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Reading Group Guide

Discussion Questions


1. In 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 relate to the experiences described in 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" (page 68). Throughout the novel, how does Tania relate to men and love?

7. There are several ways in which the title, 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 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 compare to other novels about the Holocaust you may have read?

by Louis Begley

  • Publication Date: October 15, 1997
  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 0449001172
  • ISBN-13: 9780449001172