Louis Begley was born in Poland in 1933. He and his parents survived the Holocaust, and he came to the U.S. at 13 years of age. He attended Harvard College, graduating summa cum laude. He then entered the U.S. Army. In 1959, after graduating magna cum laude from Harvard Law School, he became an attorney in a prestigious law firm, where for many years, he headed its international practice.
When he was 58 years old and still practicing law, Wartime Lies, his first novel, was published. Based on his childhood as a Polish Jew who escaped the Nazi death camps, it won the Hemingway/PEN Award in 1991, and the Irish Times Aer Lingus International Fiction Prize. His 1996 novel, About Schmidt was made into a film starring Jack Nicholson.