A Thousand Darknesses: Lies and Truth in Holocaust Fiction

By Ruth Franklin | Go to book overview

5
The Bird Painter: Jerzy Kosinski

“I’ve been thinking,” he said, leaning against the wall, “and so have some
of my editors: Would you consider writing a book for us ? Something
on your special subject…. Sir, I’m thinking: it would be only fair
and it would certainly be to the country’s advantage to promote your
philosophy more widely…. Right here and now I think I could promise
you a six-figure advance against royalties and a very agreeable royalty and
reprint clause. The contract could be drawn up and signed in a day or
two, and you could have the book for us, let’s say, in about a year or two.”

“I can’t write,” said Chance.

Stiegler smiled deprecatingly. “Of course—but who can, nowadays ?
It’s no problem. We can provide you with our best editors and research
assistants. I can’t even write a simple postcard to my children. So what?”

—from Being There

When Elie Wiesel and Jerzy Kosinski first met, it was 1965. Wiesel, in his midthirties, was working as a journalist, and The New York Times had assigned him to review The Tainted Bird, Kosinski’s first novel—a nightmarish tale about an unnamed six-year-old boy sent by his parents at the start of World War II to live in the countryside. Forced after his caretaker s sudden death to wander from village to village, he is treated with outrageous brutality by the peasants he encounters. Kosinski, five years younger than Wiesel, was intent on making

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