Openings & Outings: An Anthology by David Pryce-Jones - review by Mark Almond

Mark Almond

Upstream of History

Openings & Outings: An Anthology


Criterion Books 355pp £17.99

David Pryce-Jones started his odyssey through modern times as much a novelist as a journalist, and his fluent writing is sharpened by a sensitivity to characters and the situations they face. Each piece in this selection of articles, dating from the 1960s to well into the 21st century, concerns an episode in our too easily forgotten recent past. This is journalism not as mere fish-and-chip paper, read today and forgotten tomorrow, but as the essence of what the Washington Post’s Philip Graham defined as the ‘first rough draft of history’.

The trauma of experiencing the defeat of France in 1940 at the age of four shaped Pryce-Jones’s world-view. He was extracted from a fallen France via Franco’s Spain by a Spanish uncle, Eduardo Propper de Callejón, who was one of that distinguished small band of Spanish consuls who flouted his own dictator’s informal alliance with Hitler to give life-saving visas to potential victims of the Holocaust. Pryce-Jones is aware of how thin the threads of survival can be. Conservative through and through, he is never complacent about social stability and is contemptuous of the upper orders who fail to see that their cosy lives are supported by thin ice. A sense of duty to remind the lucky postwar generation of Boomers of the fragility of their good fortune runs through this collection.

The eternally uncertain fate of Israel has been a lifelong concern for Pryce-Jones, though a personal commitment to Israel doesn’t blind him to the dilemmas and problems involved in the Arab–Israeli dispute. Wishful thinking is the bane of too many of his journalistic contemporaries and he lets us

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