David Pryce-Jones weaves a vivid life story through vignettes of the many famous authors--friends, acquaintances, interview subjects--who gave him personally inscribed books. In Signatures
he offers a window onto the lives and work of these extraordinary people.
As a child, Pryce-Jones spent time at Isaiah Berlin's house. As a teenager, lunching with Bernard Berenson at I Tatti, he prompted an outburst about Parisian anti-Semitism. W. H. Auden found him at Oxford to praise his competition poem, and he later visited Auden in his loft studio in Austria. Svetlana Alliluyeva reminisced about her father, Joseph Stalin, while staying at the Pryce-Jones house in Wales.
A highbrow salon gathered in the home of Arthur Koestler, who strove to be an English gentleman and who was with Pryce-Jones in Reykjavik covering the Fischer-Spassky chess match. Saul Bellow spoke of an old friend, now a capo famiglia, promising to deal with student rioters in 1968 Chicago. After swapping houses with Pryce-Jones one summer, Jessica Mitford insisted that he would have been a Communist in the 1930s. Robert Graves challenged a quotation from Virgil, and told the Queen that she was a descendant of Muhammad.
We meet V. S. Naipaul, a free spirit who understood that "the world is what it is." Muriel Spark would come round for lunch with the Pryce-Joneses in Florence, enjoying conspiratorial stories about Italian politics. At his sepulchral home in Heidelberg, Albert Speer demonstrated his way of "admitting a little to deny a great deal." In Isaac Singer we see generosity, candor, and mischievous humor. This is only a small sampling of the remarkable personalities who have left their signatures on a fascinating life.