Louis Begley

Franklin Library Louis Begley books

The Man who was late - signed first edition - 1992


Louis Begley biography

Born on October 6, 1933, in Stryj, Poland (now Ukraine), Louis Begley is a distinguished American author, known for his contributions to contemporary literature. His life and work encapsulate a narrative marked by resilience, intellectual prowess, and a profound exploration of the human experience. Begley's early life was shaped by the tumultuous events of World War II. Fleeing the Nazi occupation, he and his family escaped to the United States, where they settled in New York City. This period of upheaval and displacement would later infuse his writing with themes of identity, displacement, and the haunting echoes of history. Educated at Harvard College, Begley earned a Bachelor's degree in 1954 and later pursued a law degree at Harvard Law School, graduating in 1959. He embarked on a successful career as a lawyer, ultimately becoming a partner in the prominent New York law firm Debevoise & Plimpton. His legal career, primarily in the field of international law, provided him with a rich tapestry of experiences that would later find resonance in his literary works.

Despite his professional success in law, Begley harbored a lifelong passion for literature. In the 1990s, he decided to shift his focus and dedicate more time to writing. His debut novel, Wartime Lies (1991), marked a powerful entrance onto the literary stage. This poignant work, drawing from Begley's own experiences as a Jewish child in wartime Europe, earned widespread acclaim and was a finalist for the National Book Award. Begley continued to build on his literary reputation with subsequent novels, including The Man Who Was Late (1993), About Schmidt (1996), and Mistler's Exit (1998). The latter was shortlisted for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction. His writing style, characterized by its lucidity and emotional depth, garnered praise for its exploration of complex characters and the intricacies of the human condition.

In the new millennium, Begley's literary output expanded to include works such as Shipwreck (2003) and Killer, Come Hither (2006). These novels showcased his versatility as a storyteller, tackling themes ranging from the aftermath of 9/11 to the complexities of love and morality. Begley's exploration of the human psyche and the impact of historical events on personal narratives remains a hallmark of his writing. His novels often navigate the intricacies of relationships, the search for identity, and the profound influence of the past on present-day lives.

Beyond his novels, Begley has contributed essays and reviews to esteemed publications, showcasing his intellectual engagement with contemporary issues. His dedication to literature has not only enriched the literary landscape but also exemplified the power of storytelling to illuminate the complexities of the human experience. Louis Begley's literary journey stands as a testament to the enduring power of storytelling and the ability of literature to bridge the gaps of time, space, and personal history. His work continues to resonate with readers, inviting them to reflect on the universal themes that bind humanity across cultures and generations.


The Man Who Was Late

A man without a country or family, a Holocaust survivor, Ben long ago left the wreckage of Europe and recreated himself as a brilliant financier. He rejects the comforts of love and is shocked to discover Veronique beautiful, unwisely married, and all that Ben suddenly knows he has always needed. In their stolen hours and weekends, their deep commitment to one another fills their lives as nothing ever has. But the question remains: Can Ben finally take what he has always denied himself...?

Louis Begley quotes

"I have no interest in writing confessions, in deliberately baring myself to my readers. I prefer to remain behind a screen."
"I think I am less self-assured when I write English than I would be if I were writing in my first language."
"I think that Jews - because they are a distinct, gifted and successful group that differentiates itself from societies in which it lives - are vulnerable wherever the rule of law is not paramount."
"In legal practice, in the representation of clients, I have always felt deeply engaged, serene, and not all inclined to stand aside. I have always done whatever needed to be done, and have usually gotten my way."
"I may well do some more polemical writing, if a subject that fires me up comes along. Apart from that possibility, I would like to continue to tell stories so long as I have stories to tell."

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