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Jerzy Kosinski Since his suicide in 1991 the literary reputation of Jerzy Kosinski has continued to sink At one time he was one of the most promising writers on the American scene pounding out three hits in a row-the cult classic The Painted Bird Steps winner of the 1969 National Book Award and Being There filmed in 1980 with Peter Sellers in the starring role With their grisly violence and a sexuality bordering upon the sadomasochistic the books raised Kosinski into the ranks of Americas celebrity class He appeared repeatedly on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson played the role of Lenins stooge Grigory Zinoviev in Warren Beattys film Reds posed for the cover of the New York Times Magazine and presented the Oscar for screenwriting in the spring of 1982 watched by 600 million people Even as his star was ascending however Kosinski was all but finished as a writer His last six books became progressively more trivial self- absorbed and unreadable and there drew closer the day of his exposure as a literary fraud In June 1982 the Village Voice revealed that Kosinski for whom English was a second language had made extensive use of translators and collaborators to write all his books and then had concealed the fact George Reavey a poet who was embittered by his own lack of literary success complained to anyone who would listen that he wrote The Painted Bird But Reavey was only one of several who could have made the same complaint and not only about The Painted Bird Being There so closely resembled a prewar Polish bestseller called The Career of Nikodem Dyzma as to deserve the charge of plagiarism Kosinski never fully recovered from the Voices expose The remainder of his life as he himself said was spent running from it A fitting end some might say to a literary life that was built upon lies For years Kosinski passed off The
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