The writings of  Richard Kluger

Un-American Activities

About the Book

Published 1982 by Doubleday & Co.


An economy gone haywire, the shock waves stunning a nation, a President blithely declaring fear itself to be public enemy No. 1, a comfortable world lost and a brave new one not yet born – this was America in the Thirties.  And for many of her best and brightest young people, with a hunger for hope and a knack for dialectic, communism and its variants held a certain allure.  This huge, ambitious novel by Richard Kluger revolves around a handful of such young men and women as they grapple with great issues and become ever more entangled in one another’s lives at Harvard, in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts, and in New York City.

Un-American Activities is the story of Toby Ronan, who, on entering Harvard in the fall of 1930, was perhaps the least haughty member of his class.  Possessed of slender means, few social graces, and scant expectations, he absorbs lessons in and out of class that arm him well for the turbulent world beyond his venerable unoversoty’s gates.  He is less prepared to cope with his strong-spirited women friends.

Cheska, his first love, inducts him into the unforgiving world of radical activism.  Temple instructs him on the grandeur of nature and the rites of provincial society when he is off duty from his job as educational officer at a Civilian Conservation Corps camp in western New England.  Finding his way to New York and a job on the Herald Tribune, he is befriended by a zaftig landlady on the Upper West Side; Nina, a passionate and persuasive Marxist, and Eden, a Trib society reporter, who tries to teach him the ways of the wealthy.

From the first, Toby is captivated by words and their power to move minds, confounded by justice and its ambiguities, beguiled by young women at war with themselves over the conflicting demands of idealism and reality, and torn by the spreading rage of the times.  His misadventures are a panoramic voyage through the tortured American conscience.  This is a passionate, absorbing novel whose characters play out their lives and loves against events beyond their control.



Un-American Activities cover

©2017 Richard Kluger