C. Vaughan James 1925-2009

Vaughan James died on 17th July 2009, at his home north of Oxford, after some years of ill health. Vaughan and George Hart were part of the 1960-1961 exchange program between the British Government and the Soviet Union. They traveled together on the vessel Estonia to Leningrad when the became friends, and both lived in zona D of Moscow State University. They had many good times together and remained friends after they left the USSR. George's eldest son Vaughan Ian Hart was named after Vaughan James [note his second son James was not, even though the connection was realized by both George and Clare when they named James].

Vaughan a was lecturer in Russian at Sussex from 1964 to 1973. His first language was Welsh – the C. stood for Caradog − and that may partly explain his extraordinary gifts as a linguist, if not necessarily his equal abilities as a teacher of languages. He learnt Japanese during the last years of the war and was due to be sent to Japan when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. He shifted his interest to Russian and read Russian and Comparative Slavonic Philology at the School of Slavonic and East European Studies, going on one of the first student exchange trips to the Soviet Union. He seems to have known most European languages except German, which he refused to learn. An inspiring teacher, his enthusiasm for the language, Russian life, culture and music (he started what was inevitably called a ‘serf choir’ at Sussex), was infectious, and had a lasting impact on his students, many of whom remained in contact with him. The parties at his cottage in Ditchling were memorable, and he was mainly to blame for the Russian Studies Subject Group’s long-lasting reputation for partying. He was first director of the language laboratory and largely responsible for launching the Russian year abroad, setting up an independent exchange arrangement with Progress Publishers in Moscow (a first for the UK) which involved two Russians coming to Sussex for a year as language tutors, and organizing student placements in Prague and Bulgaria as well as Russia. A life-long socialist, his firm support for the Soviet Union waned somewhat after 1968, and in later life he switched his enthusiasm to China and then Cuba. He wrote a novel partly set in Cuba, A Reasonable Man, 1997, but he will be best remembered for his study of Soviet Socialist Realism, 1973, and his many translations and language books on Russian. On leaving Sussex he returned to Oxford to work for Pergamon Press, famously managing to get on with Robert Maxwell, and then headed CILT, the National Centre for Languages. He will be much missed and fondly remembered by many.”

Beryl Williams: http://www.sussex.ac.uk/press_office/bulletin/31jul09/article7.shtml