Wartime Lies

Wartime Lies

by Louis Begley
4.7 10


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Wartime Lies by Louis Begley

"Extraordinary...Rich in irony and regret...[the] people and settings are vividly realized and his prose [is] compelling in its simplicity."
As the world slips into the throes of war in 1939, young Maciek's once closetted existence outside Warsaw is no more. When Warsaw falls, Maciek escapes with his aunt Tania. Together they endure the war, running, hiding, changing their names, forging documents to secure their temporary lives—as the insistent drum of the Nazi march moves ever closer to them and to their secret wartime lies.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679400165
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/23/1991

About the Author

Louis Begley’s novels include Kill and Be Killed; Killer, Come Hither; Memories of a Marriage; Schmidt Steps Back; Matters of Honor; Shipwreck; Schmidt Delivered; Mistler’s Exit; About Schmidt; As Max Saw It; The Man Who Was Late; and Wartime Lies, which won the PEN/Hemingway Award and the Irish Times/Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. His work has been translated into fourteen languages. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

What People are Saying About This

Jean Strouse

An artful, beautifully written novel that tells the powerful story of a boy and his aunt -- Polish Jews -- caught in the horrors of the Holocaust. Alone together, these two manage to survive the unbearable, saving their lives with mundane and brilliant lies.

Daniel Aaron

Spare and beautifully written...Wartime Lies is a meditation on the human capacity for every kind of abomination and for self-sacrifice and heroism as well.

Cynthia Ozick

A virtuoso (and virtuous) accomplishment...What Lewis Begley's vividly austere prose embodies is an immaculate act of witness in the form of a novel...Begley raises fresh and rich question about quarry and hunter, volition and obedience, decency and ideology.

Reading Group Guide

1. In Wartime Lies, the religious tension is evident from the very beginning as Maciek tells his tale. What events occur that mark the increasing tension from Maciek’s perspective?

2. The passages from the perspective of “the man with sad eyes” are meticulously placed throughout the novel. Using your “sympathy and imagination,” what links can you draw between the content of these passages and the moment in
Maciek’s life they interrupt?

3. In chapter four, Maciek punches Pan Wladek in the chest. Why does he react so violently to the accusation
(made most likely as a partial jest) that he has been “evil” by cheating?

4. Louis Begley mentioned that Dante could be considered
“the greatest connoisseur of evil.” In what ways does Dante and his Inferno relate to the experiences described in Wartime

5. Seemingly more than most young children, Maciek is somewhat obsessed with being liked. Why do you think this is? And how does this conflict with the “show” that he and
Tania are constantly putting on?

6. At one point, Maciek tells us, “Tania thought she loved
Reinhard, probably as much as she ever loved anybody”
(page 68). Throughout the novel, how does Tania relate to men and love?

7. There are several ways in which the title, Wartime Lies,
relates to the principal characters in the novel. What are some of those ways? And how have these lies forever changed Tania and Mayciek’s sense of ethics and morality?

8. If the world of Wartime Lies is one where everyone bears a burden of guilt, what guilt do Maciek, Tania, Grandfather,
and Reinhard carry?

9. When Maciek must attend catechism classes, something in his perception shifts. How does Maciek feel about this experience?

10. How does Wartime Lies compare to other novels about the Holocaust you may have read?

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Wartime Lies 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Sometimes a book offers the chance to grow and find greater appreciation for life; and reader, you will find this a lovely book chock full of wisdom.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Begley combines the rich ironic tone of a young boy's narrative perspective with a deep sense of sweeping, historical tragedy. The plot moves swiftly; the voice is wonderful and consistent throughout. Begley brings the terror of the Holocaust back to life and does not let it fade. Bravo.
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You just do not find quality writing like this anymore!
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