The Translator

The Translator

by Ward Just
     
 

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Sydney Van Damm loves living among foreigners: having escaped Germany and his boyhood memories of World War II, he makes a life as a translator in Paris. There he meets Angela, an American expatriate who becomes his wife. Their marriage is brushed by tragedy, and in the turbulent seventies and eighties, as the new Europe is born, Sydney gets involved in an

Overview


Sydney Van Damm loves living among foreigners: having escaped Germany and his boyhood memories of World War II, he makes a life as a translator in Paris. There he meets Angela, an American expatriate who becomes his wife. Their marriage is brushed by tragedy, and in the turbulent seventies and eighties, as the new Europe is born, Sydney gets involved in an East German scam that comes crashing down around him.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Just's ( Twenty-one ) extraordinarily suggestive intelligence is given full play in this commanding psychological and political novel. Sydney Van Damm has exiled himself from his native Germany, establishing himself in Paris at a German-American foundation impurely funded by ``Uncle Sugar,'' then becoming a literary translator. Angela, his wife, has similarly rejected her heritage--the daughter of a leisure-loving Maine widower, she trades an upper-class upbringing for Sydney's modest Paris flat. Having foreclosed on their pasts, the couple faces a not particularly promising future: their only child is irremediably handicapped and the flat grows claustrophobic. Meanwhile, the 1990 economic and political upheavals throughout Europe and the U.S. bring unhappy surprises. They also bring opportunities, as Sydney's old connection to the Uncle Sugar circuit points out, proposing that Sydney serve as translator for a shifty deal involving stolen Warsaw Pact arms. Ward discloses his story with a card shark's timing and shrewdness, allowing events to serve a symbolic role without compromising their dramatic value, flattering the reader with his restraint and insight. (Sept.)
Library Journal
Sydney van Damme is a German translator living in Paris with his American wife and severely retarded son. This account of his cosmopolitan but troubled life explores the theme of personal identity and its relation to one's family, homeland, and history. Sydney comes of age amidst the wreckage of World War II, meets his wife as Saigon falls to the Vietcong in 1975, and becomes involved with a friend in a dangerously illegal arms deal while the Berlin Wall crumbles. As its root suggests, translation is a metaphor for change, and for Just the major responsibility of a translator--fidelity--becomes also a moral touchstone. With its compelling mix of psychological drama, international intrigue, and astute political commentary, this novel recalls Conrad and le Carre and should appeal to many readers. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 5/1/91.--Albert E. Wilhelm, Tennessee Technological Univ., Cookeville

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780395571682
Publisher:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Publication date:
09/09/1991
Pages:
313
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.45(h) x (d)

Meet the Author


Ward Just is the author of fourteen previous novels, including the National book Award finalist Echo House and An Unfinished Season, winner of the Chicago Tribune’s Heartland Award. In a career that began as a war correspondent for Newsweek and the Washington Post, Just has lived and written in half a dozen countries, including Britain, France, and Vietnam. His characters often lead public lives as politicians, civil servants, soldiers, artists, and writers. It is the tension between public duty and private conscience that animates much of his fiction, including Forgetfulness. Just and his wife, Sarah Catchpole, divide their time between Martha’s Vineyard and Paris.

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