Acclaimed in Washington, D.C., literary circles as that rare novelist who gets the inner lives of the city’s power junkies exactly right, Ward Just now turns his attention to Paris — with decidedly mixed results. Actually, there are no French characters of any consequence in this mordantly ironic story of Sydney Van Damm, a German expatriate, and his American wife, Angie, during the exhilarating months leading up to German reunification.
Readers irritated by overt philosophizing in fiction had best avoid The Translator, a novel in which the melancholy Van Damm strives murkily to find the dark side in the apparent good news from Eastern Europe. Just’s characters are unfailingly — even brilliantly — articulate, and there’s also a plot buried here somewhere amid all the talk and literary name-dropping. Still, the plot is second-rate thriller material and scarcely believable. C