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The Man Who Was Late

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Ben is a fiercely self-made man. Born somewhere in Central Europe, he arrives in America after the end of World War II with his parents and watches as their lives are "emptied of meaning by the New World." But for himself: an exemplary career at Harvard and immersion in the good life - "good above all in its difference from the one in which he feared he might be confined." Nothing can slow his indefatigable and timely progress from pleasure to pleasure. He is gracious, generous, worldly, charmingly ...
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NY 1992 Hard cover First edition. 1st Edition 1992 New in new dust jacket. Gift Quality. Brand New. Fast Arrival. Packaged in Bubblewrap. 1st Edition 1992. Sewn binding. Cloth ... over boards. 243 p. Audience: General/trade. Gift Quality. Brand New. Fast Arrival. Packaged in Bubblewrap. 1st Edition 1992. Read more Show Less

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Man Who Was Late

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Overview

Ben is a fiercely self-made man. Born somewhere in Central Europe, he arrives in America after the end of World War II with his parents and watches as their lives are "emptied of meaning by the New World." But for himself: an exemplary career at Harvard and immersion in the good life - "good above all in its difference from the one in which he feared he might be confined." Nothing can slow his indefatigable and timely progress from pleasure to pleasure. He is gracious, generous, worldly, charmingly self-deprecating - and dead by his own hand before he reaches middle age. The Man Who Was Late is the story of the last two year's of Ben's life, told by his closest friend, Jack, who pieces the facts together from his own memory and from the personal papers that come into his possession as executor of Ben's will. It is the story, most particularly, of Ben's tumultuous love affair with Jack's cousin Veronique, a woman whose dazzling beauty masks darkness and disquiet. With Veronique, Ben discovers "the vast bliss of being loved." But when her husband learns of the affair and a commitment to Veronique is required, Ben discovers his own fragility - and the brutal hold his past has on him. Business keeps him on a trajectory that circles the globe, from Paris to Tokyo, from Rio to New York and to Geneva. Meanwhile his thoughts travel in one direction only: away from Veronique and toward the self-loathing and inconsolable loneliness that lurk behind the gleaming facade of the life he has invented. And recounting the story, Jack comes to understand why Ben believed himself to be "late in the major matters of existence." Beautifully rendered and profoundly affecting - at once elegiacal and sardonic - The Man Who Was Late is a powerful confirmation of Louis Begley's extraordinary novelistic gifts.

An acclaimed new novel by the award-winning author of Wartime Lies. A Holocaust survivor leaves the wreckage of Europe and recreates himself as a brilliant financier. Connected to the world by globe-trotting deals and impeccable charm, he rejects the comforts of love . . . until he meets Veronique.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As in his prizewinning first novel, Wartime Lies , Begley has written an ironic narrative from an emotionally displaced person's distinctive point of view. The protagonist here is a middle-aged international investment banker with a Wall Street firm. Despite his Harvard education and sophisticated social skills, Ben cannot surmount a sense of loss and dislocation, the result of his background as a post-WW II emigre from Central Europe (he deliberately distanced himself from his parents and his Jewish heritage). Masking his existential angst with a luxurious lifestyle, Ben has survived a divorce and the loss of beloved stepdaughters, and is determined never to endure such pain again. When his beautiful French lover destroys her marriage and risks everything by declaring her love for him, Ben subconsciously torpedoes their future together. Finally he understands that his ingrained caution, symptomatic of his fear that happiness is ephemeral, has ruined his life. Begley's sophisticated prose is studded with highbrow references to authors, filmmakers and artists, and contains solid descriptions of the world of international commerce in New York, France, Japan and Brazil. In writing of the upper class, Begley invites comparisons with Louis Auchincloss; his style is similarly urbane and elegant, his eye equally unsparing. Despite his ``barren, dark and desperate'' protagonist's failings, Begley succeeds in making him a poignant figure. BOMC and QPB alternates. (Jan.)
Library Journal
Begley follows up National Book Award nominee Wartime Lies ( LJ 5/1/91), the story of a young Jewish boy's survival during World War II, with a second work that at first glance seems markedly different. His hero is Ben, a high-gear, high-profile banker who is nevertheless always ``late''--in certain essential matters, he misses the mark. Ben is a Harvard graduate who mingles easily with the upper class, but his roots as a Jewish refugee are still evident. Ben's story is narrated by Jack, a genuine Harvard WASP who writes for a living but is too obtuse to get around the slippery corners of his friend's personality. An affair with Jack's cousin, Veronique, brings out Ben's fatal inability to confront himself and eventually leads to tragedy. Ben's slick personality sometimes leaves a bad taste in the mouth, and readers might wonder whether Begley is mocking or buying into upper-class pretensions. But the author demonstrates once again that he can write a compelling story in disarmingly lucid prose. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 9/15/92.-- Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780679415114
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 12/29/1992
  • Edition description: 1st ed
  • Pages: 243
  • Product dimensions: 6.05 (w) x 8.67 (h) x 0.99 (d)

Meet the Author

Louis Begley
Louis Begley
Louis Begley lives in New York City. His previous novels are Wartime Lies, The Man Who Was Late, As Max Saw It, About Schimdt, Mistler’s Exit, Schmidt Delivered, and Shipwreck.

From the Hardcover edition.

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