Wartime Lies Part 4

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LB: I am probably less optimistic about Tania. Of course, the damage to her will be different from the damage done to Maciek. She is a grown-up with a fully formed and strong personality. But memories like hers are corrosive. Also, she may never again have occasion to reach such heights of courage and resourcefulness. Will a more quiet life inevitably seem mediocre and insipid? I am probably less optimistic about Tania. Of course, the damage to her will be different from the damage done to Maciek. She is a grown-up with a fully formed and strong personality. But memories like hers are corrosive. Also, she may never again have occasion to reach such heights of courage and resourcefulness. Will a more quiet life inevitably seem mediocre and insipid?

But that is speculation about matters that are outside my novel and I have no better information about them than you or any other of my readers.

JM: A somewhat similar moment-a moment of sudden vigor and freedom-comes for Maciek when he defeats his rebellious dog and, later, reacts with murderous anger as well as grief when the dog is run over. But in this revival, there is no flash of humor, and in the final paragraph we read: "Maciek will not rise to dance again." Tania may be still herself, but Maciek will always be looking for himself because the lies of his wartime fell between his sixth and his twelfth year. He will remain, beneath the surface, twisted into the shape those lies forced him to assume. Is this too much to say? A somewhat similar moment-a moment of sudden vigor and freedom-comes for Maciek when he defeats his rebellious dog and, later, reacts with murderous anger as well as grief when the dog is run over. But in this revival, there is no flash of humor, and in the final paragraph we read: "Maciek will not rise to dance again." Tania may be still herself, but Maciek will always be looking for himself because the lies of his wartime fell between his sixth and his twelfth year. He will remain, beneath the surface, twisted into the shape those lies forced him to assume. Is this too much to say?

LB: You are exactly right. That is the conclusion to which I hoped to bring the reader. You are exactly right. That is the conclusion to which I hoped to bring the reader.

JM: When my neighbor's sons, now teenagers, were small, I used to hear them and their friends at play through the window of my study. What struck me-always in a happy way-was the enormous excitement and animation they brought to their games. In games, in make-believe, children are like that. Everything is a matter of utmost consequence and urgency. But children's accounts of actual urgency, or real catastrophe, seem often to go to the opposite extreme. I have heard children in court speaking with a soft, almost affectless simplicity that was more affecting for the hearer than animation would have been. It is difficult, for example, to imagine a child bringing an indictment against God, like Goethe crying When my neighbor's sons, now teenagers, were small, I used to hear them and their friends at play through the window of my study. What struck me-always in a happy way-was the enormous excitement and animation they brought to their games. In games, in make-believe, children are like that. Everything is a matter of utmost consequence and urgency. But children's accounts of actual urgency, or real catastrophe, seem often to go to the opposite extreme. I have heard children in court speaking with a soft, almost affectless simplicity that was more affecting for the hearer than animation would have been. It is difficult, for example, to imagine a child bringing an indictment against God, like Goethe crying "Mehr Licht" "Mehr Licht" on his deathbed. Do you see any connection between your decision to make Maciek your narrator for most of on his deathbed. Do you see any connection between your decision to make Maciek your narrator for most of Wartime Lies Wartime Lies and the restrained style of the work? Would you care to comment on the rhetorical range that suits this subject matter best? Where do you locate this work in the literature that the Shoah has provoked? Or do you ever think of it that way at all? and the restrained style of the work? Would you care to comment on the rhetorical range that suits this subject matter best? Where do you locate this work in the literature that the Shoah has provoked? Or do you ever think of it that way at all?



LB: I can give a partial answer. I can give a partial answer.

Clearly, the decision to have the little boy tell the story-a decision that I reached at the very outset and never put in question afterward-imposed the simplicity of the narrative style. There was also the constraint that came from my writing Wartime Lies Wartime Lies in English, although everything in it was taking place in my mind in my native tongue, which is Polish. I wanted to be somehow faithful to the strains of Polish I heard in my ear, and a certain chastity of expression was the only solution I found. You will have doubtless noticed, by the way, that I avoided direct dialogue. That was because I would not have known how to render it in English. To give you a small-but for me very important-example, I could not have borne to have the little boy address his father as "Daddy"! in English, although everything in it was taking place in my mind in my native tongue, which is Polish. I wanted to be somehow faithful to the strains of Polish I heard in my ear, and a certain chastity of expression was the only solution I found. You will have doubtless noticed, by the way, that I avoided direct dialogue. That was because I would not have known how to render it in English. To give you a small-but for me very important-example, I could not have borne to have the little boy address his father as "Daddy"!

You are right about the way children become almost silent when hurt or under extreme pressure. That has been, almost always, my own response.

Then there is the fact-an odd one-that when I was writing Wartime Lies Wartime Lies I had in mind Madame Lafayette's "Princesse de Cleves," a love story set in late sixteenth-century France. The subject is clearly a world away from mine, I have only read Madame Lafayette's masterpiece in French, and yet it is the style of that little novel, which is as pure as a diamond of the first water, that was my conscious model. I had in mind Madame Lafayette's "Princesse de Cleves," a love story set in late sixteenth-century France. The subject is clearly a world away from mine, I have only read Madame Lafayette's masterpiece in French, and yet it is the style of that little novel, which is as pure as a diamond of the first water, that was my conscious model.

I avoid placing myself on lists of writers or my novels on lists of works by other authors. Also, I have largely avoided Shoah literature, for some of the reasons I have attributed to the "man with sad eyes" in an answer to one of your earlier questions. The most I can do is to name the authors who have written about the Holocaust I admire fervently: Tadeusz Borowski and Primo Levi.

JM: Dante for evil, Catullus for love, and Virgil, I suppose, the third poet who presides over this work, for catastrophic defeat and noble recovery: Dante for evil, Catullus for love, and Virgil, I suppose, the third poet who presides over this work, for catastrophic defeat and noble recovery: Sunt lacrimae rerum Sunt lacrimae rerum. Virgil rather than Homer: Homer is for those who win their wars.

On the language question, some have seen Joseph Conrad's style in English as mysteriously indebted to Polish. Some survivors of the Holocaust have wanted to leave their native languages behind-as have, by the way, some Germans. Some, like Joseph Brodsky and Czeslaw Milosz, have gone back and forth. The subject of how and why a writer chooses to write in a second language is a large and tangled one. Perhaps English, precisely by its foreignness, enabled you to clothe memories that would have been, as it were, naked in your native language and too painful to speak aloud. Your reference to the word daddy daddy is painful even to read. is painful even to read.

I suspect, though, that among the readers most grateful for your turning this subject into fiction are those who have had comparable experiences themselves, comparable pain in speaking of how the experiences marked them, and comparable reactions to what has been made of them in others' writings and others' art. Wartime Lies Wartime Lies has found a wide and varied international audience; but had it been written even for them alone, as a long personal letter to the members of a fraternity of pain, it would be a signal service as well as a moving literary achievement. has found a wide and varied international audience; but had it been written even for them alone, as a long personal letter to the members of a fraternity of pain, it would be a signal service as well as a moving literary achievement.

QUESTIONS AND T TOPICS FOR D DISCUSSION.

1. In Wartime Lies 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 Inferno relate to the experiences described in relate to the experiences described in Wartime Lies? Wartime Lies?

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". Throughout the novel, how does Tania relate to men and love?

7. There are several ways in which the title, Wartime Lies 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 Wartime Lies is one where everyone bears a burden of guilt, what guilt do Maciek, Tania, Grandfather, and Reinhard carry? 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 Wartime Lies compare to other novels about the Holocaust you may have read? compare to other novels about the Holocaust you may have read?

About the Author

LOUIS B BEGLEY is the author of five novels. is the author of five novels. Wartime Lies Wartime Lies, which was written when he was in his mid-fifties, was followed by The Man Who Was Late, As Max Saw it The Man Who Was Late, As Max Saw it, and About Schmidt About Schmidt, and most recently, Shipwreck Shipwreck.Begley has another life, that of a lawyer. He is a senior partner at Debevoise & Plimpton, one of America's most prestigious firms, and is the head of its international practice.Wartime Lies was the winner of the PEN Hemingway Award, The Irish Times-Aer Lingus International Prize, and the Prix Medicis Etranger, France's most coveted prize for fiction in translation. It was a National Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award, and National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist. was the winner of the PEN Hemingway Award, The Irish Times-Aer Lingus International Prize, and the Prix Medicis Etranger, France's most coveted prize for fiction in translation. It was a National Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award, and National Book Critics' Circle Award finalist. About Schmidt About Schmidt was likewise a National Book Critics' Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist. Begley has received the American Academy of Letters prize for literature and numerous other awards. was likewise a National Book Critics' Circle Award and Los Angeles Times Book Award finalist. Begley has received the American Academy of Letters prize for literature and numerous other awards.Begley was born in Stryj, a town that was Polish and is now part of the Ukraine, in 1933. Being Jewish, he survived the German occupation by pretending, with the help of false identification papers, to be a Catholic Pole. Begley and his parents left Poland in 1946 and settled in New York in 1947. Begley graduated from Harvard College in 1954, and after having served in the U.S. Army, from Harvard Law School in 1959.Since 1974, Begley has been married to Anka Muhlstein, a prize-winning French author of biographies and other historical works. The combined family includes five grown children. His are a painter and sculptor, a book critic, and an art historian. Hers are a foreign relations specialist and a television journalist.

Wartime Lies is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. is a work of fiction. Names, places, and incidents are the products of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Wartime Lies Part 4

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