Louis Begley’s books include Why the Dreyfus Affair Matters and the novel Wartime Lies. His eleventh novel, Killer Come Hither, will be published in 2015.

The Good Place in Vicious France

Jewish children sheltered by the Protestant population of the village of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon, France, circa 1941–1944
Caroline Moorehead’s Village of Secrets: Defying the Nazis in Vichy France is an account of how people of Le Chambon-sur-Lignon and nearby villages in south-central France, and a handful of their admirable leaders, rescued people from the Nazis. Estimates vary from as many as five thousand saved to Moorehead’s guess …

How Wily Mitterrand Transformed France

François Mitterrand, Hossegor, France, 1967
I had the good fortune to be presented to François Mitterrand, the subject of Philip Short’s engrossing, authoritative, and fair biography, which is chock-full of previously unavailable information, sometime in the fall of 1973, at a small lunch given in New York City by the French consul general.1 At …

Down and Out in Cambridge

A café in Tunis, Tunisia; photograph by Harry Gruyaert
“For a child in love with maps and engravings,” Baudelaire wrote in “Le Voyage,” “the universe is equal to his vast appetite./Ah, how the world is great by lamplight!/Through the eyes of memory the world is small.”* That is not how it has usually been in the work of …

My Europe

Louis Begley at the age of four, at his grandparents’ country house in Poland, summer 1938
My Europe begins with Poland before the war. World War II, of course. Soon, there will be no one left who knew Europe as it was before World War I, the Great War that destroyed the old order and gave the continent a new map, which, with relatively small changes, is its map today.… At the core of my first memories of Poland is a summer in the remote countryside where my grandparents had a small property. The low manor house was made of wood so weather-beaten that I thought of it as black. One reached it after a journey from the nearest railway station over blindingly white dusty roads that seemed to stretch into eternity.

The Day of the Hunter

Simon Wiesenthal, Vienna, 1975
Simon Wiesenthal’s legend is well known: the survivor of a succession of concentration camps, he was the Nazi hunter who tracked down Adolf Eichmann and brought to justice such monsters as Franz Stangl, the commandant of Treblinka, the most murderous of death camps, and Hermine Braunsteiner, the whip-wielding “Mare of Majdanek.” He was received by presidents at the White House, and had among his more surprising friends in high places German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and, once he had been released from Spandau prison, Albert Speer.

The Custom of the Country

Nicole Krauss’s first novel, Man Walks into a Room, published in 2002 when she was twenty-eight, begins as an astute portrayal of an Upper West Side couple, a Columbia University professor and his social worker wife, whose lives are shattered after the husband undergoes an operation to remove a tumor …

Ariadne’s Own Story

She knew the story of her family, its future, and her own future within it. Her royal father, Minos, had told it to her. Besides, of late, brief visions of that future had flashed before her eyes. Dreams or revelations? She wasn’t sure. The knowledge of the future made her …

Lonely in Germany

Flights of Love is the second work of fiction by the German writer Bernhard Schlink to appear in English. Schlink became famous following the publication in 1997, in the United States, of his novel The Reader,[^*] published in 1995 in German under the title of Der Vorleser, a German word …

A Matter of Survival

Late one Friday: a little boy waits by the window in an unnamed, desolate place. A phantom, “a shadow, withered and gloomy,” appears out of the “smoky steppes.” It is the boy’s mother walking hurriedly, stumbling, bent under a sack heavy with potatoes, beans, prunes, and other scraps of food …