Books: Bird of Prey

STEPS by Jerzy Kosinski. 148 pages. Random House. $4.95.

In his semiautobiographical first novel, The Painted Bird, Jerzy Kosinski told of a six-year-old Eastern European city boy who is set adrift in the countryside during World War II and physically and emotionally brutalized by peasants. The painfully symbolic title refers to one rustic's practice of daubing a captured bird with bright colors, releasing it, and then watching an incensed flock peck it to death.

Steps might well be read as an account of the consequences of a childhood schooled by atrocities. Kosinski, who was born in Poland and now lives in the U.S.,...

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