Places Discussed

(Critical Guide to Settings and Places in Literature)

*Central Europe

*Central Europe. Apparent location of most of the novel’s episodes. A whitewashed village in an unnamed country appears to indicate backwardness and remoteness from twentieth century city life. From here, the anonymous narrator travels to the unnamed capital city of the country, where he impresses his rustic girlfriend with his credit card. The coexistence of two places in one country, in which life seems a century apart, creates the dramatic tension of the opening episode.

In a landscape characterized by dark, remote forests and isolated, backward villages, the protagonist encounters humans whose meager and harsh surroundings have rendered them particularly vicious. Sexual exploitation and abuse is rampant, as if humans react to a sullen environment with nothing but sexual depravity of their own. Because the places where they dwell appear cut off from the rest of the world, it is as if worldly civility and morality has not reached them there, either.

On the way to an airport to leave his native country to fly to America, the narrator feels a kind of existentialist nausea when he realizes that the place where he has spent twenty-four years of his life means nothing to him. He is saddened by the fact that the landmarks of his native city stir up no emotions in him. Place fails to create nostalgia in the protagonist. He moves from location to location without any attachment to his surroundings.

Volcanic island

Volcanic island. Located in what appears to be the Greek Mediterranean, the island is chosen to make the protagonist a complete outsider. The place literally illustrates humanity’s essential alienation, which is a key idea of the philosophy of existentialism. Here,...

(The entire section is 719 words.)

Literary Techniques

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Steps represents Kosinski's most radical experimentation with the form of the novel. Here he dispenses with any kind of plot in the...

(The entire section is 462 words.)

Literary Precedents

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

With the writing of Steps, Kosinski joins the company of postmodernist experimental novelists, like the French writer Alain...

(The entire section is 360 words.)

Related Titles

(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

The Art of the Self a Propos "Steps" is a critical essay setting forth some of the philosophical concepts of the self that Kosinski...

(The entire section is 307 words.)


(Great Characters in Literature)

Cahill, David. “Jerzy Kosinski: Retreat from Violence.” Twentieth Century Literature 18, no. 2 (April, 1972): 121-132. Discusses Kosinski’s belief that incessant violence can destroy the power of humans to create a moral society and describes Steps as the author’s plea that people turn away from that violence.

Coale, Samuel. “The Quest for the Elusive Self: The Fiction of Jerzy Kosinski.” Critique: Studies in Modern Fiction 14, no. 3 (1973): 25-37. Discusses the use in Steps of detailed, concrete impressions to simulate external reality. Compares the radical and secular art, with which Konsinski tries to depict the human struggle toward personal identity in the modern world, with techniques used by Franz Kafka.

Howe, Irving. “From the Other Side of the Moon.” Harper’s 238, no. 1426 (March, 1969): 102-105. A detailed critical review that concludes that Steps is the hallucinatory self-displacement of a man looking too closely at his own experience.

Kauffman, Stanley. “Out of the Fires.” New Republic 159, no. 17 (October 26, 1968): 22, 41. A critical review that considers the incidents of Steps as unified visions, subtly conceived as proof that the past is very much a part of the present.

Lupak, Barbara. Plays of Passion, Games of Chance: Jerzy Kosinski and His Fiction. Bristol, Ind.: Wyndham Hall Press, 1988. Examines all of Kosinski’s work, including Steps. Includes a discussion of the ways in which the author’s life affected his work and points out how his novels differ from other twentieth century novels.