Recently I came across a list of ‘incredibly tough books for extreme readers’. One of those lists of books you have to read. Being fed up with the 1001-books-to-read-before-you-die list for some time now, this was a nice new challenge.
Having read nine out of the fifty books mentioned, some of which truly excellent books, I picked out a few to start with. If those also happen to be great books, I can always decide later on to read all fifty of them.
So I’ve just finished book nr 10 of the list.
“The Painted Bird” by Jerzy Kosinski (1965).
I do get why it can be seen as an extreme book. The meticulous description of extensive suffering, pages full of ghastly rapes, torture, etc etc – all against the backdrop of fierce discrimination and stupid peasantry. Horrible. But written so compelling, that it was hard to put down the book, although I did find myself staring into the world perplexed when forcing my eyes away a couple of times.
The beauty of the book, is that there is not a single inch of pity involved. The descriptions are vivid and without meta-story, without overall judgement. There is just a little boy trying to make sense of everything human beings do to each other and particularly to him. Trying to figure out what this so-called ‘God’ has to do with it all, and finally being relieved that there is a truth after all, and it’s hero is called Stalin.
Just a tip for those who think about reading it, don’t read the introduction.