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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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2,2291092,890 (3.97)245
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)

  1. 00
    The Little Book by Selden Edwards (AmourFou)
    AmourFou: A very different story than The Hare with Amber Eyes but I found myself thinking of this book for its apt reinforcement of fin de siècle Vienna.
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» See also 245 mentions

English (99)  Dutch (2)  Italian (2)  French (1)  Danish (1)  German (1)  Norwegian (1)  Catalan (1)  Hebrew (1)  English (109)
Showing 1-5 of 99 (next | show all)
Warning - spoilers!

De Waal traces the roots of the 264 Japanese netsuke he inherited from his great uncle, Iggie. The netsuke begin in Japan, but quickly become intertwined with the history of the Ephrussi banking family. We follow the netsuke from Paris of the Belle Epoque and its obsession with Japonisme, where they interact with characters such as Proust, Manet, and Renoir, and of course, Charles Ephrussi himself. A facinating glimpse into many of the famous Jewish banking familes of this time, and a period in history that cannot be matched for its opulence. The netsuke are gifted by Charles to the Vienna scion of the family, where we then get a glipmse of fin de siecle wealthy Vienna in the years leading up to the World War. We observe how quickly life changes from WW1 to WW2, the rise of (blatant) anti Semitism, and the rise of the Nazi party. The fortunes of the netsuke and of the Ephrussi family are forever changed - as a reader, you can see the tragedy coming, of course, but are committed enough to the family and these objects to see it through. The Palais Ephrussi on the Ringstrasse is ransacked, all the treasures scattered to the wind under Aryanization, never to be recovered. The family itself suffers deaths and tragedies and evantually become refugees in England, the Netherlands and America. Few things survive, but miraculously, the netsuke do, smuggled out under the nose of the Nazis by the family's Gentile maid, Anna, who hides them in her mattress until the end of the war. They are eventually reunited with the family, and De Waal's Uncle Iggie takes them back to Tokyo, where he becomes a successful businessman in the postwar era. De Waal inherits them on his death, and they are now in his home in London, in a vitrine he purchased from the Albert Museum. De Waal is a ceramics artist, and his interest in the netsuke begin as interest in their artistic merits, but you can tell he quickly becomes obsessed with how these objects' history have intertwined with his family's own. He draws you right into the obsession with him. I highly recommend. The Paris section can get somewhat confusing, as every Comte and Comtesse has 57 different names, but the story is so compelling you muddle through. The netsuke "live" in 4 different eras - Paris, Vienna, Tokyo and London, and each time period is so fascinating you don't want to leave. ( )
  cookierooks | Nov 16, 2016 |
Modest, tragic, elegant. ( )
  laurenbufferd | Nov 14, 2016 |
I really liked the second half of this book, but the first half was SO slow and it took me forever to really get into the story. ( )
  gayla.bassham | Nov 7, 2016 |
I found this to be a well-written and thorough personal journey. I happen to really enjoy this genre, especially when there is a family tree at the beginning, to follow the story from generation to generation. Still, I did find it a bit slow at the beginning and actually put it down for a few months upon hitting the half-way point. It was good, engaging and I did not want to abandon it. I picked it up again a few days ago and found the latter half of the book much easier and more interesting and was able to finish without any problems.

The author, Edmund de Waal, the British-born son of a Dutch clergyman in the Church of England, has inherited a set of 264 small *netsuke* - tiny wood and ivory carvings from Japan - from his great uncle, who lived in Tokyo. De Waal, a ceramicist, is struck by their beauty and decides to trace their origin and journeys over 5 generations through his family. His discovery of the journeys take him to Vienna, Paris, Odessa, and Japan and trace the history of a very prominent, wealthy Jewish dynasty who were decimated by the Nazis during World War II. All that remained of their wealth was this collection of netsuke, hidden and rediscovered, after the war. It took De Waal over 2 years to reconstruct the story and write this book and his obsession to do so is our gain. ( )
  jessibud2 | Oct 24, 2016 |
This is a great book. de Waal is an heir of the Ephrussis, a Jewish banking family that was almost as rich as the Rothschilds. He inherits 264 netsuke, which are miniature Japanese carvings that used to close a purse or a robe.
He then traces how these objects came to be, when they were bought, and how a lady servant took them away in front of the Nazis. His people are very colorful - Charles Ephrussi, the original buyer of the objects, was the model for Swann in Proust;s epic book and his uncle, who left him the netsuke, lived in Japan for many years with his boyfriend. ( )
  annbury | Jun 16, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 99 (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 editionscalculated
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.
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In 1991 I was given a two-year scholarship by a Japanese foundation.
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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 Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:16:06 -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 9 descriptions

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