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Jerzy Kosinski

Kosinski, Jerzy (jrˈzē kəzĭnˈskē) [key], 1933–91, American writer, b. Łódź, Poland. He taught at the Univ. of Łódź before emigrating to the United States in 1957. In his best-known novel, The Painted Bird (1965), the horrors of war and the violation of a human being are rendered in language of remarkable beauty. The novel depicts the nightmarish wanderings of a young boy among brutal peasants in a nameless country during World War II. Kosinski's other novels include Steps (1968, National Book Award), Being There (1971), The Devil Tree (1973), Cockpit (1975), Passion Play (1978), and The Hermit of 69th Street (1988). For several decades the wittily urbane author was a literary, social, and media celebrity. However, during the 1980s Kosinski was shaken by scandal as critics charged that other authors had helped him to write his books and that his supposed roman à clef, The Painted Bird, which had made his personal and literary reputation, was not remotely autobiographical. This discrediting may have been a factor in his suicide. Kosinski also wrote under the name Joseph Novak.

See biography by J. Park Sloan (1996).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: American Literature: Biographies

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