Kosinski, Jerzy

Kosinski, Jerzy

(jr`zē kəzĭn`skē), 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. During the 1980s, however, Kosinski became the subject of scandal when 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).

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Kosinski, Jerzy (Nikodem)

(1933–91) writer; born in Lodz, Poland. He had a horrific childhood hiding from the Nazis during World War II, and a tenuous existence under the Stalinists in Poland. He studied at the University of Lodz (B.A. 1950; M.A.s 1953, 1955) and did postgraduate work in sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences (1955–57). Emigrating to the U.S.A. (1957), he did further postgraduate work at Columbia University (1958–63) and the New School for Social Research (1962–66). After he settled in the U.S.A. he drew upon his past experiences to write semiautobiographical novels with elements of violence, anxiety, and eroticism, as in The Painted Bird (1965) and Steps (1968). He also wrote several books on sociology under the name of Joseph Novak. He committed suicide in New York City.
The Cambridge Dictionary of American Biography, by John S. Bowman. Copyright © Cambridge University Press 1995. Reproduced with permission.