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Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute & Society

Jerzy Kosinski: The Ravages of Childhood Trauma

The life and writings of Jerzy Kosinski give us a special opportunity to reconstruct his subjective experience of psychic trauma which occurred from ages five to ten and, arguably, dominated his life and determined his death. As a Jewish child in Nazi-occupied Poland he was hidden with his parents in a desolate Polish village, where he lived in isolation and constant danger.

As an adult, he emigrated to the United States and eventually published The Painted Bird which he claimed was autobiographic but was later found to be fiction, making use of characters based on his fantasies about villagers during the war years. These stories give us images of his psychic reality in the traumatic state. He became a successful writer of many novels, all of which reflected the style and content of the posttraumatic arrests and fixations. His life also involved unusual patterns that could be understood as consequences of his childhood trauma. Finally, his narcissistic and phallic fixations made him unable to master humiliation and led to his suicide.

Henry Krystal, M.D.
Faculty, Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute


Discussant: Richard K. Hertel, Ph.D.
Faculty, Michigan Psychoanalytic Institute

Thursday, November 18
8:00 pm
Farmington Hills