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Wartime Lies

3.69  ·  Rating details ·  629 Ratings  ·  60 Reviews
As the world slips into the throes of war in 1939, young Maciek's once closeted 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 sec ...more
Paperback, 240 pages
Published October 15th 1997 by Ballantine Books (first published 1991)
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Mar 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
This incredibly well-written novel is not the typical - if you'll forgive calling a Holocaust survival story 'typical' - story of a survivor of WWII. The perspective is that of a Jewish boy in Poland who never sees a concentration camp, but lives a different kind of trauma in hiding his Jewish identity throughout the war. The novel addresses many complexities, but for me ultimately raised questions of "honorable" choice: is there more honor in surviving a war, and in this case escaping the worst ...more
Erwin Maack
Oct 17, 2014 rated it really liked it
“Quem sofre busca comunicar seu sofrimento – seja maltratando, seja provocando a piedade – a fim de diminuí-lo, e assim realmente o diminui. Aquele que está completamente por baixo, que ninguém lamenta, que não tem o poder de maltratar ninguém (se não tem filho ou criatura que o ame), seu sofrimento permanece nele e o envenena. É algo imperioso como a gravidade. Como livrar-se disso? Como livrar-se do que é como a gravidade?”

Esse trecho de “A gravidade e a graça” de Simone Weil está desenvolvid
Dec 16, 2007 rated it really liked it
It is essential to always remember what human beings have done and can do to each other. Cruelty and a lust for violence may or may not be innate, but in a time of fear, in a culture of survival, compassion is the rarest of human traits. These are important lessons, but they can overwhelm you if you immerse yourself in them for too long.

Which is why Wartime Lies, like The Painted Bird, is a gripping, harrowing book that I will never read again.

One more thing to consider is the contrast between t
Heather Hyde
Apr 07, 2017 rated it it was ok
Quite a dull read I'm afraid!
WARTIME LIES. (1991). Louis Begley. ***.
This first novel by this author of “About Schmidt,” tells the story of a small town in “T”, Poland, just prior to and during WW II. It focuses on the plight of the Jews there as the Nazis take over. Maciek was a young boy when we first meet him. He is being raised by his father and his aunt, Tania. Tania, according to Jewish tradition, should have married her sister’s husband when she died giving birth to Macied, but she chose not to do so – even though s
Jul 17, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Love, love, love this book. This was the first Begley that I read, and I do like him so much, but this is hands down the best one. Amazingly, not a single attribution in the whole thing. Quick, heartbreaking, and so vividly written that I can still remember so many scenes as if I saw them in a movie, and I read it years ago.

The protagonist's aunt - apparently he's never said one way or another the degree to which this is autobio, but there's a lot of speculation that it's pretty close - is an a
Sep 26, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There is something about Slavic natives who learned French before learning English that gives them a wonderful facility with the language. I am thinking of Kafka and Nabokov, but Louis Begley fits the pattern nicely.

As a first novel, this is an admirable achievement. Its reputation is as of a thinly fictionalized retelling of Begley's own experience surviving the Holocaust in Poland. Judged as a memoir, it's a harrowing, at times overwhelming account of a heartbreaking childhood. As fiction, I t
Gabi Coatsworth
Nov 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Semi-autobiographical novel about a Polish-Jewish child and his aunt, and what they have to do in order to stay alive during WW2 in Poland. If you didn't know that these things actually happened, you would find it impossible to believe the story. No matter how often I read something about the Holocaust, the ability of men to treat others as less than, remains shocking. But this is written in a way makes it hard to put down.
Tender and suspenseful by turns, it helped me to know the narrator survi
Jacqueline Barot
Jul 13, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: did-not-finish
Couldn't finish it. Boring.
Jul 07, 2017 rated it liked it
A strange book..................
Helmi Ben
Sep 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing
When being Jewish is a crime. A must read.
Jerry Pogan
Jul 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
A well written story told from the viewpoint of a young Jewish boy and his aunt escaping the Nazi's in Poland.
Dec 14, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: read-2017
Die autobiographische Geschichte dreht sich um den 9-jährigen Maciek, seinen Großvater und seine Tante Tanja zur Zeit des Zweiten Weltkrieges in Polen. Die Familie (zunächst mit der Großmutter) erlebt den Krieg und die zusehends systematische Verfolgung der Juden zunächst in polnischen Großstädten (Warschau, Krakau) und schließlich in ländlich-abgelegenen Dörfern. Viele Städte und Dörfer werden nicht genannt (T., R., W.), andere wiederum schon.
Tanja und Maciek schlagen sich durch Opportunismus u
Arvinder S.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Scott E
Mar 13, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-fiction
The first I've read by Begley, and his first...not a bad place to start. A nine year old Jewish boy forced to grow up quickly as he and his aunt are on the run attempting to avoid the Nazis. Told the boy's perspective, there isn't a great deal of Nazi atrocity...but still enough to piss you off and make you want to grind the broken end of a coke bottle into Hitler's throat. But I digress.

Begley tells the story with little sentimentality. This is almost a coming of age story, and I wonder if any
Aug 11, 2014 rated it liked it
Wartime lines portrayed a seemingly fictional account of a young Jewish boy in Poland, and his experiences during WWII under the care of his aunt. With the assistance of lies, false papers with fake identities, and the quick, cunning nature of his aunt, the two were able to survive the war without capture or death. The book is narrated from the young boy's point of view and provides a unique viewpoint into the drastic measures individuals would take survive during the war. It was a slight surpri ...more
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
I was made aware of this book some time ago in terms of "the film Kubrick never made."

I finally found a copy on a trip to NY some years ago and have just re-read it.

Following the story of a young boy and his aunt as they attempt to hide from the Nazis - they have to pass themselves off as Aryans.

A good read, short, and entirely seen from the viewpoint of the young boy.

Also worth checking out is the "visual installation" made by the Wilson Sisters, Jane and Louise - they took some of the Kubrick
Frank O'connor
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an extraordinary book about the human condition. It deals with the holocaust obliquely, through the filter of memory, childhood and absence. It brings the thing home, through the window, in a single amazing paragraph of great impact. The child of the story is not an innocent but neither is he completely aware. The complete absence of judgement from the narrative only emphasizes the fragility of justice itself, in addition to the fragility of the central characters. The manner in which th ...more
Nov 29, 2014 rated it really liked it
The story of a young Jewish Polish boy and his aunt trying to survive WWII and evade the Nazis. It is apparently largely autobiographical (though it was Begley's---not then called Begley) mother and not an aunt who protected him. I am curious as to why he did not write this as a memoir, though I am guessing it suited Begley not to have to make everything "true" and accurate. It is difficult to believe this is the same writer who wrote the "About Schmidt" series about a wealthy antisemitic man in ...more
Jan 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
Vividly harrowing and disturbing story of survival during the Holocaust. Stanley Kubrick wrote a screenplay of this book and then declined to make it into a film - claiming it was too close to Schindler's List (not true -- more similar to The Pianist nine years later, IMO) and too depressing to adequately depict on screen, which it may be. Great book nonetheless, that would have been perfectly suited to Kubrick's genius.
Dec 14, 2013 rated it it was ok
Overall, a good book told from the perspective of a young Jewish boy living in Poland during the German invasion of WWII. After having read a large number of adult war novels, this book is aimed at a younger audience and would be a great introduction to any young person looking to learn about this particular time in history. The highlight of this book would be the account of the boys time spent in Warsaw during the uprising in the Jewish ghetto.
Zeba Clarke
Jul 31, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Extremely touching and frightening fictional account of Begley's wartime experiences in concealment, hiding in plain sight in Lwow and then Warsaw from 1940 through to 1946 when he and his family finally left Poland for the US. I've read a good many books on Holocaust themes, but this is one of the simplest and most memorable. Highly recommended.
Dec 08, 2014 rated it really liked it
I gave this three and a half stars. A Jewish boy and his Jewish aunt attempt to survive the war by moving about and fabricating their life stories. The idea is based on the author's own experiences.

It helped me to understand what it must have been like living in Poland during the war.

A good read and one I would recommend to people who enjoy reading about the Second World War.
Mar 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A unique book, in regard to WWII from a Jewish standpoint. These Jews weren't captured by the Nazis, and were able to hide out for the entire war. This story is from the view of an adolescent boy, and tells of his growing up while hiding in Poland from the Germans the entirety of the war. The constant awkward sex-related scenes were weird, but other than that it was good.
Monte Lamb
Apr 23, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: world-war-ii, novels
This is a good book about a Jewish boy, his aunt, and his family during WWII in Poland. It tells how they hid, lived, and survived the war. It gives you a good sense of how someone with a strong will can find a way to live. The ending of the story pretty much tells you what it takes to survive. You have to become a new person.
Aug 14, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical-novel
The author uses the experiences of a Polish/Jewish boy to describe the horrors of Nazi occupied Poland. It was a very sad and sometimes horrifying subject,but easy to keep reading because of the child's perspective. Both his inner thoughts and feelings that were like other boys and the extraordinary circumstances and behaviors he had by necessity for survival provided balance.
Kris McCracken
Dec 12, 2012 rated it really liked it
An austere recount of a childhood spent by a Jewish boy during the Nazi occupation. A measured, deliberately cold tone throughout results in an emotionally flat narrative that is out of kilter with the content. I really enjoyed this (as much as you can 'enjoy' a Holocaust memoir. The key point around the costs of physically surviving to the psyche of a child is profound. A-.
Aug 23, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-2011
Truth be told, I'd probably give this a 3.5 but went with 3 as it wasn't a strong 3.5. There were many nice things about this book, but overall it is just another Wartime Remembrance that doesn't seem to offer any new insights. The writing is strong though and definitely worth reading for those interested in the tragedies of that time
Julius Lang
Jan 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Julius by: my firend john
I couldn't put this one down - the biggest (ugly) thing I learned from this book was how the people in neighboring countries during WW2 (in this case, poland) embraced the nazis' anti-semitism with such apparent vigor.
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Louis Begley is an American novelist.

Begley was born Ludwik Begleiter in Stryi at the time part of Poland and now in Ukraine, as the only child of a physician. He is a survivor of the Holocaust due to the multiple purchases of Aryan papers by his mother and constant evasion of the Nazis. They survived by pretending to be Polish Catholic. The family left Poland in the fall of 1946 and settled in N
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