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Jerzy Kosinski


Jerzy Kosinski was born Josek Lewinkopf in Lodz, Poland in 1933. His father was a textile dealer and his mother was a concert pianist. Both parents were Jewish. During World War II, his father changed the family name to Kosiński and the family managed to hide out in a remote village. The family lived as Catholics and Kosinski was even an altar boy. After the war, the family returned to Lodz and Kosinski studied history at the University of Lodz, receiving his Master’s. He enrolled for a Ph. D. and visited the Soviet Union several times. He managed to get support to study in the United States, though he concocted stories about how he did this, which were at the very least exaggerated. He did do various menial jobs while studying for a Ph. D. at Columbia and apparently learned English by watching television. His first book was a non-fiction account of the Soviet Union, published under the pseudonym of Joseph Novak. This was the first of many controversies surrounding Kosinski. How did an unknown immigrant, whose English was competent but no more, get a contract with a major US publisher (Doubleday) to write a book? Its success gave him an entry into society and he met a wealthy widow, Mary Weir, whom he later married.

His second, non-fiction book on the Soviet Union was far less successful. He then wrote a novel, The Painted Bird, which had considerable success, but turned out to be very controversial. It was banned in Poland for a long time. His second novel won the National Book Award. His third novel was even more successful and was made into a film. However his later novels had far less success and, with the controversy surrounding his work, critical response was often poor. He suffered ill health and, in 1991, he killed himself. He will be remembered as much for the controversy surrounding his life and work as for his actual work.

Books about Jerzy Kosinski

James Park Sloan: Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography

Other links

Jerzy Kosinski
The Rise and Fall of Jerzy Kosinski
Josek Nikodem Lewinkopf Kosinski and two other literary profiteers of the Holocaust
Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography (review of Sloan biography but with information on Kosinski)


1960 The Future Is Ours, Comrade (non-fiction – under pseudonym of Joseph Novak)
1962 No Third Path (non-fiction – under pseudonym of Joseph Novak)
1965 The Painted Bird (novel)
1965 Notes of the Author on”The Painted Bird” (non-fiction)
1968 Steps (novel)
1968 The Art of the Self: Essays à Propos”Steps (non-fiction)
1971 Being There (novel)
1973 The Devil Tree (novel)
1975 Cockpit (novel)
1977 Blind Date (novel)
1979 Passion Play (novel)
1982 Pinball (novel)
1988 The Hermit of 69th Street (novel)
1992 Passing By: Selected Essays, 1962-1991