The Corner

For DP-J, a Birthday Card

David Pryce-Jones deserves more than a little blogpost, especially on this, his 80th birthday. But let me say a couple of words.

He is one of the best writers we have — i.e., that the English-speaking world has. He is invaluable as historian, as journalist, as novelist. Also as memoirist. His new Fault Lines is a bona fide masterpiece. “It will become a classic,” as Commentary’s reviewer said.

What I have learned from DP-J over the years, I cannot begin to say. He has shaped me on the Middle East, Europe, the Anglosphere, virtually everywhere. He has taught me a lot about art. And about literature. And about people. His range is enormous. Few writers have so varied a bibliography.

And he gives you something that many writers do not: the moral dimension of things. Usually, he gives it to you with killer understatement. Paris in the Third Reich is barely readable, for its very simplicity, clarity, and sympathy.

I could go on, but I said this would be just a little blogpost. Years ago, a professor of mine hailed a professor of his (C. Vann Woodward) for giving him “what I can only call a cast of mind.” David has done the same to me, or for me. I once wrote a piece that I forwarded to him with the comment, “This one is particularly Pryce-Jonesian, I think.” He chuckled.

Such a great man. He was born 80 years ago in Vienna — two years before the Anschluss. Thanks to some great-hearted adults around him, he escaped with his life. We are so lucky. I am so lucky.

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