Wartime Lies (Penguin Modern Classics) Paperback – 4 Jan 2007
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From the Inside Flap
"Extraordinary...Rich in irony and regret...[the] people and settings are vividly realized and his prose [is] compelling in its simplicity."
THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
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.
"From the Paperback edition. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
About the Author
Louis Begley was born in 1933 in Poland. Among his novels are Wartime Lies (1991), About Schmidt (1996), Mistler's Exit (1998), Schmidt Delivered (2000), Shipwreck (2003). He has received the PEN/Ernest Hemingway Fiction Award, the Irish Times - Aer Lingus Book Prize, the Prix Médicis Étranger (all for Wartime Lies), and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. He lives in New York.
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Top Customer Reviews
Begley is best known, if at all, for writing the novel on which the Alexander Payne/Jack Nicholson film About Schmidt was based, and clearly writes his own About the Author blurbs (details of his children's occupations, anyone?).
Wartime Lies is written by a man looking back at his childhood in Poland in the 1940s, and tells us his story as a boy ("not very different from my own life during that time," as Begley tells us in a 2004 Afterword). 1940s Poland means of course that this is a story of the Jewish experience of the Nazis, and Begley writes with clear-eyed lack of sentimentality. And yet one can't help feeling that there's something lacking when the boy, Maciek, doesn't much mourn his (probably permanent) separation from his family, when he and his aunt Tania flee to live undercover as the wife of a Polish doctor who has been imprisoned by the Russians.
And the story begins with a desperately obtuse opening chapter - testing our stamina, Begley, with your convoluted Classical references? - and continues for a time in a somewhat dull style. However it does pick up once Maciek and Tania are in hiding and on the run, and some vivid details stick out, like the brutality of the Lithuanian soldiers, and the brilliant escape which Tania effects from the trains to Auschwitz.
Nonetheless in a glut of fictionalised memoirs of this sort - from Primo Levi to Aharon Appelfeld - Wartime Lies doesn't stand out from the crowd. It's worth reading, but modern classic status is probably a few decades off just yet.
From then on, the family is split up with the narrator travelling through Poland with his resourceful aunt, using false identity papers. Suspicious of everyone, careful of their every move, they pass themselves off as Catholic Poles and come close to losing their lives on a number of occasions.
Yet even in the last chapter when the war is over, the lies must be kept up. Pogroms continue in liberated Poland and as Begley concludes:
'And where is Maciek now? He became an embarrassment and slowly died. A man who bears one of the names Maciek used has replaced him. Is there much of Maciek in that man? No: Maciek was a child and our man has no childhood that he can bear to remember; he has had to invent one.'
It is easy reading and is not a great tome one needs to wade through. I found no places where it drags with the need to skip a few pages. The English style is good and flows along from page to page. Highly recommended
Most Recent Customer Reviews
A thoroughly good read that was informative as well as 'enjoyable', if reading such topics can be described as enjoyable.Published 6 months ago by Kent