The finger slicing is, of course, anninept imitation of the well-known episodenfrom Tolstoy’s Father Sergius.nAt his birthday party in a restaurant,nFabian overturned a flaming brandyncake and caught fire:n”His clothes ablaze, he plungednthrough the room, stumbling by tablesnof still-cheering patrons, toward a sidendoor opening on a verandah aboventhe gardens. He vaulted over its railing,ninto the lush foliage below, blindlynrolling over and over on the dewynground to put out the flames. When,ndazed, he sat up, his white suit hungnin charred strips, his chest and thighsnshowing through the scorched cloth.nFabian knew he had to do somethingnabout his burns at once.”nBut what did his friends and the othernpatrons of the restaurant do? Theyn”applauded wildly, under the impressionnthat the flames and Fabian were part ofnthe entertainment. As he approachednthe table, Fabian met with a volley ofngreetings and laughter from his friendsnand people at nearby tables.” It is difficultnto imagine that the entire patronagenof the restaurant, including all thenwaiters and all the friends of Fabianncould mistake for entertainment a mannwho has caught fire, who is rolling overnto put out the flames, and whose nakednskin is badly burned and visible betweenncharred strips of his suit. If Kosinskincannot plausibly describe an accident,nhow can he be expected to describe, say,nhuman relations—even at the level ofna soap opera.-*n1 know a Soviet emigre writer whononce depicted New York as a vast sexualnorgy. The writer is an oldish, tired familynman always worried about his health,nhis rent, his children and his wife. Sex,nwhich he perceives as a nuisance detrimentalnto one’s health, appeals to himnno more than communism. He is a giftednauthor—his short stories describe thingsnhe knows and understands, like thensquabbles, discourses and confabulationsnof dreary, sterile, voluble bureau­ncrats. But who would pay for such shortnstories? He has now realized that if henwants to be financially successful as anwriter in the West he must “write sex,”njust as he “wrote communism” in thenold country.nKosinski’s book is as full of sex asnSoviet novels are full of communism.nHollywood wants sex pulp, and a book isnreally successful only when it is boughtnby Hollywood. Experience is irrelevant,nit is not needed for “successful” Hollywoodnsex pulp. One hundred books likenPassion Play can be written readily onnthe basis of European (or Russian)nbrothel post cards from the turn ofnthe century, or by using several issuesnof Playboy or other such sources.nBut why did he not simply scribblenhard-core porn and/or Harold Robbinstypenpulp? Perhaps because PassionnPlay-type pulp is safer than real pornography,nand its market is no smaller thannthat for Harold Robbins-type pulp.nMany readers want their pulp to benlabeled culture. Hence, Kosinski entitlednhis porno-pulp Passion Play, annexpression which belongs to medievalnChristianity. His references to Cervantesnand his “foreigner’s English” aren”I’ln’.iiliil .i!id compelling . .nto provide the cultural label used tonsell porno-pulp to label-conscious consumers.nBesides sex pulp, what does Hollywoodnwant? Violence, of course, allnthose cowboys in the Wild West. Unfortunately,nthose Hollywood cowboysndo not exist, and if Kosinski had devotednhis novel to Hollywood fictions,ncritics would not be able to compare himnto Tolstoy or Dostoyevsky. His labelnwould be damaged. Therefore, Kosinski’snhero is a cowboy costumed as annequestrian polo player, and his namenis not Bill, but Fabian. The opportunitiesnfor Hollywood remain intact: onenpolo game, as described by Kosinski, isnactually an equestrian one-on-one fightnover a woman (of course), and properlynnnends with Fabian killing his rival duringnthe game. The Hollywood actor willnhave only to remember to change hisncowboy headgear for a polo hat.nThe cowboy-polo player Fabian is annitinerant. He travels, hence Kosinskincan cram into his wanderings whatevernsex and violence Hollywood wants. Inncontrast to Irwin Shaw’s hero in ThenTop of the Hill, he is old, poor, sick,nplain, uneducated and, at the end, evennbadly dressed, but he conquers young,nrich, healthy, well-educated beautiesnwith an even greater ease and eclat thannIrwin Shaw’s cowboy-caballero. Kosinski’snnovel is a series of such conquestsnunder various conditions: individualnsex, group sex (two lesbians and Fabian;nor a beauty, a horse and Fabian), andnfinally mass sex. As both men andnwomen in the book are incredibly stupid,ntheir behavior is also utterly incomprehensible.nrabian’s first conquest is the beautifulnmistress of a rich, handsome polonpatron. Indeed, she seduces Fabian, andnKosinski visualizes the process like anschoolboy who has seen a 25