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