Sunday, August 10, 2014

Remembering Jerzy Kosinski

Jerzy Kosinksi, author of The Painted Bird and Being There
I studied with Jerzy Kosinski at Wesleyan University when I was an undergraduate. He was occasionally a guest lecturer at the College of Letters. Then in my senior year, I took his seminar on Camus and Sartre. He was a Jewish emigre from Poland, and he had been educated both in the Soviet system and then later at Columbia University. I don't have specific memories of anything he said, except - notably - this:

"The only moment of true freedom I ever had was in the airplane suspended between the two great collective societies."

BTW It occurs to me that the Leopoldo (Roberto Benigni) character in Woody Allen's To Rome with Love may be patterned on Kosinski's character Chauncey Gardiner (Peter Sellers) in Being There. Both are nobodies who are thought to be wonderfully wise because - why? They have nothing to say? They offend no one? They have no identity of their own and so we see a reflection of ourselves in them?

Kosinski implies such a person is the ideal politician. Allen, I rather think, is saying media celebrities have no souls.

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