then-Communist Polish government of being anti-Polish , especially following the regime’s 1968 anti-Semitic campaign . 8 The book was banned in Poland from its initial publication until the fall of the Communist government in 1989. When it was finally printed, thousands of Poles in Warsaw lined up for as long as eight hours to purchase copies of the work autographed by Kosiński. 8

Polish literary critic and University of Warsaw professor Paweł Dudziak remarked that “in spite of the unclear role of its author,The Painted Bird is an achievement in English literature.” He stressed that since the book is a work of fiction and does not document real-world events, accusations of anti-Polish sentiment may result only from taking it too literally. 9

The book received recommendations from Elie Wiesel who wrote in The New York Times Book Review that it was “one of the best… Written with deep sincerity and sensitivity.” Richard Kluger , reviewing it for Harper’s Magazine wrote: “Extraordinary… literally staggering … one of the most powerful books I have ever read.” Jonathon Yardley , reviewing it for The Miami Herald , wrote: “Of all the remarkable fiction that emerged from World War II, nothing stands higher than Jerzy Kosiński’s The Painted Bird . A magnificent work of art, and a celebration of the individual will. No one who reads it will forget it; no one who reads it will be unmoved by it.” 10

However, reception of the book was not uniformly positive. After being translated into Polish, it was read by the people with whom the Lewinkopf family lived during the war. They recognized names of Jewish children sheltered by them (who also survived the war), depicted in the novel as victims of abuse by characters based on them. 11

Also, according to Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski , The Painted Bird was Kosiński’s most successful attempt at profiteering from the Holocaust by maintaining an aura of a chronicle. 11 In addition, several claims that Kosiński committed plagiarism in writing The Painted Bird were leveled against him. (See ‘Criticism’ section, below.)

Plagiarism allegations

In June 1982, a Village Voice report by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith accused Kosiński of plagiarism , claiming that much of his work was derivative of prewar books unfamiliar to English readers, and that Being There was a plagiarism of Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy — The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma — a 1932 Polish bestseller by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz . They also alleged Kosiński wrote The Painted Bird in Polish, and had it secretly translated into English. The report claimed that Kosiński’s books had actually been ghost-written by “assistant editors”, finding stylistic differences among Kosiński’s novels. Kosiński, according to them, had depended upon his free-lance editors for “the sort of composition that we usually call writing.”

American biographer James Sloan notes that New York poet, publisher and translator, George Reavey , claimed to have written The Painted Bird for Kosiński. 20

George Reavey (1 May 1907 – 11 August 1976) was a Russian-born Irish surrealist poet, publisher, translator and art collector. He was also Samuel Beckett’s first literary agent. In addition to his own poetry, Reavey’s translations and critical prose helped introduce 20th century Russian poetry to an English-speaking audience. He was also the first publisher to bring out a collection of English translations of the French surrealist poet Paul Éluard.

Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of Reavey’s literary career was his claim, made to the New York press and to British editor and publisher, Alan Clodd, that he had written The Painted Bird for Jerzy Kosiński.1

The article found a more realistic picture of Kosiński’s life during the Holocaust — a view which was supported by biographers Joanna Siedlecka and Sloan. The article asserted that The Painted Bird, assumed by some to be semi-autobiographical , was largely a work of fiction. The information showed that rather than wandering the Polish countryside, as his fictional character did, Kosiński spent the war years in hiding with a Polish Catholic family.

Terence Blacker , a profitable English publisher (who helped publish Kosiński’s books) and author of children’s books and mysteries for adults, wrote in his article published in The Independent in 2002:

“The significant point about Jerzy Kosiński was that … his books … had a vision and a voice consistent with one another and with the man himself. The problem was perhaps that he was a successful, worldly author who played polo, moved in fashionable circles and even appeared as an actor in Warren Beatty’s Reds . He seemed to have had an adventurous and rather kinky sexuality which, to many, made him all the more suspect. All in all, he was a perfect candidate for the snarling pack of literary hangers-on to turn on. There is something about a storyteller becoming rich and having a reasonably full private life that has a powerful potential to irritate so that, when things go wrong, it causes a very special kind of joy.” 21

D.G. Myers responded to Blacker’s assertions in his review of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Park Sloan:

“This theory explains much: the reckless driving, the abuse of small dogs, the thirst for fame, the fabrication of personal experience, the secretiveness about how he wrote, the denial of his Jewish identity. ‘There was a hollow space at the center of Kosinski that had resulted from denying his past,’ Sloan writes, ‘and his whole life had become a race to fill in that hollow space before it caused him to implode, collapsing inward upon

himself like a burnt-out star.’ On this theory, Kosinski emerges as a classic borderline personality, frantically defending himself against… all-out psychosis. 17

Journalist John Corry , wrote a 6,000-word feature article in The New York Times in November 1982, responding and defending Kosiński, which appeared on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section. Among other things, Corry alleged that reports claiming that “Kosinski was a plagiarist in the pay of the C.I.A. were the product of a Polish Communist disinformation campaign.” 22

http://www.artsandopinion.com/2007_v6_n6/routh-3.htmAudio Player00:0000:00Use Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.http://leaderu.com/ftissues/ft9610/myers.htmlhttp://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4036/the-art-of-fiction-no-46-jerzy-kosinskihttp://www.tabletmag.com/jewish-arts-and-culture/books/117982/the-tainted-birdhttp://www.criticsatlarge.ca/2010/11/talking-out-of-turn-1-jerzy-kosinski.htmlhttp://martinperlichinterviews.com/archives/interviews/jerzy-koszinski-2/

Kosiński himself responded that he had never maintained that the book was autobiographical, even though years earlier he confided to Houghton Mifflin editor Santillana that his manuscript “draws upon a childhood spent, by the casual chances of war, in the remotest villages of Eastern Europe .” 17 In 1988, he wrote The Hermit of 69th Street , in which he sought to demonstrate the absurdity of investigating prior work by inserting footnotes for practically every term in the book. 23

“Ironically,” wrote theatre critic Lucy Komisar, “possibly his only true book… about a successful author who is shown to be a fraud.” 23

Despite repudiation of the Village Voice allegations in detailed articles in The New York Times , The Los Angeles Times , and other publications, Kosiński remained tainted. “I think it contributed to his death,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski , a friend and fellow Polish exile. 3

Kosiński was also friends with Wojciech Frykowski and Abigail Folger . He introduced the couple.

In 1984, Polanski denied Kosinski’s story in his autobiography. Journalist John Taylor of New York Magazine believes Polanski was mistaken. “Although it was a single sentence in a 461-page book, reviewers focused on it. But the accusation was untrue: Jerzy and Kiki had been invited to stay with Tate the night of the Manson murders, and they missed being killed as well only because they stopped in New York en route from Paris because their luggage had been misdirected.” The reason why Taylor believes this, is that “a friend of Kosinski’s wrote a letter to the Times , which was published in the Book Review , describing the detailed plans he and Jerzy had made to meet that weekend at Polanski’s house on Cielo Drive. Few people saw the letter.” The NYM article does not contain the name of this friend, nor the particular issue of the Book Review in which this letter is supposed to have been published, nor names of the ‘few’ who may have read the letter. 3

edit 
Volume II, Issue 1   —   February, 2001

Facts and Fakes
Considering Eliot Weinberger’s Genuine Fakes

by

M.A.Orthofer

I.

Eliot Weinberger’s short piece, Genuine Fakes, most recently published in his collection Karmic Traces (New Directions, 2000), begins:

About ten years after it was published, an energetic young man retyped Jerzy Kosinski’s 1965 prize-winning novel, The Painted Bird, gave the manuscript a new title, and submitted it to a dozen American publishers. None of them, including Kosinski’s own publisher, recognized the book, and all of them rejected it.

“It was good joke,” Weinberger adds, “and a telling comment on how books get published, but the story does not end there.” Indeed not. But the story also begins elsewhere.

II.

In his piece Weinberger offers a simplified account of the joke: a nameless energetic young man, an unidentified new title, faceless publishers. He even begins with an approximation: “About ten years after it was published …..” The anecdote — the point — perhaps does not require more.

The facts have been well-documented elsewhere. Time magazine brought a little piece on it in 1979. Chuck Ross — the perpetrator — published an account of it in New West magazine. And James Park Sloan describes it in his biography of Kosinski (Dutton, 1996). What actually occurred was: in 1975 Chuck Ross typed up some 20 pages of Kosinski’s novel and submitted them as a sample chapter to four publishers, including Houghton Mifflin, who were Kosinski’s publishers at that time. Rejected by all of them, Ross repeated the experiment in 1978-9, this time submitting the entire manuscript to 14 publishers and 13 literary agents. Again, all of them turned it down, and apparently none of them recognized it.

Only one aspect of the joke is more precisely identified by Weinberger in his brief summary: the book in question. Weinberger states that it was “Jerzy Kosinski’s 1965 prize-winning novel, The Painted Bird”. Unfortunately this is also the one piece of information that Weinberger got wrong. The novel in question — the one Chuck Ross submitted — was not Kosinski’s 1965 novel, The Painted Bird, but his 1968, National Book Award-winning novel, Steps.

III.

Genuine Fakes was originally a book-review, published in The L.A. Weekly in 1983. It was rewritten for a 1995 issue of Artes de México on forgery. It was then published in Weinberger’s collection of “poetics politics polemics”, Written Reaction (Marsilio, 1996). It was then published again in Weinberger’s collection, Karmic Traces (New Directions, 2000).

Chuck Ross’ stunt may be “a telling comment on how books get published”, but Weinberger’s misstep is also a telling comment on the state of publishing, editing, — and reading.

Four times over the incorrect information was published. Weinberger did not catch it. No editor caught it. And, sadly, no reader seems to have caught it — or, if one did, to have made the effort to inform the powers that be. Again and again and again the error was repeated.

IV.

Genuine Fakes is a clever, thoughtful little piece. It is no wonder Weinberger chooses to reprint it. In only a few pages he manages to address many of the significant aspects of forgery, and he does so entertainingly and well. He finds the proper balance between his facts and conclusions, where in his other pieces one or the other often dominates too strongly. He concludes that the forger may be “the purest artist (…) who believes only in the work itself and the age to which it is attributed.”

The Kosinski-anecdote is only one of a number of different forgeries Weinberger cites. One reason he uses it is because he can continue the trail of fakery, noting that Kosinski was accused of not really having written The Painted Bird. Claims range from Kosinski having written it in Polish and having gotten someone else to translate it, to his having written only an outline which someone else then puffed up into the novel, to his having based it on an actual Polish manuscript penned by someone else — to him simply having straight-out plagiarized it.

Kosinski was, in many respects, a fake — possibly near as genuine a one as Weinberger could want. (One aspect of the best fakes is the lingering doubt that, possibly, there is some authenticity behind them — as is the case with Kosinski.) Kosinski famously liked to pretend he was someone he wasn’t (as do many of the characters in his books), he occasionally published under a pseudonym, and, apparently, he plagiarized and forged left and right.

V.

Weinberger’s mistake would appear to be a simple, harmless one. The Painted Bird instead of Steps — what difference does it make ? Surely, the point remains the same, the anecdote just as illuminating.

In fact, Weinberger’s slip is a significant and disturbing one. First: the point is no longer quite the same. Second: Ross’ ruse would never have worked with The Painted Bird, completely undermining Weinberger’s argument — but readers, fooled by Weinberger’s unsound presumption, are none the wiser. Third: Weinberger — an author who fills his pieces with clever (but generally undocumented) facts, spinning neat conclusions from them — undermines his own trustworthiness. If he gets this wrong (and it is more than just getting the title of the book wrong) how can one trust his other contentions and citations ?

i.

The point is no longer quite the same. Weinberger writes: “The Painted Bird is a classic case of how authorship determines reception”, its importance greatest when Kosinski-as-war-victim is the authentic author and then diminishing as it is seen as translated, plagiarized, and finally merely retyped. If the situation were as Weinberger describes it — if Ross had actually retyped The Painted Bird (rather than Steps) — his point would be much stronger. The facts suggest that the text does play a more significant role in reception than Weinberger allows:

ii.

Steps is a different beast from The Painted Bird. It won the National Book Award — controversially, one might add, with many considering it a make-up prize for the previously overlooked The Painted Bird — and it sold well. It may be of literary merit, it may have won a prestigious prize, many people may have bought it and a considerable number might even have read it, but it made no impression. It is not a bad book, but it is entirely unremarkable. A book the world has remained oblivious to. Fairly, rightly so. It has been reduced to a curious aside, an occasional footnote, a bibliographic entry. It is already among the most-forgotten books of recent years, and it will fade further. And Chuck Ross’ clever success rests on this particular quality of the book — rests entirely on it, one could argue.

The Painted Bird belongs in another category entirely. It was more widely discussed, and far better known. It made Kosinski’s reputation, and it remains the most significant of his texts. A number of his works are still in print, but this is the big one. The magnum opus, the one that’s cited when he is mentioned.

Ross’ ruse would never have worked had he submitted The Painted Bird, retyped, in his experiment. Fake or real, it is a unique text. It made its mark. It was widely read, well received. It is a familiar, known novel. It stands out, in whatever guise it exists. Arguably even those that have not read the original would recognize it were it submitted under a different title and a different author’s name. Not necessarily as The Painted Bird, but as as an element of our common literary and humanistic experience, a fact which would be remarked upon and followed through until the connection with the original novel was made.

In part this is due to the subject-matter, but The Painted Bird is also an accomplished and distinctive literary text (as none of Kosinski’s other novels are — though a number are quite interesting). The question of how Kosinski accomplished this — whether he wrote it himself, had help, or simple stole someone else’s book — is interesting but not central. The Painted Bird continues to exist as a literary text, apart from the many questions about its authorship. As such it seems to weigh against Weinberger’s thesis; certainly it can not be said that it “is a classic case of how authorship determines reception”.

iii.

Weinberger begins his piece with a wishy-washy account of the facts:

About ten years after it was published, an energetic young man retyped (…) The Painted Bird, gave the manuscript a new title, and submitted it to a dozen American publishers.

Beside the title “a dozen” is the most precision he offers here — and he seems to use it to mean “a handful” rather than specifically twelve. Readers are told the young man is energetic, but not what his name was. The time frame is approximate (“about ten years after” a date which itself is not disclosed).

Certainly, the point of the anecdote is what counts: nobody recognized the retyped work. The details are not that important (except the one that is given — which is the one that is wrong — the title of the original book), and many readers will have a vague memory of the episode anyway.

Weinberger seems, in fact, to be providing just the right level of detail. Gloss over the irrelevant fine points (did Ross submit the manuscript to four publishers, and then ten, or was it four and then fourteen ? in 1977 or 1979 ? etc.), and get to the main point. The passage on Ross’ joke resembles much of Weinberger’s writing in his entertaining essays: lots of facts plucked from here and there, without too much fussy detail (or too many citations). It is, arguably, one of the greatest strengths of his writing as he cuts to the quick and makes clever connexions.

With writing such as Weinberger’s it is impossible to hunt down every fact and check to see if he got it right. Readers — a trusting, often gullible lot (if it’s printed it’s got to be true) — have little choice here; if they want to read Weinberger they have to take his word for it. It all sounds plausible enough — but what happens when, as here, it turns out not to be accurate. What to do then when he gets a fairly basic (yet consequential) fact wrong ? Doesn’t it call everything into question ?

VI.

Is this much ado about nothing ? Perhaps. Certainly no one seems to much care; public indifference manifests itself in the fact that no one ever seems to have pointed out the mistake (or done anything about it). (No question: literary culture is dead as a doornail.)

It is hard to get all the facts right in a collection so rich in references as Karmic Traces or Written Reactions, possibly impossible. Some mistakes do not matter much. In the piece Panama: A Palindrome (in Written Reactions), Weinberger writes of George Bush, describing him as “serving for short terms in sensitive or troubled government agencies (the CIA, the UN, the Embassy in China).” When Bush was appointed in 1974 it was to head the U.S. Liaison Office in Peking. Diplomatic relations were not full-fledged yet; there was no American Embassy. But here Weinberger is close enough to the mark.

Not so in confusing The Painted Bird and Steps in the way he does. He builds an argument — possibly a valid one — on this false foundation, and he also calls into question the way he works with and presents facts elsewhere in his writing. That seems far too high a price to pay.

VII.

The literary world, when it preens in its intellectual and essayistic (as opposed to fictional or poetic) guise, though long toppled, ever-shrinking, falling, fading, can not afford such a cavalier attitude towards facts. It must remain true to its strengths if it is to assert itself as worthy of any continuing rôle in society — and truth is its final and fundamental strength.

Ours is no longer the age of reason or of belief, it is an age of opinion. Granting this we must at least demand from those expressing opinion to found them in fact. It is the only glimmer of hope.

Postscript – cri de coeur

Are there really no editors out there ?

No fact-checkers ?

No one who cares ?

  • Return to top of the page –

Links:

• Eliot Weinberger’s books under review at the complete review

◦ Karmic Traces

◦ Written Reaction

◦ Outside Stories

◦ Works on Paper

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The Painted Bird

The Painted Bird describes the experiences of a boy (of unknown religious and ethnic background) wandering about a surreal Central or Eastern Europe countryside and hiding among cruel peasants. The novel is presumably a metaphor for the human condition: alienation in a dehumanized, hostile, and thoroughly evil world.

It was “described by Arthur Miller and Elie Wiesel as one of the most important books in the so-called Holocaust literature.”2 Wiesel wrote in a New York Times Book Review that it was: “One of the best… Written with deep sincerity and sensitivity”; Richard Kluger, reviewing it for Harper’s Magazine wrote: “Extraordinary… literally staggering … one of the most powerful books I have ever read,” and John Yardley, reviewing it for The Miami Herald, wrote: “Of all the remarkable fiction that emerged from World War II, nothing stands higher than Jerzy Kosinski’s The Painted Bird. A magnificent work of art, and a celebration of the individual will. No one who reads it will forget it; no one who reads it will be unmoved by it. The Painted Bird enriches our literature and our lives.”3

Soon after the book was published in the US, Kosinski was accused of being anti-Polish, “particularly after 1968 when the authorities undertook an anti-Semitic campaign that forced many Jews to leave Poland.”4 The book was banned in Poland from its initial publication until 1989; when it was finally allowed to be printed, thousands of Poles in Warsaw lined up for as much as eight hours to purchase copies of the work autographed by Kosinski.4 Polish literary critic and University of Warsaw professor, Paweł Dudziak, noted that the Painted Bird is a “great, even if a controversial” piece. He stressed that since the book is surreal—a fictional tale—and does not present, nor claims to present real-world events—accusation of anti-Polish sentiment are nothing but misunderstanding of the book by those who take it too literally.5

However, reception of the book was not uniformly positive. “When Kosinski’s Painted Bird was translated into Polish, wrote Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski, it was read by the people with whom the Lewinkopf family lived during the war. They were scandalized by the tales of abuse that never happened. They recognized names of Jewish children sheltered by them during the war—children who survived thanks to them, now painted as victims of their abuse. They were bitter and offended by Jerzy’s ingratitude and obsession to slander them.” According to Pogonowski, The Painted Bird—due to its “pornographic content”—became Kosinski’s most successful attempt at profiteering from the Holocaust.6

It is argued that The Painted Bird is a misinterpretation of the metaphoric nature of the novel. In newer editions Kosinski explained that his characters’ nationality and ethnicity had intentionally been left ambiguous in order to prevent that very interpretation.

ontroversy

According to Eliot Weinberger, an American writer, essayist, editor and translator, Kosinski was not the author of The Painted Bird. Weinberger alleged in his 2000 book Karmic Traces that Kosinski was not fluent in English at the time of its writing.10

In a review of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Park Sloan, D. G. Myers, Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University wrote “For years Kosinski passed off The Painted Bird as the true story of his own experience during the Holocaust. Long before writing it he regaled friends and dinner parties with macabre tales of a childhood spent in hiding among the Polish peasantry. Among those who were fascinated was Dorothy de Santillana, a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin, to whom Kosinski confided that he had a manuscript based on his experiences. Upon accepting the book for publication Santillana said, “It is my understanding that, fictional as the material may sound, it is straight autobiography.” Although he backed away from this claim, Kosinski never wholly disavowed it.”11

M.A. Orthofer addressed Weinberger’s assertion by saying: “Kosinski was, in many respects, a fake – possibly near as genuine a one as Weinberger could want. (One aspect of the best fakes is the lingering doubt that, possibly, there is some authenticity behind them – as is the case with Kosinski.) Kosinski famously liked to pretend he was someone he wasn’t (as do many of the characters in his books), he occasionally published under a pseudonym, and, apparently, he plagiarized and forged left and right.”12

Village Voice article: claims of plagiarism

In June 1982, a Village Voice article by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith accused Kosinski of plagiarism, claiming much of his work was derivative of Polish sources unfamiliar to English readers. (Being There bears a strong resemblance to Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy—The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma—a 1932 Polish bestseller by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz). They also alleged that Kosinski wrote The Painted Bird in Polish, and had it secretly translated into English. The article also claimed that Kosinski’s books had actually been ghost-written by his “assistant editors,” pointing to stylistic differences among Kosinski’s novels, depending upon his free-lance editors for “the sort of composition that we usually call writing.” New York poet, publisher and translator, George Reavey, who in American biographer James Sloan’s opinion was embittered by his own lack of literary success, claimed to have written The Painted Bird for Kosinski. Reavey’s assertions were ignored by the press.13

The article presented a different picture of Kosinski’s life during the Holocaust—a view which was later supported by a Polish biographer, Joanna Siedlecka, and Sloan. The article asserted that The Painted Bird, assumed by some to be semi-autobiographical, was a work of fiction. The article maintained that rather than wandering the Polish countryside, Kosiński had spent the war years in hiding with a Polish Catholic family and had never been appreciably mistreated.

Reaction to article

Terence Blacker, an English publisher (who published Kosinski’s books) and author of children’s books and mysteries for adults, wrote in response to the article’s accusations in his article published in The Independent in 2002:

“The significant point about Jerzy Kosinski was that … his books … had a vision and a voice consistent with one another and with the man himself. The problem was perhaps that he was a successful, worldly author who played polo, moved in fashionable circles and even appeared as an actor in Warren Beatty’s Reds. He seemed to have had an adventurous and rather kinky sexuality which, to many, made him all the more suspect. All in all, he was a perfect candidate for the snarling pack of literary hangers-on to turn on. There is something about a storyteller becoming rich and having a reasonably full private life that has a powerful potential to irritate so that, when things go wrong, it causes a very special kind of joy.”14

D.G. Myers responded to Blacker’s assertions in his review of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Park Sloan:

“This theory explains much: the reckless driving, the abuse of small dogs, the thirst for fame, the fabrication of personal experience, the secretiveness about how he wrote, the denial of his Jewish identity. ‘There was a hollow space at the center of Kosinski that had resulted from denying his past,’ Sloan writes, ‘and his whole life had become a race to fill in that hollow space before it caused him to implode, collapsing inward upon himself like a burnt-out star.’ On this theory, Kosinski emerges as a classic borderline personality, frantically defending himself against… all-out psychosis.11

John Corry, a controversial figure himself15 wrote a 6,000-word feature article in The New York Times in November 1982, responding and defending Kosinski, which appeared on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section. Among other things, Corry alleged that reports claiming that “Kosinski was a plagiarist in the pay of the C.I.A. were the product of a Polish Communist disinformation campaign.”16

Kosinski’s defenders also assert that these accusations ignore the stylistic differences apparent in the work of almost any artist over a period of more than a few years.

Kosinski himself responded that he had never maintained that the book was autobiographical, even though years earlier he confided to Dorothy de Santillana, a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin, that his manuscript “draws upon a childhood spent, by the casual chances of war, in the remotest villages of Eastern Europe.”11 In 1988 he wrote The Hermit of 69th Street, in which he sought to demonstrate the absurdity of investigating prior work by inserting footnotes for practically every term in the book.17 “Ironically – wrote theatre critic Lucy Komisar – possibly his only true book… about a successful author who is shown to be a fraud.”17

Suicide

In 1979, Kosinski told a reporter: “I’m not a suicide freak, but I want to be free. If I ever have a terminal disease that would affect my mind or my body, I would end it.”18

By the time he reached his late 50’s, Kosinski was suffering from irregular heart beat as well as severe physical and nervous exhaustion. Kosinski committed suicide on May 3, 1991, by taking a fatal dose of barbiturates and his usual rum-and-Coke, twisting a plastic shopping bag around his head and (allegedly) taping it shut around his neck (a method of suicide suggested by the Hemlock Society), and lying down to die in water in the bathtub in his West 57th Street New York apartment.19

His parting suicide note read: “I am going to put myself to sleep now for a bit longer than usual. Call the time Eternity.” (Newsweek, May 13 1991).

Legacy

Kosinski was a popular, if not important writer. His Painted Bird was considered an important contribution to understanding theHolocaust by figures such as Arthur Miller and Elie Wiesel. His novels sold well, and Being There was made into a popular film starring Peter Sellers.

Kosinski was himself a popular figure with the media, appearing 12 times on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson during 1971-73 andThe Dick Cavett Show in 1974. He was a guest on the talk radio show of Long John Nebel, posed half-naked for a cover photograph byAnnie Leibovitz for the New York Times Magazine in 1982, and presented the Oscar for screenwriting in 1982.

He also played the role of Bolshevik revolutionary and Politburo member Grigory Zinoviev in Warren Beatty’s film Reds. The Time magazine critic wrote: “As Reed’s Soviet nemesis, novelist Jerzy Kosinski acquits himself nicely–a tundra of ice against Reed’s all-American fire.” Newsweek complimented Kosinski’s “delightfully abrasive” performance.

f you had plans to pick up Belgian writer Misha Defonseca’s book, “Misha: A Memoir of the Holocaust Years,” be aware that it’s a harrowing tale of how, as a Jewish child, she lived with a pack of wolves in the woods during the Holocaust. The book, which has been made into a feature film in France …

… is also something else: a complete crock.

The author has since acknowledged that her story wasn’t autobiographical, and that she didn’t trek 1,900 miles across Europe with a pack of wolves in search of her deported parents during World War II.

In fact, this phony Holocaust survivor isn’t even Jewish! Defonseca said her parents were arrested by the Nazis for their role in the resistance movement, and shabby treatment by her adopted family made her “feel Jewish.” Oy vey!

Defonseca’s story brings to mind another writer, the late Jerzy Kosinski, who caused a sensation in the 1960s with his book “The Painted Bird,” about a young Jewish boy separated from his parents during the Second World II, who wanders the Polish countryside, where he witnesses — and experiences — brutal treatment by the medieval-minded Polish peasants.

Then came Eliot Weinberger, an American writer and translator, who charged that Kosinski wasn’t the book’s author, since Kosinski wasn’t even fluent in English at the time it was written. Another author, M. A. Orthofer, later charged, “Kosinski was, in many respects, a fake –possibly near as genuine a one as Weinberger could want.”

Then in June 1982, an article in The Village Voice by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith accused Kosinski of plagiarism. They charged that his books, including “Painted Bird,” had ripped off Polish stories that were unfamiliar to English readers. But at least Kosinski actually was Jewish. Still, the controversies are believed to have contributed to Kosinski’s eventual suicide in May 1991.

Another beauty in the fake memoirs category was James Frey, whose book “A Million Little Pieces” did so well it made the Oprah Book Club. Too bad poor Oprah had egg on her face when Frey had to admit that his saga of drug abuse was a whole lot of hooey. Oprah even had him on her show, to diss him for abusing her readers.

The question that arises from all this is — why? Why go to such great lengths to create a fake memoir, when all it takes is a relative or friend who knows you well — and knows the memoir is all baloney –to tip off the media? How can the risks not be sky high these days, especially when you begin that book tour and end up on TV, bringing on the weepies as you describe the agonizes you’ve endured?

Money, I guess, is one reason. Maybe if James Frey had written a genuine memoir, it would have been dull and pedantic. On the other hand, Defonseca sounds like she had a fairly interesting childhood. Why not just stick with the real thing? Why the wolves? Was she reading “Tarzan” when she started the book?

I think the problem isn’t so much with these dimwit authors, but rather with our culture. We may be operating under the assumption that an ordinary life just isn’t very interesting, so if our lives are boring, we need to jazz it up with juicer details.

I actually disagree with that notion. I think an interesting writer can take an ordinary life and make it seem funny, touching, nostalgic and dramatic. But that may be the problem: maybe Frey and Defonseca simply weren’t talented enough to make us care about what they really experienced.

In this era of reality shows, there’s no question that audiences love the real thing as much as the scripted dramas — if not more so. In fact, with the shutdown in production of dramas and sitcoms in 2008 because of the Hollywood writer’s strike, new episodes of reality TV were for a while all we were getting: sensible nannies, wife swapping, big weight losses, you’re fired, etc.

University of Columbia graduated in and worked like reader in Yale, Princeton and other universities. In 1965 obtained the American citizenship.

with married in 1962 Mary Hayward Weir, that passed away in 1968 due to cerebral Cancer . Later, one became to marry with Katherina von Fraunhofer.

Work

The novels of Kosinski appeared habitually in the book list more sold of New York Times .They have been translated to more than 30 languages, and the total of sales was considered in about 70 million unit in 1991 .

the Painted Bird

the Painted Bird relates the experience of a boy (of unknown religion and ethnic group, although of Jewish and gypsy appearance) who rambles before abandoned by the zones farmers of Eastern Poland and during World War II . His periplo without course through a cruel, ignorant and superstitious world, becomes a metaphor of the human condition.

Novel, in that they have been wanted to see autobiographical reminiscences (although Kosinski it has denied that are one Autobiography in the strict sense), was considered byArthur Miller, Elie Wiesel and others like one of the most important works of Literature of Holocausto . Thus, Weisel, for example, wrote in New York Times Book Review that was ” one of the best ones… written with deep sincerity and sensibilidad”.

After the publication of the book in the United States, Kosinski was accused in its native country of unpatriotic due to its implacable description of Polish rural means. The accusations intensified in 1968, with the antiJewish campaign that started up the Polish authorities, that forced many Jews to leave the country.

The book was prohibited in Poland and other countries of Eastern Europe, and the author received personal threats, that even arrived at an attempt of aggression in their own house on the part of two Polish immigrants who remembered much the farmers to him who knew in their childhood. Kosinski hurt of which the Poles hated their book and its personwithout at least to have had the occasion to read it.

Finally, in could be published in Poland 1989 . In Warsaw thousands of unit in just a short time were sold and people made tails of several hours to buy books autografiados by the author. The literary critic and professor of Universidad of Warsaw, Paweł Dudziak, described the Painted Bird as a great work and emphasized its symbolic slope, arguing that the accusations of unpatriotic did not have sense since the descriptions of atmospheres and the characters that appeared in the book did not have to be taken literally.

Nevertheless, the reception of the book was not uniformly positive. ” When Painted Bird of Kosinski was translated the Pole – wrote Iwo Cyprian Pogonowski – read the people with whom the Lewinkopf family had lived during the war. They were scandalized by historiesof abuses that never had happened. They recognized the names of some Jewish children to whom they helped during the war, children which they survived thanks to them, now represented like victims of its abuse. They were in favor furious of the ingratitud of Jerzy”.

In later reediciones, Kosinski it explained that the nationality as much as the race of its personages had been hidden to prevent bad interpretations, and insisted on that the novel was not an autobiography, but a metaphor of the confrontation between the human beingin its defenseless state (a boy) and the society in its crueler state (the war).

Controversies

The life and work of Kosinski are so full of dark zones as its works, until the point of which the own Kosinski seems a fiction personage sometimes.

According to the writer, essay writer, publisher and North American translator Eliot Weinberger, Kosinski could not be the author of the Painted Bird because it sufficiently did not dominate the English language at the time of its publication (it only took to six years inthe United States ). Orthofer clarifies the affirmation of Weinberger saying that the same Kosinski was a falsification in some aspects, because pretended to be somebody that was not in fact (like many of the personages of its books). The best falsifications are those than they seed doubts about what it leaves from them is true and what it starts off is not it.

In Jerzy Kosinski: To Biography, of James Park Sloan, D. Myers argues that the factsrelated in the Painted Bird are fictitious and they were made happen through autobiographical through advice of the publishers.

The article of Stokes

In June of 1982, an article published in Village Voice and signed by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith, directly accused Kosinski of plagiarism. They assured that great part of its work was taken from Polish sources, that were inaccessible to the western readers. They mentioned, for example, that From the garden had a great similarity with Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy – a well-known Polish novel of 1932 written by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz . Also they indicated that Kosinski had written the Painted Bird in Pole, and who soon hadcaused that was translated privily to the English for its publication. Another serious accusation, based on the stylistic differences and of score between novels and others, maintained that Kosinski and its publishers at that time used writers without crediting to write up their works. The poet and New York translator George Reavey assured to have written the Painted Bird for Kosinski, although much attention was not lent to him.

The article also presented/displayed a vision different from the life of Kosinski duringWorld War II, supported later by the Polish biographer Joanna Siedlecka and by Sloan. Thearticle assured that the Painted Bird seemed to be semi-autobiographical, but that it was united of pure fiction, since Kosinski had passed all the hidden war with a catholic familyand who it had not been mistreated.

The writer and British publisher Terence Blacker responded in 2002 to this article, indicating that the books of Kosinski had a vision and a consistent voice among them, and that the true problem of its author was that it had waked up many envies by its style of life (conventional and little abundant in excesses) and his éxito.

John Corry, a controversial personage by itself, defended to Kosinski in an articlepublished in New York Times in 1982 . Among others things, Corry alleged that the theory that Kosinski was a falsifier and a plagiarist, and who was on salary of company, was spread by the Polish communist government to discredit to him.

Another argument of the defenders of Kosinski was that, when being based on the stylistic differences between their different works to support the theory of the plagiarism, theirdetractors seemed to forget that those same differences exist in almost all authors if a period of sufficiently long time is considered.

Same Kosinski responded that he never had said that their books were autobiographical. In 1988, wrote You Hermit of 68th Street, where it demonstrated the absurd thing that the investigations were on their previous work inserting notes on foot of page in practically all the words of the book.

In a review of Jerzy Kosiński: A Biography by James Park Sloan, D. G. Myers, Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University wrote “For years Kosinski passed off The Painted Bird as the true story of his own experience during the Holocaust. Long before writing it he regaled friends and dinner parties with macabre tales of a childhood spent in hiding among the Polish peasantry. Among those who were fascinated was Dorothy de Santillana, a senior editor at Houghton Mifflin, to whom Kosinski confided that he had a manuscript based on his experiences. Upon accepting the book for publication Santillana said, “It is my understanding that, fictional as the material may sound, it is straight autobiography.” Although he backed away from this claim, Kosinski never wholly disavowed it.”

M. A. Orthofer addressed Weinberger’s assertion by saying: “Kosinski was, in many respects, a fake – possibly near as genuine a one as Weinberger could want. (One aspect of the best fakes is the lingering doubt that, possibly, there is some authenticity behind them – as is the case with Kosinski.) Kosinski famously liked to pretend he was someone he wasn’t (as do many of the characters in his books), he occasionally published under a pseudonym, and, apparently, he plagiarized and forged left and right.”

Kosiński himself addressed these claims in the introduction to the 1976 reissue of The Painted Bird, saying that “Well-intentioned writers critics, and readers sought facts to back up their claims that the novel was autobiographical. They wanted to cast me in the role of spokesman for my generation, especially for those who had survived the war; but for me survival was an individual action that earned the survivor the right to speak only for himself. Facts about my life and my origins, I felt, should not be used to test the book’s authenticity, any more than they should be used to encourage readers to read The Painted Bird. Furthermore, I felt then, as I do now, that fiction and autobiography are very different modes.”

Plagiarism allegations

In June 1982, a Village Voice report by Geoffrey Stokes and Eliot Fremont-Smith accused Kosiński of plagiarism, claiming that much of his work was derivative of prewar books unfamiliar to English readers, and that Being There was a plagiarism of Kariera Nikodema Dyzmy — The Career of Nicodemus Dyzma — a 1932 Polish bestseller by Tadeusz Dołęga-Mostowicz. They also alleged Kosiński wrote The Painted Bird in Polish, and had it secretly translated into English. The report claimed that Kosiński’s books had actually been ghost-written by “assistant editors”, finding stylistic differences among Kosiński’s novels. Kosiński, according to them, had depended upon his free-lance editors for “the sort of composition that we usually call writing.” American biographer James Sloan notes that New York poet, publisher and translator, George Reavey, claimed to have written The Painted Bird for Kosiński.

The article found a more realistic picture of Kosiński’s life during the Holocaust — a view which was supported by biographers Joanna Siedlecka and Sloan. The article asserted that The Painted Bird, assumed by some to be semi-autobiographical, was largely a work of fiction. The information showed that rather than wandering the Polish countryside, as his fictional character did, Kosiński spent the war years in hiding with a Polish Catholic family.

Terence Blacker, a profitable English publisher (who helped publish Kosiński’s books) and author of children’s books and mysteries for adults, wrote in his article published in The Independent in 2002:

“The significant point about Jerzy Kosiński was that … his books … had a vision and a voice consistent with one another and with the man himself. The problem was perhaps that he was a successful, worldly author who played polo, moved in fashionable circles and even appeared as an actor in Warren Beatty’s Reds. He seemed to have had an adventurous and rather kinky sexuality which, to many, made him all the more suspect. All in all, he was a perfect candidate for the snarling pack of literary hangers-on to turn on. There is something about a storyteller becoming rich and having a reasonably full private life that has a powerful potential to irritate so that, when things go wrong, it causes a very special kind of joy.”

D.G. Myers responded to Blacker’s assertions in his review of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Park Sloan:

“This theory explains much: the reckless driving, the abuse of small dogs, the thirst for fame, the fabrication of personal experience, the secretiveness about how he wrote, the denial of his Jewish identity. ‘There was a hollow space at the center of Kosinski that had resulted from denying his past,’ Sloan writes, ‘and his whole life had become a race to fill in that hollow space before it caused him to implode, collapsing inward upon himself like a burnt-out star.’ On this theory, Kosinski emerges as a classic borderline personality, frantically defending himself against… all-out psychosis.

Journalist John Corry, wrote a 6,000-word feature article in The New York Times in November 1982, responding and defending Kosiński, which appeared on the front page of the Arts and Leisure section. Among other things, Corry alleged that reports claiming that “Kosinski was a plagiarist in the pay of the C.I.A. were the product of a Polish Communist disinformation campaign.”

Kosiński himself responded that he had never maintained that the book was autobiographical, even though years earlier he confided to the Houghton Mifflin editor Santillana that his manuscript “draws upon a childhood spent, by the casual chances of war, in the remotest villages of Eastern Europe.” In 1988 he wrote The Hermit of 69th Street, in which he sought to demonstrate the absurdity of investigating prior work by inserting footnotes for practically every term in the book. “Ironically,” wrote theatre critic Lucy Komisar, “possibly his only true book… about a successful author who is shown to be a fraud.” (ibid.)

Despite repudiation of the Village Voice allegations in detailed articles in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications, Kosiński remained tainted. “I think it contributed to his death,” said Zbigniew Brzezinski, a friend and fellow Polish exile.

A novelist has a specific poetic license which also applies to his own life.

Jerzy Kosinski

A trait which differentiated New York from European cities was the incredible freedom and ease in which life, including sexual life, could be carried on, on many levels.

Jerzy Kosinski

And really the purpose of art – for me, fiction – is to alert, to indicate to stop, to say: Make certain that when you rush through you will not miss the moment which you might have had, or might still have.

Jerzy Kosinski

As I go to sleep I remember what my father said-that one can never be sure if one will awake. The way my health is now, this is becoming more and more real.

Jerzy Kosinski

Banks introduced the installment plan. The disappearance of cash and the coming of the credit card changed the shape of life in the United States.

Jerzy Kosinski

Gatherings and, simultaneously, loneliness are the conditions of a writer’s life.

Jerzy Kosinski

Going around under an umbrella interferes with one’s looking up at the sky.

Jerzy Kosinski

Homelessness is a part of our American system. There should be nothing wrong with this condition as long as the individual is not sentenced to unnecessary suffering and punishment.

Jerzy Kosinski

I am inspired by human sexuality. The act itself is mechanical and holds little interest to me.

Jerzy Kosinski

I can create countries just as I can create the actions of my characters. That is why a lot of travel seems to me a waste of time.

Jerzy Kosinski

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I collect human relationships very much the way others collect fine art.

Jerzy Kosinski

I do like to live in other people’s homes. I enjoy being a guest. I am an inexpensive guest. When one lives in another’s home he can enter into the psychic kingdom of that person.

Jerzy Kosinski

I do not gather things, I prefer to rent them rather than to possess them.

Jerzy Kosinski

I don’t fret over lost time – I can always use the situations in a novel.

Jerzy Kosinski

I look back into past history, the stored experiences or products of the imagination. I look no further forward than the evening.

Jerzy Kosinski

I write for a certain sphere of readers in the United States who on average watch seven and a half hours of multichannel television per day.

Jerzy Kosinski

If we reduce social life to the smallest possible unit we will find that there is no social life in the company of one.

Jerzy Kosinski

In London, the weather would affect me negatively. I react strongly to light. If it is cloudy and raining, there are clouds and rain in my soul.

Jerzy Kosinski

In my photographs it is apparent that there was no posing at the moment I released the shutter.

Jerzy Kosinski

It is not sex by itself that interests me, but its particular role in American consciousness, and in my own life.

Jerzy Kosinski

Read more: http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/authors/j/jerzykosinski.html#ixzz1iDE6ShSE

It is possible to stand around with a cocktail in one’s hand and talk with everyone, which means with no one.

Jerzy Kosinski

Persons who have been homeless carry within them a certain philosophy of life which makes them apprehensive about ownership.

Jerzy Kosinski

Physical comfort has nothing to do with any other comfort.

Jerzy Kosinski

Take a look at the books other people have in their homes.

Jerzy Kosinski

The planned sit-down reception is an artificial forum where one is presented with a limited number of persons with whom he can hold a conversation.

Jerzy Kosinski

The principle of art is to pause, not bypass.

Jerzy Kosinski

The principles of true art is not to portray, but to evoke.

Jerzy Kosinski

The things I write are for those who are willing to accept a new relationship between the reader and the author.

Jerzy Kosinski

There are many types of participation. One can observe so intensely that one becomes part of the action, but without being an active participant.

Jerzy Kosinski

There must be no worse punishment to a totalitarian nation than the withdrawal of capital.

Jerzy Kosinski

Travel gives me the opportunity to walk through the sectors of cities where one can clearly see the passage of time.

Jerzy Kosinski