Synopses & Reviews
"First reviews of Just's 13th novel have rightly underscored its atmospheric richness, its powerful evocation of restless Americans abroad, and its engaging plot, whose complexity can only be suggested here. Dixon Greenwood, a Hollywood director, lionized for a single 'cult' film made decades before, recaptures his past (and the Past) as well as his creative élan while wintering in millennial Berlin. After ruminating for weeks in a bi-national think tank, he accepts the opportunity to direct the season closer of an historical romance serial made for German television. This assignment, and events deriving from it, not only expose Greenwood to the labyrinthine history of his host country but reunite him with an unforgettable actress out of sight but never out of mind since the last shooting day of his masterpiece. Her sense of the past, along with that of other secondary characters, occasions Greenwood's partial but nonetheless impressive regeneration as man and artist. This novel's undeniable hold on the reader owes as much to Just's perennially limpid, but layered, nuanced, and resonant prose as to his technical control, which is now at its peak. But there is more: action, method, and style insistently direct the reader to a deeper concern: narrativity itself. The protagonist and almost all the other characters are self-conscious story-tellers more or less artfully shaping, reshaping, presenting and representing a recitative. Their purposes are varied: to move, instruct, entertain, or mislead an actual, virtual, or even non-existent audience, while exploring, creating, deepening, and projecting an identity, authentic or factitious. The endless play of vision
and re-vision-signaled by imagery of lenses and multiple mirrors-implicates and problematizes not only The Weather in Berlin, but Just's decades-long achievement, and by extension, the Novel itself as a medium of art, artistic knowledge, personal expression, and rhetoric in its root sense. Not since The Translator has Just plumbed such abstract issues. That he does so in the rich existential context of personal struggle, post-modern cultural change, and political flux, marks his continuing growth and his assumption of ever greater risks. In this The Weather in Berlin is less reminiscent of James and Wharton (in whose line critics habitually place Just) than it is of a German novelist repeatedly cited in these pages: the genius of Lübeck, Thomas Mann." Reviewed by Andrew Witmer, Virginia Quarterly Review (Copyright 2006 Virginia Quarterly Review)
In this astute novel of Americans abroad, Ward Just turns his keen eye toward the dark underpinnings of nationalism, fame, and artistic integrity. When a famous Hollywood director travels to post-Wall Germany to rekindle his genius, he is unexpectedly reunited with an actress who mysteriously disappeared from the set of his movie thirty years before. Masterly and atmospheric, The Weather in Berlin explores the subtleties of artistic inspiration, the nature of memory, and the pull of the past.
About 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 Tribunes 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 Marthas Vineyard and Paris.