Wartime Lies is a semi-autobiographical novel by Louis Begley first published in 1991. Set in Poland during the years of the Nazi occupation, it is about two members of an upper middle class Jewish family, a young woman and her nephew, who avoid persecution as Jews by assuming Catholic identities. Time and again the boy, who narrates the story from some remote point in time, reminisces about how he learned at an early age to lie in order to survive. Thus, his whole adult life is founded on the "wartime lies" of his childhood.
Maciek and his aunt Tania are Polish Jews during World War II. By getting Aryan papers, they elude arrest. In parallel, we follow Maciek, now fifty years old and struck by the tragedy of the consequences of a lying childhood transforming his entire life in a constant fiction.
In the early 1990s, Stanley Kubrick almost went into production on a film of Wartime Lies. Kubrick had been interested in the book for a long time, he had asked Isaac Bashevis Singer to write the script in 1976. The first draft screenplay, titled Aryan Papers, had been penned by Kubrick himself. Kubrick chose not to make the film due to the release of Steven Spielberg's Holocaust-themed Schindler's List in 1993. Julia Roberts and Uma Thurman were both considered to play the female lead however Johanna ter Steege was eventually cast for that role. Joseph Mazzello was cast to play the nephew. Kubrick chose cinematographer Elemér Ragályi to become the director of photography. In addition, according to Kubrick's wife, Christiane, the subject itself had become too depressing and difficult for the director. Kubrick eventually concluded that an accurate film about the Holocaust was beyond the capacity of cinema.
- Claude Brodesser (2005-05-10). "WIP a 'Wartime' recruit: Warner catches WWII 'Lies'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-01-06.
- A review by Laurel Graeber in The New York Times (May 5, 1991)
- An interview with Louis Begley from the National Book Foundation Archives on the genesis of Wartime Lies
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