The hare with amber eyes nytimes review

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the hare with amber eyes nytimes review

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Familys Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

The Ephrussis were a grand banking family, as rich and respected as the Rothschilds, who “burned like a comet” in nineteenth-century Paris and Vienna society. Yet by the end of World War II, almost the only thing remaining of their vast empire was a collection of 264 wood and ivory carvings, none of them larger than a matchbox.

The renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exquisite collection of netsuke. Entranced by their beauty and mystery, he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collection.

The netsuke—drunken monks, almost-ripe plums, snarling tigers—were gathered by Charles Ephrussi at the height of the Parisian rage for all things Japanese. Charles had shunned the place set aside for him in the family business to make a study of art, and of beautiful living. An early supporter of the Impressionists, he appears, oddly formal in a top hat, in Renoir’s Luncheon of the Boating Party. Marcel Proust studied Charles closely enough to use him as a model for the aesthete and lover Swann in Remembrance of Things Past.

Charles gave the carvings as a wedding gift to his cousin Viktor in Vienna; his children were allowed to play with one netsuke each while they watched their mother, the Baroness Emmy, dress for ball after ball. Her older daughter grew up to disdain fashionable society. Longing to write, she struck up a correspondence with Rilke, who encouraged her in her poetry.

The Anschluss changed their world beyond recognition. Ephrussi and his cosmopolitan family were imprisoned or scattered, and Hitler’s theorist on the “Jewish question” appropriated their magnificent palace on the Ringstrasse. A library of priceless books and a collection of Old Master paintings were confiscated by the Nazis. But the netsuke were smuggled away by a loyal maid, Anna, and hidden in her straw mattress. Years after the war, she would find a way to return them to the family she’d served even in their exile.

In The Hare with Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal unfolds the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. Sweeping yet intimate, it is a highly original meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

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The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal--Audiobook Excerpt

PEOPLE start collections for many reasons — because they can, because they wish to contemplate beauty, because of the associations an object stirs.
Edmund de Waal

264 Japanese Carvings, Revealing Family History

Versions of the page can be found in the Internet Archive. At that site, select a blue circled calendar date. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, A well-known British potter, Waal inherited a collection of Japanese netsukes—small elaborate carvings made of ivory or wood and used as toggles on the cords holding containers inros to the sash of a man's traditional Japanese kimono. Possession of these remarkable objects led Waal to several years of travel and research in an effort to understand them and the family they came from, the once fabulously rich Ephrussis. For historians of nineteenth-century art, the most important figure is Charles Ephrussi — , who bought the netsukes as a group from the Paris dealer Philippe Sichel in about , when japonisme was no longer new, but still fashionable ,

E dmund de Waal is a potter, perhaps the most famous potter working in Britain today. His bowls and beakers, thrown in porcelain and glazed in celadon, are domestic, — in theory, you could fill them with hot tea — but they also exist in a more contemplative realm; arranged in pale lines and marked by various dents and asymmetries, they whisper a story of limitless but rather fragile possibility. This is what they say: that the potter may throw any shape he likes; that no two of his pots will ever be precisely the same; and that a pot may disappear — crash! I find them exquisite, but I'm not sure that I would ever want to own a row. As an ever-present metaphor for human endeavour, I fear they would slowly drive me mad. In his memoir, de Waal alludes early on to the existential hum some objects emit. Things do "retain the pulse of their making" and this intrigues him: "There is a breath of hesitancy before touching or not touching, a strange moment.

But he will be able to bring along only a few of his favorite pocket talismans: Japanese carvings called netsuke, the size of walnuts, depicting animals, fruit, peasants, samurai and erotica. They are mostly made of ivory, and sometimes boxwood, and only the wooden ones can officially be stuffed into his luggage. His book revolves around netsuke, which have been handed down in his family for four generations. He has learned that the collection was displayed alongside Impressionist and old master paintings during the last years, and he discovered who protected it from wartime theft. The case is unlocked, so his school-age children can play with the netsuke. He has found out that his immediate ancestors, Jewish grain tycoons from Odessa named Ephrussi, were allowed similar access when they were young.

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Book Reviews The author was apprenticed as a potter…and his aesthetic sensibility extends to language: there is much wit and dramatic instinct to relish in these pages. All four are wistful cantos of mutability, depictions of how even the lofty, beautiful and fabulously wealthy can crack and shatter as easily as Faberge glass or Meissen porcelain—or, sometimes, be as tough and enduring as netsuke, those little Japanese figurines carved out of ivory or boxwood. As with Remembrance of Things Past , it uses the grandeur to light up interior matters: aspirations, passions, their passing; all in a duel, and a duet, of elegy and irony. Richard Eder - Boston Globe A beautiful and unusual book De Waal has a mystical ability to so inhabit the long-gone moment as to seem to suspend inexorable history, personal and impersonal

By Edmund de Waal. If you had to make a bet, a good one would be that a book about netsuke — intricate, thimble-size Japanese carvings — would not fly off the shelves. To be fair, for inanimate objects, these netsuke have enjoyed quite a life. The author was apprenticed as a potter — he is now a professor of ceramics at the University of Westminster — and his aesthetic sensibility extends to language: there is much wit and dramatic instinct to relish in these pages. By Patrick Hennessey. The initial conceit for the memoir — the reading group that the author and a few like-minded compatriots convene in the dusty oblivion of Iraq — quickly fades from view, and the diary entries Hennessey wrote while on missions are often needlessly repetitive.


  1. Gabriel Z. says:

    There are men and women who write beautifully, every word inevitable, the paragraphs building into chapters, the chapters adding up to a great book, and we never suspect that their work is a phenomenal trick -- that they bled over every word, turned every sentence around a dozen times, missed meals with their children, sacrificing all to make their writing look effortless.

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