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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

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The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Cover

ISBN13: 9780312569372
ISBN10: 0312569378
Condition: Standard
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Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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.

Review:

"A family memoir written with a grace and modesty that almost belie the sweep of its contents: Proust, Rilke, Japanese art, the rue de Monceau, Vienna during the Second World War. The most enchanting history lesson imaginable." The New Yorker

Review:

"An extraordinary history....A wondrous book, as lustrous and exquisitely crafted as the netsuke at its heart." The Christian Science Monitor

Review:

"Enthralling...[de Waals] essayistic exploration of his family's past pointedly avoids any sentimentality....The Hare with Amber Eyes belongs on the same shelf with Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory." Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

Synopsis:

An Economist Book of the Year       

Costa Book Award Winner for Biography    

Galaxy National Book Award Winner (New Writer of the Year Award)

Edmund de Waal is a world-famous ceramicist. Having spent thirty years making beautiful pots — which are then sold, collected, and handed on — he has a particular sense of the secret lives of objects. When he inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, called netsuke, he wanted to know who had touched and held them, and how the collection had managed to survive.

And so begins this extraordinarily moving memoir and detective story as de Waal discovers both the story of the netsuke and of his family, the Ephrussis, over five generations. A nineteenth-century banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna, the Ephrussis were as rich and respected as the Rothchilds. Yet by the end of the World War II, when the netsuke were hidden from the Nazis in Vienna, this collection of very small carvings was all that remained of their vast empire.

About the Author

Edmund de Waal's porcelain has been displayed in many museum collections around the world, and he has recently made an installation for the dome of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He was apprenticed as a potter, studied in Japan, and studied English at Cambridge. He is Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster and lives in London with his family.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 10 comments:

piscesgirl24, January 1, 2013 (view all comments by piscesgirl24)
Take the time to read this compelling story! Found an old netsuke from my Dad to accompany the read.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
PLozar, April 23, 2012 (view all comments by PLozar)
I greatly enjoyed this book for many reasons. First, it's a fascinating story in its own right, and de Waal's choice to tell it the way he researched it means that we follow him every step of the way (including the surprises in his visit to Odessa). Second, it takes us down the fascinating byways of early 20th-century art through the history of Charles Ephrussi (collector, critic, and friend of artists); I'm reasonably knowledgeable about art history, but I learned a lot from the book. Third, the author (probably because he's an artist himself) has a facility for choosing telling details -- his account of the Anschluss is horrifying not because he piles up atrocities but because he focuses on how the minutiae of daily life were irrevocably altered. Finally, I lived in Vienna for a couple of years, knew many of the places he describes, and heard various versions of the history he recounts; but this was a far more personal "take" on the place and the people, and I feel it gave me a better perspective. Highly recommended.
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(4 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
meg ida, January 23, 2012 (view all comments by meg ida)
Edmund De Waal, reknown British ceramic artist chronicles his quest for the background of his inherited netsuke collection. Great read of foregrounded personal family history layered over backgrounded world political history;spans 5 generations. Anticipating film in the works. loved++++it!
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

ISBN:
9780312569372
Author:
de Waal, Edmund
Publisher:
Picador USA
Author:
de, Edmund
Author:
Waal, Edmund de
Subject:
General Biography
Subject:
Asian
Subject:
Biography - General
Subject:
Biography-Rich and Famous
Subject:
Jewish
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
20110831
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 4 black-and-white maps and 26 b
Pages:
368
Dimensions:
8.26 x 5.47 x 0.95 in

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Featured Titles » General
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Hobbies, Crafts, and Leisure » Crafts » Ceramics » Collecting
Religion » Judaism » General
Religion » Judaism » Jewish Biographies
Religion » Judaism » Thought and Culture

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance Used Trade Paper
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$10.50 In Stock
Product details 368 pages Picador - English 9780312569372 Reviews:
"Review" by , "A family memoir written with a grace and modesty that almost belie the sweep of its contents: Proust, Rilke, Japanese art, the rue de Monceau, Vienna during the Second World War. The most enchanting history lesson imaginable."
"Review" by , "An extraordinary history....A wondrous book, as lustrous and exquisitely crafted as the netsuke at its heart."
"Review" by , "Enthralling...[de Waals] essayistic exploration of his family's past pointedly avoids any sentimentality....The Hare with Amber Eyes belongs on the same shelf with Vladimir Nabokov's Speak, Memory."
"Synopsis" by ,

An Economist Book of the Year       

Costa Book Award Winner for Biography    

Galaxy National Book Award Winner (New Writer of the Year Award)

Edmund de Waal is a world-famous ceramicist. Having spent thirty years making beautiful pots — which are then sold, collected, and handed on — he has a particular sense of the secret lives of objects. When he inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, called netsuke, he wanted to know who had touched and held them, and how the collection had managed to survive.

And so begins this extraordinarily moving memoir and detective story as de Waal discovers both the story of the netsuke and of his family, the Ephrussis, over five generations. A nineteenth-century banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna, the Ephrussis were as rich and respected as the Rothchilds. Yet by the end of the World War II, when the netsuke were hidden from the Nazis in Vienna, this collection of very small carvings was all that remained of their vast empire.

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