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The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated…

The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated Edition): A Hidden Inheritance (original 2010; edition 2012)

by Edmund de Waal

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1,684None4,231 (3.98)177
Title:The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated Edition): A Hidden Inheritance
Authors:Edmund de Waal
Info:Farrar, Straus and Giroux (2012), Edition: Ill, Hardcover, 432 pages
Collections:Your library

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The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal (2010)

2011 (22) 2012 (16) 20th century (19) art (117) art history (52) Austria (32) autobiography (15) biography (165) book club (12) ebook (15) Ephrussi family (17) Europe (33) family (17) family history (43) fiction (25) France (20) history (147) Holocaust (22) Japan (95) Jewish (22) Jews (32) Kindle (19) memoir (140) netsuke (83) non-fiction (142) Odessa (17) Paris (56) to-read (54) Vienna (81) WWII (64)

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English (73)  Danish (1)  Dutch (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  French (1)  All languages (78)
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
This being the 78th review of The Hare here on LT, I am sure I cannot do it justice, but the sentence that has been rolling around in my mind goes like this: You know a book is special when even when you don't want to read any more of it you keep on reading..... Edmund de Waal inherits 264 netsuke, those charming, witty, sensual and intricately carved ornaments, once worn as part of a formal Japanese costume, up to the Meiji times when old-fashioned dress was discouraged - and not just any netsuke, but very good ones collected originally in the late 19th century by his great great uncle Charles when the fever of Japonisme caught on among the aesthetes and intellectuals with a bit (or a lot!) of spare cash, in Paris. The netsuke are among the few surviving treasures of a vast fortune, truly unimaginably vast, and it is through the medium of the netsuke that de Waal gingerly approaches the rise and fall of his father's maternal family, the Ephrussi bankers of Odessa, Vienna, Paris.... To tell this story, de Waal adopts a slightly distant style of writing, and surely he can write it no other way, for to get any closer would be too dangerous, too painful, for it is a story both breathtaking and terrible. While I've read widely about world war 2, I am constantly brought face-to-face with new angles on the perfidy (and I don't use that word lightly) of the Nazis. The image of a priceless Louis XVI desk being heaved over the railing into the courtyard below is as appalling as anything I've read. Of course, things are just things, but .... in this case the irony is knifelike, these brownshirt louts claim to be cleansing Austria of 'dirt' but too stupid to have any idea what they are destroying. de Waal manages to convey too, with utmost tact and humility, his amazement that he could have come from a family that rose to such wealth and privilege only to have it taken from them in a matter of days. And yet, here he and his brothers and cousins are, de Waal, makes clear, prospering and letting the past be what it is. And here are the netsuke, these exquisite, intimate objects, overlooked when the Nazis ransacked the house - rescued by Anna, the austrian servant, Anna of no last name, kept under her mattress and returned to de Waal's doughty grandmother after the war. What a symbol. What a powerful book and a necessary one to the memoir literature of that war. ****1/2 ( )
  sibyx | Mar 23, 2014 |
It's easy to see why this book is a best seller: it has many different themes that could appeal to many different readers. It is a family history, a story about art, history, about cultural assimilation and belonging. It is about the importance of posssessions, the family artifacts we all have and the stories attached to them.

The writing is excellent, subtle and moving.

Like so many others, I add my disappontment at the lack of pictures: there isn't even one of the title har with amber eyes! ( )
  LynnB | Feb 4, 2014 |
Edmund de Waal's book traces the history of an art collection from the nineteenth century through today. My reaction to the book is a combination of wanting the story to move faster and wanting to know more.

Read my full review at: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com/2014/01/hare-with-amber-eyes.html ( )
  njmom3 | Jan 29, 2014 |
I found this book fascinating to read. It’s a combination of biography as the author tells of his individuals in his family and history as he explains the roots of his family as they moved from country to country as they struggled and rose and fell through the easier times and more difficult. He centers his story around a collection of netsuke brought together in the 1870s in Paris by a now-distant family member. The story shows both the way those same netsuke were passed from one member of the family to another and the circumstances and surroundings in which each successive owner was living. The opulence of the era in which they were collected contrasts sharply with the family’s struggle for instance during World War II, when the family was dispersed across Europe and the Nazi regime were taking ownership of all property held by Jewish families. The fact that the netsuke survived and were returned to the family is a sign of incredible determination and a marked bravery that I won’t explain here but will leave to be discovered by those who choose to read the book. I’m not entirely sure what I was expecting when I began this book, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t what I got, but I know this was a lot easier to read than I expected and a darn sight more interesting and more moving. ( )
  Peace2 | Jan 27, 2014 |
What a poignant, beautiful, quietly powerful, bittersweet story the ceramicist Edmund de Waal has written about his inherited collection of 264 Japanese netsuke. How did the tiny carvings travel from Japan and then back, until Edmund inherited them from his great uncle Iggie Ephrussis, so that they now reside in England? Who had owned them and how had they passed through various family members’ hands and homes? When he realised that he had reached a point where he was reducing the netsuke to a series of anecdotes, “my odd inheritance from a beloved elderly relative”, he decided to really go after the story to “sort it out now or it will disappear”.

How glad I am that he did. This is a beautiful story of family but more, of a family moving through historically important times. He tells us the story of his family having moved from Odessa to Paris, of its growth from grain shippers to a powerhouse in the world of banking and trade. Grand homes were built, dynasties were founded, fortunes were made, allowing the netsukes’ first owner, Charles Ephrussis, to collect the tiny treasures. I found Charles fascinating but no less fascinating was the company he kept (and collected): Monet and the impressionists, Proust, et. al.

Moving on from his period of Japonisme, Charles gave his entire collection of netsuke and their black lacquer vitrine to his nephew Viktor Ephrussis and his new bride, Emmy, as his wedding present to them. They resided in Emmy’s dressing room in their enormous home in Vienna, the Palais Ephrussi, on the famous Ringstrasse.

This part of the book was a much harder read for me as Vienna and Europe slid into the First World War. Anti-Semitism, never far beneath the surface no matter what Viktor hoped, reared its ugly head during this war, went under the surface of things during the all too brief period before the second world war, and then burst out again in an even more virulent form with Hitler’s rise to power in 1933. Personal libraries were scattered around among collectors. Works of art were stolen, or appropriated with speciously official documentation for various museums and galleries. De Waal writes with a knife edge anger tinged with despair as he takes us through this period in the collection’s life. At times I had to put the book down and walk around to calm down, close to tears or fierce anger myself.

When the Gestapo occupied the Palais Ephrussi, documenting all of Viktor’s treasures before boxing them up and sending them to Berlin, Emmy’s personal maid Anna, a gentile who had worked with the family since the age of 14, slipped a few of the netsuke into her apron pocket as she went by their vitrine until she had hidden the entire collection of 264 in her mattress. After the war, she was able to give the only thing she had been able to save to Edmund’s grandmother Elisabeth, who took them in a small valise to England. De Waal never did learn Anna’s last name but he pays her a moving tribute for this act of courage.

After (or near) Elisabeth’s death, the netsuke went to her brother Iggie and were instrumental in his accepting a post-war posting in Japan. So for a period, they returned home. This period was easier to read than their life in Vienna but it was just as fascinating.

Now they reside in a vitrine de Waal was able to scoop from the Victoria and Albert Museum when they were selling off some unwanted showcases. What a story these little carvings have to tell, what a life they have led. And how beautifully and powerfully Edmund de Waal tells it to us. ( )
12 vote tiffin | Jan 20, 2014 |
Showing 1-5 of 73 (next | show all)
What happened to the hare with amber eyes, and the carved medlar that almost felt as if it might squish when handled, after their return from Japan? De Waal bought them a secondhand vitrine from the V&A and set it up in his London house, its door unlocked so his own children could play with its contents. "Objects have always been . . . stolen, retrieved and lost. It is how you tell their stories that matters." He has told their story wonderfully. Oh, and this is a beautiful and unusual book, as a physical object. Somebody really cared.

» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Edmund de Waalprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Boraso, MarinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Cohen, MarceloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Eklöf, MargaretaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hilzensauer, BrigitteTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johnová, LucieTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lempens, WillekeTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Miró, CarlesTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Prosperi, CarloTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rugstad, ChristianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sasada, MasakoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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'Even when one is no longer attached to things, it's still something to have been attached to them; because it was always for reasons which other people didn't grasp...Well, now that I'm a little too weary to live with other people, these old feelings, so personal and individual, that I had in the past, seem to me - it's a mania for all collectors - very precious. I open my heart to myself like a sort of vitrine, and examine one by one all those love affairs of which the world can know nothing. And of this collection to which I'm now much more attached than to my others, I say to myself, rather as Mazarin said of his books, but in fact without the least distress, that it will be very tiresome to have to leave it at all.' Charles Swann.

Marcel Proust, 'Cities of the plain'.
For Ben, Matthew and Anna and for my father.
LJCRS Book Fair Selection 2013 - 5774
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In 1991 I was given a two-year scholarship by a Japanese foundation.
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Book description

Paris 1871-1899 -- Vienna 1899-1938 -- Vienna Kövecses, Tunbridge Wells, Vienna 1938-1947 -- Tokyo 1947-2001 -- Tokyo, Odessa, London 2001-2009.
Haiku summary
Mansions, power, art / Exile, stolen dignity / Netsuke bear witness (LynnB)

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0312569378, Paperback)

Amazon Best of the Month, September 2010: At the heart of Edmund de Waal's strange and graceful family memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, is a one-of-a-kind inherited collection of ornamental Japanese carvings known as netsuke. The netsuke are tiny and tactile--they sit in the palm of your hand--and de Waal is drawn to them as "small, tough explosions of exactitude." He's also drawn to the story behind them, and for years he put aside his own work as a world-renowned potter and curator to uncover the rich and tragic family history of which the carvings are one of the few concrete legacies. De Waal's family was the Ephrussis, wealthy Jewish grain traders who branched out from Russia across the capitals of Europe before seeing their empire destroyed by the Nazis. Beginning with his art connoisseur ancestor Charles (a model for Proust's Swann), who acquired the netsuke during the European rage for Japonisme, de Waal traces the collection from Japan to Europe--where they were saved from the brutal bureaucracy of the Nazi Anschluss in the pockets of a family servant--and back to Japan and Europe again. Throughout, he writes with a tough, funny, and elegant attention to detail and personality that does full justice to the exactitude of the little carvings that first roused his curiosity. --Tom Nissley

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:42:51 -0400)

(see all 7 descriptions)

Traces the parallel stories of nineteenth-century art patron Charles Ephrussi and his unique collection of 360 miniature netsuke Japanese ivory carvings, documenting Ephrussi's relationship with Marcel Proust and the impact of the Holocaust on his cosmopolitan family.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

» see all 6 descriptions

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