Louis Begley

Schmidt Steps Back - Novel

Original US edition: Alfred A. Knopf, 2012
Louis Begley
Foto: Louis Begley
© Jerry Bauer

Louis Begley, born 1933, lives in New York City.

Worldwide translation rights for Louis Begley’s oeuvre, except for Memories of a Marriage, are now handled by Suhrkamp Verlag, except for the following languages: English, Spanish, Brazilian Portuguese, French, Italian, Dutch, Japanese, Polish, Hungarian (represented by Georges Borchardt Inc. Literary Agency)

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When we last saw Albert Schmidt Esq. (‘Schmidtie’ to all near and dear), he had been expelled from paradise: his love Carrie, the Puerto Rican waitress forty years his junior, had taken up with a blond giant nearer her age and possibly the father of her baby – assuming it isn’t Schmidt.

Meanwhile, his only confirmed child, Charlotte, had proposed a truce in their perennially strained relations, which Schmidt accepted, despite its obliging him to resume dealings with her repulsive husband and her mother-in-law-cum-psychiatrist, whose life’s work has been turning Charlotte decisively against Schmidt.

The curtain rises on Schmidt Steps Back some thirteen years later: New Year’s Eve 2008, the dawn of the age of Obama. Schmidt’s affection for the young president-elect is boundless, and as he imagines a better day for his country, he dares to hope there’s one for him too. It so happens Schmidtie is readying his Hamptons house for the visit of a lady from Paris: the irresistible Alice Verplanck, widow of his former law partner and surely a more appropriate prospect for a man now seventy-eight. But there’s a history, and it’s complicated. In fact, Schmidt hasn’t seen Alice since the summer of 1995, when he behaved like a brute upon discovering a betrayal of sorts and pronounced her unworthy of his unstinting love and commitment. Alice is finally ready to forgive him, but she still doubts that Schmidtie can ever be content. She demands that he think long and hard about their past, and while he’s at it Schmidtie finds himself also reviewing the reversals and tragedies that have brought him to an unimagined isolation and loneliness. With no family he can claim but Carrie, now married and expecting a second child, and only two real friends left – his college roommate Gil Blackman and the irrepressible billionaire Mike Mansour –Schmidt sees in Alice’s impending visit his last chance, before the sun sets on the Hamptons, for a life that is more than merely staying alive.


»Updike had Rabbit, Roth has Zuckerman, Richard Ford has Bascombe and Begley has Schmidt. While all serve a similar purpose, to illuminate American life and culture through the passages of one man’s maturation, the return of “Schmidtie” represents a significant advance from preceding volumes. […] The good news is that Schmidt still feels he has 10 years to live, which likely means at least one more novel.« Kirkus Reviews

»With subtlety, intelligence, and wit, Begley gets inside Schmidt’s fertile WASP brain […] He’s controlled, smart, sensitive, and sentimental.« Philadelphia Inquirer

»One cannot read one of the Schmidt novels without laughing. Here, as the whole series is lifted up by the tragic masks, the author finds comedy irresistible.« San Francisco Chronicles

»Begley writes with an admirable confidence […] We inhabit Schmidt like an actor wired for animation. For this, as they say, You Gotta Love Him.« Newsday

»The enterprising and original Begley has given us […] Schmidt’s sardonic formulations [that] always have pertinent and pointed vigor […] The most lively pages are ones where his animus against the trendy, the petty, and the self-righteous are given full rein. His irascibility, at times directed against himself, represents the other side of an embrace of positive things – like imagination, love, irony, the occasional double bourbon, and the novels of Trollope. One feels these are qualities and pleasures that, like his protagonist, Louis Begley finds sustaining and around which he has woven an appealing novel.« The Boston Globe

»Begley’s dry-martini wit, peerless eye for social mores, and delectably complex hero Schmidt have a following, which will increase with this superb tragicomedy.« Booklist

»One of the victories of this novel is how candid he is. Begley gets as close to Schmidt as a diarist, inhabiting this man who has been seasoned by a long life and yet somehow seems new this morning.« New York Times Book Review

Other publications

Der Fall Dreyfus/Why the Dreyfus affair matters (2009)

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Brazilian Portuguese rights (Companhia das Letras)

Ehrensachen/Matters of Honor (2007)

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Brazilian Portuguese (Companhia das Letras), France (Editions du Rocher)

Schiffbruch/Shipwreck (2003)

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Brazilian Portuguese (Companhia das Letras)

Schmidts Bewährung/Schmidt Delivered (2000)

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Brazilian Portuguese (Companhia das Letras), France (Grasset)

Mistlers Abschied/Mistler´s Exit (1998)

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Russia (Wydawnictwo Moskva), Brazilian Portuguese (Companhia das Letras), France (Grasset), Poland (Pokolenie)

Schmidt/About Schmidt (1996)

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UK (Serpent´s Tail), Spain (RBA), Russia (EKSMO), Brazilian Portuguese (Companhia das Letras), France (Grasset), Italy (Il Saggiatore), Netherland (Balans), Korea (Eyes and Heart), Japan (Media Factory), Poland (C&T), Hungary (Szukits), Bulgaria (Riva), Romania (Litera International), Greece (A&S Savvalas)

Wie Max es sah/As Max saw it (1994)

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Brazilian Portuguese (Companhia das Letras), France (Grasset), Italy (Bompiani), Netherlands (Balans), Poland (NOWA)

Der Mann, der zu spät kam/The Man who was late (1993)

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UK (Macmillan), Brazil Portuguese rights (Companhia das Letras), France (Grasset), Italy (Bompiani), Netherland (Balans), Poland (NOWA)

Lügen in Zeiten des Krieges/Wartime Lies (1991)

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UK (Serpents Tail; Penguin), Spain (Ediciones B), Chinese simplex rights (Shanghai Translation), Brazilian Portuguese Rights (Companhia das Letras), France (Grasset), Italy (Bompiani), Netherlands (Van Gennep), Sweden (Gedins), Japan (Hayakawa), Poland (Da Capo; Cyklady), Czech Republic (Vysehrad), Hungary (Helikon), Turkey (Can), Georgia (Palitra Media), Israel (Eked)