The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss by Edmund de Waal

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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.

Title : The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 0374105979
Edition Language : English
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 368 pages


Mark rated it ★★★★☆

May 01, 2013

After the first few pages I was wondering whether this wa going to be one I would have to wade through as a noble act of bookclub fidelity. However, its like a walk up a mountain where you are straining up a hill, panting and feeling its your duty and then suddenly you brow the hill and there ope...

Kalliope rated it ★★★★☆

May 10, 2013

I would have enjoyed this book more had I been less familiar with some of the topics tackled during its first half. Namely, the Paris and Vienna of the 1870-1914 period with Impressionism, Japonisme, Proust, circles of Jewish finance and art patrons, Dreyfus affair…and the parallel Building of th...

Jan rated it ★★★★★

December 16, 2014

At first I thought this book was slow, overly preoccupied with art at the expense of narrative, and becalmed. By the end, the author's view-as-artist illumined the narrative and its characters, who are several past generations of his family. As all the summaries and reviews say, the generation of...

Peter rated it ★★★★★

October 18, 2011

There are many excellent reasons for reading The Hare with Amber Eyes. Its author, Edmund De Waal, is known to the world as a fine ceramic artist, whose work is widely shown in museums and galleries. He is also an exceptionally fine writer, bringing an artist’s sensibility to this other medium: a...

Filip rated it ★★☆☆☆

April 30, 2012

The concept of tracing the history of a rich Jewish bankers family through the vicissitudes of a collection of Japanese miniature sculptures, is original and interesting. The beginning of the book is a bit slow, but it then comes to life with fascinating descriptions of the Ephrussi in Paris duri...

Paul rated it ★★★☆☆

May 26, 2015

This was an interesting read and a fascinating account of the journey of a group of netsuke through a family history of about 140 years and several generations. The journey moves from Paris to Vienna, across Europe through Nazism and to Japan. De Waal's family history is fascinating and I was part...

Teresa rated it ★★★★★

December 04, 2016

"Uma requintada pesquisa em busca de uma família e de um tempo perdidos. A partir do momento em que abrimos o livro entramos na velha Europa, integralmente recriada." Colm Tóibín Descobri A Lebre de Olhos de Âmbar numa lista intitulada "22 livros que são diamantes para o cérebro", na qual constam 9...

Andy rated it ★☆☆☆☆

July 04, 2011

Oh my good Lord, what did I do that you put me through the torture of reading that book? Did I like it? No. It is a story of the authors family in a blindly tunnel vision view of how everyone was out to get his Jewish family as they rose to the pinnacle of society in the Austrian empire, survived m...

Joyce rated it ★★★★☆

April 22, 2016

Very difficult for me to rate this book. I found a plagiarism (sentence) of George D. Painter's biography of Marcel Proust in de Waal's book, which had me wondering how many other plagiarisms there might be. There is also mention of Peter Altenberg having his mail sent to Café Griensteidl, which...

Elaine rated it ★★★★★

September 06, 2016

I started out giving Hare with Amber Eyes four stars, but as it settled in, I decided to up it to five stars. This is a very special book – de Waal approaches his extraordinary family history as the artist he is, art, paintings, and especially decorative objects and architecture are all infused w...

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