Wartime Lies

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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.

Wartime Lies won the Hemingway Foundation/PEN Award in 1991. The French version, Une éducation polonaise, won the Prix Médicis étranger in 1992.

Plot summary[edit]

Maciek and his aunt Tania are Polish Jews during World War II. By getting Aryan papers, they elude arrest.[1] 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.

Film adaptations[edit]

In 1976, director Stanley Kubrick approached Isaac Bashevis Singer,[2] Nobel Prize in Literature winner of 1978, to write a screenplay about the Holocaust; he declined with, "I don't know the first thing" about the Holocaust. The project was put on hold until the publication of Begley’s book in 1991. In 1993 Warner Brothers greenlit the film under the title "Aryan Papers", the screenplay written by Kubrick himself. Uma Thurman was approached to play the main lead. When it became known that Steven Spielberg's similar-themed movie Schindler's List would be a competitor at the box office at release time, the project was stopped with many roles having already been cast: Joseph Mazzello as the nephew, Johanna ter Steege[3][4] in the lead role, Elemér Ragályi designated as cinematographer. Independent of these circumstances, Christiane Kubrick, his wife, remarked that working on the movie took a huge toll on Kubrick, putting him in a very depressed emotional state.[3]

In 2005, William Monahan was hired to adapt Wartime Lies for Warner Independent Pictures in co-operation with John Wells Productions.[5]

Read on[edit]


  1. ^ http://www.enotes.com/wartime-lies-salem/wartime-lies
  2. ^ Goldmann, A. J. (August 21, 2005). "Eyes Wide Open (his unmade films)". Haaretz. Tel Aviv. Archived from the original on March 15, 2017.
  3. ^ a b documentary about ter Steege's casting on YouTube
  4. ^ Adler, Shawn (April 29, 2008). "Uma Thurman Confesses to Kubrick's 'Wartime Lies'". moviesblog.mtv.com. Archived from the original on September 12, 2018. Uma Thurman was considered for the role before ter Steege
  5. ^ Claude Brodesser (2005-05-10). "WIP a 'Wartime' recruit: Warner catches WWII 'Lies'". Variety. Retrieved 2007-01-06.

External links[edit]