The Hare with Amber Eyes (Illustrated Edition): A Hidden Inheritance [Edmund de Waal] on *FREE* shipping on qualifying offers. The definitive. The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal. The potter believes in the existential hum of objects, but this tale of a. “It could write itself, I think, this kind of story,” admits De Waal, celebrated ceramic artist and a descendant of the once “staggeringly rich”.

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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 edumnd 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: 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 wit existential hum some objects emit.

Things do “retain the pulse of their making” and this intrigues him: If I choose to pick up this small white cup with its single chip near the handle, will it figure in my life? You know the drill: But such anecdotes, prettified over time, obscure as well as reveal and this worries him he’s always worrying.

The Hare with Amber Eyes – Wikipedia

De Waal has inherited Japanese netsuke — wood and ivory carvings of animals, plants and people, none larger than the palm of his hand — from his beloved great uncle Iggie, and though they’re a relatively recent arrival at his London home, already he fears their story is growing too “poised”.

A netsuke is a fyes, tough explosion of exactitude”. It deserves exactitude in return. He would tell their story.


The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance | Book review | Books | The Guardian

Where does it begin? The netsuke were bought from a dealer there in the s by Charles Amebr, a relative of his great grandfather, Viktor. Charles, scion of the fabulously rich Jewish banking family and one of the models for Proust’s aesthete Charles Swann, is a collector who once bought a still life of asparagus from Manet at a price so generous the artist sent him a canvas of a further, single stalk in gratitude.

Charles bought the netsuke during harf craze for Japonisme. They were kept in a black lacquer vitrine until, one day, Charles sent them to Vienna as a wedding present for his cousin Viktor.

Why send these rather than, say, a vase? De Waal speculates that they must have been lost among all the tapestries and the Renoirs; probably, Charles had outgrown them.

But at Viktor’s home, they were equally out of place. The vitrine and its homely curiosities — netsuke were originally designed as toggles — were banished to her dr room, where, in due course, her children would play with them while she chose her jewellery. And there they stayed, a cuckoo in the nest, as the first world war began, and ended, and then, as Austria, unable to feed its edumnd, allowed antisemitism to take hold.

In Marchthe Ephrussi home was invaded by men in swastika armbands.

Some things were stolen, others destroyed, but the netsuke remained mysteriously intact. After the Anschluss, the family fled. Emmy took her own life in the Ephrussi country house in Czechoslovakia. Viktor and his children escaped elsewhere: After the war, she travelled to Vienna to discover what remained of the family’s possessions.

Not much was the answer, but a maid, Anna, saved the netsuke from the Nazis, hiding them in her mattress. InElisabeth’s brother, Ignace Iggievisited Tunbridge Wells between postings for an international grain exporter. Should he go to the Congo or to Japan? They looked at the netsuke together and his decision was made for him. And it was in Japan, inthat de Waal first set eyes on his future inheritance, now repatriated by Iggie.


The young potter was studying in Japan and every week he lunched with his great uncle.

Afterwards, they examined the netsuke, one by one. The hare with the amber eyes. A tumble of tortoises. De Waal has researched his story with obsessive diligence and he tells it with an imaginative commitment — searching, yet wide-eyed — ambfr lacking in some of our more wizened biographers. He is wonderful on place, forever turning doorknobs, real and imaginary, and inviting the reader in.

But I could not understand, and became annoyed by, edmnud conviction that he is not in the business of eyea the diaspora. There is something precious about this, as though such territory is beneath him. Their survival is wondrous, but I don’t think their presence turns The Hare With Amber Eyes from memoir into book of ideas, as de Waal seems to believe.

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance by Edmund de Waal: review

Sometimes, they are more distraction than narrative thread and the need to return to them often bogs the author hars there are, after all, only so many ways to describe the feel of carved wood and only so many times such an image can be made to work as a symbol of patinated memory without the reader feeling that a point is being laboured.

I loved the story of the Ephrussis, but I am mystified by de Waal’s insistence on gilding it with his own flimsy abstractions. There is no shame in telling people what happened to Jewish families in the last century. Such elegies, sepia or otherwise, grow every day more vital. Topics Biography books The Observer.

The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss

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