THE MICHIGAN DAILY
FrT dav, January 17 1969
Pagel hT woTH ICIGNrAL
1r .1 J 1 nuar .y 17 I I 9
poetry and prose
By DANIEL OKRENT
Feature Editor '
Jerzy Kosinski tells of his
arrival in America ten years
ago, when by somewhat surrep-
titious means he fled the opA.
pressive collectivism of eastern
Europe. He arrived in New York
a stranger, feeling fUlly the
terror the city holds for the
naive..newcomer. He knew none,
of the language, he knew no
people. So he played the role
of the deaf mute; for all pur-,
poses, he might well have been
-he understood no one, no one
understood him, he was safer,
then, when protected by his
But he learned the language
fast, fast enough to rise to a
position of stature as an Ameri-
can novelist within seven years.
He carpe by his new words with
fear is spontaneity. Not once has
he used notes since he;has been
here; each speech has been en-
'tirely extemporaneous, as mruch
a product of the momentary
communion with an audience as
of any pre-determined speech-
"Such an encounter must be
spontaneous," he says. "They
have come to see what I am, the
real me. It would, be a mask to
He has provided his audiences
with the real Kosinski, to be
sure; the first night, in Men-
delssohn Theatre, he was talk-
ing not to an auditorium, but
as if he were seated on the op-
posite end of a couch from his
listeners. It seemed very care-
ful, very studied and sure, so
perfectly conversational; but
the public self is much the
f.'ltm:1si ::::::::3::s:::~sils3::::::::::: .: A:; : J.: N t::t t:::::::"
"My creative contribution is the writing of the
book; for a critic... to comment as he wishes,
this is his creative contribution."
"Why should I care about the
reviews?" he asked me. "Or do
I even have the right to care?
My creative contribution is the
writing of the book; for a critic
to read into it what he wishes,.
and to comment as he' wishes,
this is his creative contribu-
In this fashion in which he
regards his books, Kosinski re-
veals his attitude toward his
own act of writing. It is a strict-
ly personal act, to the point
where he is his own agent,
where he writes the copy for his
book jackets, where he makes
sure he owns all foreign rights.
He is protective of the book as
long as it is presenited as the
work of Jerzy Kosinski. After
that, he feels the book should
stand on its own. This explains
his dislike of having to answer
questions about his work.
"It is a very uneasy feeling,
facing a group of people w h o
have read my books. The book
should talk for itself; I should
talk for me."
Similarly, his appraisal - of
his work is entirely detached
rfrom that of other people. Thus,
27 drafts went into the writing
of Steps; all were destroyed,.
save the last one. In no way can
Kosinski dare let his exper-
ience with the book and t h e
reader's experience be inter-
mingled. He has written it for
himself; they read it for them-
"But," he'" says, "writing is
Bnot therapy for e. It is self-
manipulation." What is done
with the book, he says, "is sim-
ilar to what is done -with a
photo (in Poland, he was a
prize-winning- Thotographer. The
reputation he earned in that
field helped him in leaving his
"You stop to take a photo
because the image is already in"
your mind; this is what attracts
you to it.. Then, as you take the
picture, and then develop it and
print it until it looks the way
you wish, you manipulate it."
And this, he continues, is
what he does when he writes.
He ishmanipulating his self.
And the manipulation is to
such a point that "you can't
take the book as an entry into
my character. It's not mine any
more, once others have it."
"Publishing," he adds, "is fur-
ther externalizing. You object-
ify and make tangible part of
your imagination, moving it
even further away."
.Kosinski does not have, an
agent, because it corrupts t h e
singularity of his effort and he
puts extreme restrictions on his
editor at Random House. One
of these, in fact, was the deter-
mination that his editor for
Steps not be an individual who
had read The Painted Bird.
So this small, wiry man, a
former ski instructor ' who no
longer skis, a former photo-
grapher who rarely lifts a cam-
era, a man whose professional
trainingM- chemistry -- and
his academic training - eco-
nomics - are entirely removed
from his life. Now, he writes.
But, he says, he is not a
writer. At least, he does not
wish to be characterized as one.
He has written, he says - but
that is all.
After Poland, and wartime O
Europe, and the U.S.S.R., and
New York and the Ford Foun-
dation and "Joseph Novak" (his
pen name for two earlier, non-
fiction books on collective be-
havior), after skiing, photogra-
phy, chemistry and economics,
after Polish universities and
then Columbia (where he did
his Ford work) and Wesleyan
(he is now there, until Febru-
ary. at the Center for Advanc-
ed Studies), after four publish-
ers in four books, Jerzy Kosin-
ski calls himself, professionally,
Which fits well.
-Daily-Shra Krulwich 4~
"Writing is not therapy. It is self-manipulation" i
i s ,_
I- - -
_ _ _
difficulty, through determina-
tion and-frankly--hunger. But
he learned his words well, as
only a foreianer can learn them;
his English is far too proper to
Now, he sits in the apartment
of Prof. Marvin Felheim of the
English department submitting
himself to the claws of an inter-
view. His slender hands outline
each word, each phrase; his
brow furrows as it intensely
underscores his thoughts. He
repeats what he said earlier in
a panel discussion, whathe will
say tomorrow in a personal con-
sultation, what might be stated
the next day as he lectures a'
visiting class. The questions
from the students surrounding
him-well, the questions them-
selves surroufhd him. He is shy,:
reticent, too polite and friendly
(can I believe it- that he is
opening doors for me, staying
up now past midnight after an
incredibly rigorous day, listen-
ing to the banalities of an inter-
view that he has no doubt heard
hundreds of times before?). He
is being raped as Writer-in-
Residence. He is being put up
on a pedestal, and the rest of
us 'are throwing cozy, sugary
knives of knee-bending compli-
ments at him.;
"I hate crowds-they remind
me of the 'Soviet Union, where
all was collective. I left the So-
viet Union because I did not
want to be the collective being.'
But I have to come, as a duty to
myself, and to my profession.
The trauma, if it could be meas-
fared as a kinetic force, would
move the building."
He tells of how nervops he
is, of the fear that comes from
his' auditorium appearances;
yet his only guard against the
same as the
you feel, are
his self he
private self. Both,
yet above levels of
would rather not
When in Southern California visit Universal City Studios
An unsurpassed cast in one
of the great plays of the ages...
Now on the screen!
If one could pick a single
word to describe Kosinski, to
compress into a single thought
his m a dd en ing complexities
"What kind of mind could os-
sibly dream up' such perversity,"
is the question most often asked
him), one w'ould have to opt for
"intense." He is intense almost
to the point of the absolute. But
it is not the brooding, secret
form of intensity that can
characterize the particularly
gifted; rather, it is a fiercely
earned intensity that flows from
his overwhelming sensitivity.
From the wealth of varied ex-
perience that has flavored his
life in; proportions that most
men do not deserve (the experi-
ences -in' Europe -have been
too tragically horrible; those in
America, at times, too good), he
hasdeveloped an acute aware-
ness of all that surrounds him.
This awareness, this awesome
full comprehension frees Kosin-
ski for a frankness that is both
admirable and terrifying. He
iecognizes things too well, with
too much ease for him to even-
try to hide it; when students
this week have asked him If bad
reviews disturb him, he has told
them "no" and has been believ-
able to an extent that most
a u t h o r s (naturally egotists)
could never be.
PETITIONING FOR THE CHAIRMAN
1969Summer Blues Festival
A Completely New Midwest Festival
Petitions can be picked up at the
UAC offices, 2nd floor Michigan Union
PETITIONS ARE DUE JANUARY 26
'NAT IONAL OENERAL CORf'O NATION
STARTS XEASTERN T EATRES
TODAY FO VILL 5E
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MON- FR I.
OEDIPUS THE KING
Second Class postage paid
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Arbor, Michigan 48104.
STREET OF SHAME
Directed by KenjiMizeguichi (RAHOMON,
UGETSU), 1956. Japanese, subtitles
A study of legalized prostitution in Japan, through
the personal and professional lives of five women
from "Dreamland," a Tokyo brothel.
FIRST TIME IN ANN ARBOR
7:00 & 9:05 ARCHITECTURE
662-8871 75C AUDITORIUM
CYRIL CUSACK " ROGER LIVESEY
Screenplay by MICHAEL LUKE and PHILIP SAVILLE - Directed by PHILIP SAVILLE
Associate Producer TIMOTHY BURRILL . Produced by MICHAEL LUKE
A Crossroads Film Production/Universal Pictures Production
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All the current folk music
s available to you,
when you visit
I ARTISTRKY& EROTICIS
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Just past AA Bank
TQNIGHT and SATURDAY
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at The Depot House
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Returning by overwhelrming popular demand
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Next Friday and Saturday-Bob Franke
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N.Y. Daily News
9 A.M. Prof. Diamond's Anthropology Class
Subjecf: "Children of Europe 1939-45"
A BIZARRE MODERN DRAMA OF A MAN AND TWO WOMEN
LOCKED IN A SENSUAL GAME OF SEX.
THAT MAN FROM RIf
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