11 July 2012

Ward Just, an American C.P. Snow


The Translator is another interesting, well written novel by Ward Just. A former Washington Post reporter, Just has the knack for writing interesting stories intelligently intertwined with political intrigue. In this case the political slant is a young German who leaves Germany soon after the end of World War II to become a translator in Paris. He eventually meets and marries an American and the two make their lives as expats. For him it is the scepter of communist East Germany where his mother has chosen to make her home, and for her it is the pall of a brother killed in Vietnam and the tarnished power of the U.S. in the wake of the failre in Southeast Asia. Add in a developmentally disabled son, and the fall of communism and you start to get a pretty complex, but readable story.

This wasn't my favorite Just, I think he could have used a little editing, but overall enjoyable.

I think this 1992 review from The New York Review of Books makes an interesting and apt comparison to C.P. Snow.

Ward Just is in many ways the contemporary American equivalent of the late C.P. Snow. Like Snow’s, his novels are situated with great precision in the “real” world, realistically rendered, and they are concerned with power, with decision making, and with the far-reaching consequences of the decisions made. While they often include family conflicts—most poignantly those of fathers and sons (as in Snow’s The Conscience of the Rich and Just’s The American Ambassador, 1987)—the domestic struggle is nearly always placed within a larger, more public sphere. The ethical quotient in their novels is always high, for the choices made typically involve questions of loyalty to one’s colleagues or (as in Just’s Jack Gance, 1989) to one’s sense of personal integrity. Expert or “inside” knowledge plays a large part in the fiction of both men—Snow drawing heavily upon his experience as a scientist and civil servant, Ward Just upon his years as a Vietnam War correspondent and prominent Washington journalist.

1 comment:

  1. strange you reviewed c p snow I listen to his desert island disc choice the other week as it is now on line and was thinking I must read him again ,his book were quite unique from what I remember almost like his other job as a scientist something clinical in his writing ,all the best stu

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