The Hare With Amber Eyes

The Hare With Amber Eyes

A Family's Century of Art and Loss

Book - 2010
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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.

Publisher: New York : Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2010
Edition: 1st American ed. --
ISBN: 9780374105976
Branch Call Number: 332.109224 DeW 3558ad 1
Characteristics: 354 p. :,ill., maps


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Nov 30, 2017

a wonderful meditation on symbols to retain identity, and heritage, and historical meaning, steeped in the Paris of Marcel Proust, then Klimt's Vienna, before the destruction, the desecration, of the 2nd World War, only cherished, or not, artifacts left then to commemorate lost lives, lost cultures, and lost memories

Bunny_Watson716 Jun 01, 2016

Intelligent writing and an intriguing topic make this narrative that is at once the story of a family as well as the story of the netsuke, a fascinating read.

Jun 09, 2015

An engaging non-fiction book that traces the family's history through a collection of Netsuke figurines. The memoir begins in Russia and takes the reader through 2 world wars and onto the present. It is a remarkable narrative.

WVMLBookClubTitles Aug 23, 2014

Edmund de Waal is descended from a grand, 19th century European banking family, the Ephrussi family. But by the end of the Second World War, virtually all that remained of their vast fortune was a collection of 264 Japanese wood and ivory carvings called netsuke. De Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this collection and this memoir is his account of the collection’s and his family’s history.

Jul 19, 2014

Excellent read and a book I could not put down. Use of the netsuke collection as it moved through the ages and the families that owned it as the underpinning for the story was very effective. Not a kind of book I usually enjoy but stayed with the author right to the very end.

May 12, 2014

from Patricia Wilson 5/2013

Apr 26, 2014

Historically interesting and well written story around the author,s family history and his relationship to the great European banking families of Ephrussi and Rothschilds.

Author is a renouned English ceramics artist. His exploration into the family possession of a collection of Japanese netsuke figurines, which eventually comes to him, is surprisingly involving and an education.

Feb 18, 2014

In a word: amazing. Unsentimental, clearly written story of a family to evoke Age of Innocence and the Budenbrooks. I could not put it down.

Jane60201 Oct 11, 2013

I really enjoyed this unusual book. Illustrates periods of history "on the ground" as experienced by real people.

Dec 21, 2012

If history had been taught with books like this for text, I would have gotten straight A’s. One hundred years of the Ephrussi family, a Jewish banking family that originated in Russia and spread from there to Vienna, to Paris, to London, and then the Nazi-enforced diaspora to America, Holland & Japan. A secularized Jewish family who collected art and built stupendous houses, who rubbed shoulders with such as Proust, the Impressionists, Rilke, and other banking families like the Rothschilds. The author, a contemporary descendant, a successful potter in England, frames the book with the family’s collection of netsuke (small Japanese carvings). The book begins and ends with a contemplation of objects and collecting, leaving the reader with food-for-though, as they say.

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