The interviews in this collection will convince the reader that Jerzy Kosinski's public persona was one of the greatest creations. Few authors were ever more adept at press interviews. For Kosinski, the author of nine novels, including The Painted Bird, Steps, Being There, and The Hermit of 69th Street, the interview was part performance, part public relations, part blind date. Kosinski in person was different from the existential adventurer in his novels. He was not so much engaged as engaging. though his fiction was brutal, he was charming. The contrast between Kosinski and the intensity of his fiction created the backdrop for his interviews.
Like his readers, Kosinski's interviews were obsessed with the facts of his life. As a young boy he survived the Holocaust. He escaped Communist Poland. His life became the stuff of novels. He came to the United States with little money and no command of the English, but within a year he was a Ford Fellow at Columbia University and not long afterward was married to an American heiress and was living on Park Avenue. Yet Kosinski felt that his unique experiences, when transmuted to fiction, became a didactic lesson for others. "A human being is loaded with the greatest power," he says in one interview, "his imagination and the power to transcend his own conditions."
The interviews here are published chronologically without abridgement. The same questions recur and Kosinski's answers are filled with discrepancies and contradictions. "A good interview," he once wrote, "is like truth itself, the temporary resolution of various contradictions." These compelling conversations recapture part of Jerzy Kposinski, who took his own life on May 3, 1991.
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Brandon Tartikoff: I imagine that you are constantly called upon to attest whether or not all the gothic happenings, bizarre sexual encounters, and horrific incidents described in your novels,are derived from your personal experience. How do you reconcile the autobiographical element in your writing with your personal definition of a novelist?
Kozinski: I never wrote my books as autobiographical; I never claimed them to be anything but novels. Why I wrote them in a manner that perhaps suggests autobiographical elements stems from my basic notion of who a novelist is. I write because I feel that a novelist has a lot in common with others, not because he differs from them.