(Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction)

The main objective of Kaufman, Fitzgerald, and Sewell is to call attention to the deeds of one unusual American, a person who combined excellence as an athlete and scholar with courage and skill as a wartime spy. Berg has not been the only intellectual among professional athletes in the United States, but his interests and achievements were undoubtedly more varied than those of any other sports figures. Berg was not simply well-read; he attempted to read everything, consuming books on all subjects and reading dozens of newspapers in several languages daily. He not only had an easy facility for languages but also approached them as a scholar, interested primarily in how irregular spellings and endings crept into languages. He was talented enough as an academician to be offered teaching positions by Princeton University, and by Kieo University in Japan.

Like Henry Higgins in George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (1913), Berg could identify very specifically where people were from simply by hearing them speak a few words, and he could do so in several languages. He was a perfect spy in part because he could speak Japanese, Spanish, German, Italian, and French fluently, and in part because he could vary his vocabulary and pronunciation to fit a particu-lar social class or the dialect of the region where he happened to find himself.

Berg also succeeded as a spy because he knew considerably more than languages. When an Italian scientist proved uncooperative, Berg won him over by reciting Petrarch’s poetry in Latin, thereby learning that Germany was definitely capable of...

(The entire section is 657 words.)