Edmund de Waal Î 3 reviewThere is so many details in this family memoir written by an illustrious authorartist The title of this book is a netsuke It is one of the many such objects small valuable Japanese miniatures that had semi ractical use in Japan when men wore Kimonos They became objects of interests after 1854 when Japan was open to the west A large uantity was shipped to Europe and urchased by collectors Later other emerging impressionist artist caught on The focus of this family ained by anti Semitism is on the inheritance of a large collection of Japanese netsukes The author Edmund de Waal learned about his family while he tries to track how the small treasures landed in his uncles handsDeWaal is a descendent of the famous and wealthy Ephrussis family a European dynasty from the 19th century until WW11 As a Jewish family the Nazis confiscated everything they owned and literally ut the family out on the street The netsukes were able to be successfully hidden due to their small size and the help of a loyal household employee It was a the brutal destruction in Vienna in 1938 I tried to imagine being in the authors shoes researching his own history the wealthy famous family which he was connected a lessor known artist himself He visited their lives the rooms they livedand takes us on the journey with himIts interesting though I can t help but wonder am I the only Interior Designs: An Adult Coloring Book with Beautifully Decorated Houses, Inspirational Room Designs, and Relaxing Modern Architecture person who first learned of the artist Edmund de Waal from learning of this book I m aware I m late to thearty that this book has been read by many readers before me Yet until now I knew nothing about this story Its a beautiful book family history and history of our time 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 aintings and especially decorative objects and architecture are all infused with his extraordinary visual and tactile sense I don t use the word extraordinary lightly From the story s beginnings in the shtetl of Berdishev where the Ukraine meets Poland not far from the ancestral home of my own family although all we have in common with the Ephrussi are our roots and our diaspora there are no alaces in European capitals bearing our crest through a crescendo of unbelievable wealth and Detention of Doom perhaps even enviable easy communion with the great artists and writers of the day on to the inevitable tragedy that marks all European Jewish stories in the WW2 era through improbably and beautifully a charming gay love story inost war Japan and ending with the erfect and incongruous image of de Waal s father an Anglican clergyman saying Kaddish for his Austrian Jewish mother in an English chapel every hase of DeWaal s family story amazes challenges delights andor saddens Charles Ephrussi is a Punishing My Slutty Little Sister particularly stunning character To inspire Proust and have had walk ons in Renoiraintings If you have read Proust learning about Ephrussi and his relationship to his art and to his Jewishness will give new texture to Swann and the world he and Proust s narrator move in If you haven t read Proust this book will robably make you want to It certainly made
me want to re read Swann s Way and to search outwant to re read Swann s Way and to search out of aintings discussed But as exhilarating as those scenes of Paris mondanity are and as heartbreaking and infuriating the World War II chapters are Austria refusing to return roperty because it was the first victim of the Nazis it s De
Waal s contemplative searching sometimes meandering voice that really gets unders contemplative searching sometimes meandering voice that really gets under skin and lets you see objects and textures through his eyes I dreamed of some of his imagery while reading this book that s how rich the relationship to vision is in his writing and I finished the book with an insatiable craving to see and handle a netsuke Highly recommended 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 JapanDe Waal s family history is fascinating and I was articularly interested in the link to Proust and Great Great Uncle Charles being the model for Swann The descriptions of furnishings and the decorative aspect of the grand residences are sumptuous De Waal has an artist s eye and a good way with wordsThe account of the rise of Nazism the Anschluss and the dismantling of the family s fortunes give a clear and frightening first hand account of the horrors of the 1930s and the war Their fortunes reflect those of many wealthy Jewish families at 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 meticulous attention to the detail of language its rhythms and its evocative Friedrich Barbarossa (Gestalten Des Mittelalters Und Der Renaissance) (German Edition) potential Read the book for its exhaustive descriptions of interiors whether beloue Paris or Wiener Werkstatt Vienna for its evocations of historical moments like fin de siecle France or Austria at the time of its annexation by Hitler and his Nazis or immediately ost war bombed out Tokyo or for its compassionate ortrayal of flawed and fascinating human characters Read it as a four generational family saga or an insightful history of Europe from the late nineteenth century to the middle of the twentieth Read it even also articularly as a ersonal journey an exploration into the complex world of family heritage and inheritanceI came to the book as the result of reading a column by Roger Cohen in the New York Times bef. 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 matchboxThe renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal became the fifth generation to inherit this small and exuisite collection of netsuke Entranced by their beauty and mystery he determined to trace the story of his family through the story of the collectionThe netsuke drunken monks almost ripe lums snarling tigers were gathered by Charles Ephrussi at the height of the Parisian rage for all things Japanese Charles had .
Ore we left for Europe last month and ordered it in time to take it with us on our trip But I didn t get to actually read it until this ast week The column was called The Netsuke Survived and Cohen s description of the book intrigued me It was a story of the survival not only of a collection of Japanese netsuke but of the European Jewish family through whose various hands it assed the family of which De Waal brought up as the son of an Anglican minister was the barely informed scion His research soon turned into an obsession that sidetracked him for two years from his own work as an artistThe story as it eventually revealed itself to him and now in turn to us is at once absorbing and increasingly moving as it Learn English: A Beginner's Guide for ESL Learners progresses The Ephrussi family originally from Odessa worked its way to fame and fortune in Paris and Vienna in the late 1800s The fortune derived from itsrodigious success in the banking business a success that initially gave its members access to the social elites and the cultural salons This Who Is Gloria Steinem? part of the story involves associations and friendships with artists Renoir Degas and others with giants of the literary scene like Proust and the virulently anti Semitic Goncourt brothers Until l affaire Dreyfus and its opening of that deep vein of envy and distrust of Jews in French society a time at which the family seemed suddenly to have outlived the welcome they had worked so hard to foster since arriving from the East Once great andowerful social hosts and atrons of the arts they found themselves all too soon ersonae a lot less grata De Waal s descriptive narrative laces us there in the center of it all at this turbulent timeThe scene along with ownership of the netsuke collection shifts to re World War I Vienna and its social whirl where another branch of the Ephrussi family has also established a foothold in the banking business their massive mansion occupies a significant site on the Ringstrasse and their role in the business and socio economic establishment seems assured They have become the roverbial illars of society living a life of extraordinary rivilege and wealth Patriots too they give generously of their wealth and ower to their adopted country serving with distinction in the military supporting the war effort in every way and sharing in the humiliation of defeat They could scarcely have foreseen what the next decade would bring them in return increasing distrust suspicion isolation and all too soon the arrival of the brutish Nazis and ersecution not only at the hands of the Gestapo but also those of their compatriots We watch aghast as the family is brought to ruin It s a dreadful lesson in impermanenceIn the chaos it is Anna a faithful family retainer who saves the netsuke collection from the hands of the invaders They with impunity steal everything else the art the beloved books the mansion the bank and eventually all traces of identity dignity and security One of the great strengths I think of De Waal s account is not to disguise the classism of the nouveaux riches not to minimize the extent of their wealth and rivilege nor the excesses and sometimes the frivolity of their way of life We understand erhaps a little though without in any way condoning the angrily envious attitudes of the have nots that laid open the way for an Adolph Hitler and his gang of murderers We also understand a little about the roblems that we face today a century later and their origins in a capitalist economy and its detractors But never as we read are we allowed to share that got it coming to them rage that led to the horrors of the HolocaustThe enultimate chapter in the netsuke s journey is in the country of their origin Japan where De Waal s great uncle
goes to take up residence after World War II and along withto take up residence after World War II and along with author we reflect on that far country s culture and the aesthetic that roduced these tiny intricate and meticulously crafted works of art By the end of the book he himself is in Now Pitching, Bob Feller: A Baseball Memoir possession of this family treasure all that remains aside from brittle letters and documents of a great family and its history It is aoignant end In the course of his search the author has found some important Variance (Raise Your Weapon, piece of his own humanity and a renewed sense of the value of those closest to him in their London homeIn all this is a very rich and satisfying read When in England we felt compelled to make theilgrimage to see Splash the current installation of De Waal s art work at the Victoria Albert Museum The elegant simple even minimal shapes of his Mermaid pure whiteots dozens of them in a staggered uneven row occupy the entire whispering gallery the circular base of a dome on the top floor in the museum s wonderful ceramics departmentThe installation reuires a sharply raised head to gain even a distant glance at them At This Remove They Offer remove they offer viewer a sense of serenity an appreciation for the beauty of form for its own sake a stillness as remote as Keats s Grecian urn Their cool insistently formal abstract beauty contrasted curiously I thought with the intricate carving of the netsuke he describes in his book and with its emotional intensity Placed so far from the viewer s eye they do not invite the touch that clearly means so much to him in his relationship with the netsuke on the other hand the touch of the artist s hand is clearly what defines their shape and Hochzeit mit Hindernissen presence and their denial of it to the viewer iserhaps as owerful as the ermission Certainly it brought attention to my own desire to know things in this way through first hand experience and yet as de Waal s book shows time alone deprives us of that After Effects Expressions possibility There is much we must be content to know only at a distance and through the mediation of one who cares enough to show Hunned thelace 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 PastCharles gave the carvings as a wedding gift to his cousin Viktor in Vienna; his children were allowed to lay 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 oetryThe Anschluss changed th. S the way At first I thought this book was slow overly reoccupied 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 ast generations of his family As all the summaries and reviews say the generation of his great grandfather were a wealthy Jewish banking and grain exporting dynasty in Paris and Vienna and around Europe and also art collectors and atrons but in the next generation the family s financial wealth and influence was lost in the conflagration of Hitler and WWIIThe author has gone on a voyage of discovery to reclaim his family and the lost world they experienced Twisted Pathways putting his own career and family on hold in the meantime At first what he s doing wasn t clearly apparent I could see his amateurism in the writing for example ambiguous meaning or foreign words not always defined but not why he was writing it Even though he was saying why I couldn t hear You have to beersistent with this book and stick with the author if you do it will Die Powenzbande. Zoologie einer Familie pay off Since he s on that voyage of discovery he doesn t always know himself just where he s going how much time to invest in researching and writing or whether what he s doing is importantThe journey is an achievement The author didn t have to go on this journey but he didAntisemitismAt times the Ephrussis and the others of their circle were living the lives of aristocrats but whenever anything went wrong they were targeted in writing and the media When an artist s Jewishatron was supporting him at the level to which that artist had become accustomed everything was hunky dory but if not it was because the Stop Thinking Like a Freelancer: The Evolution of a $1M Web Designer patron was givingrecedence to Jew artWhen a Catholic bank with ties to the Church collapsed opular analysis related the circumstance to Jewish bankers nonchalantly laying at enormous financial transactions as though at a Defining Moments: When Managers Must Choose Between Right and Right party gameThe clever uick witted indefatigable Jew had been gifted with freedom in their countries only torey upon a ublic and olitical world totally unfit for defense against or competition with him Fresh from Talmud and synagogue and conseuently trained to conjure with the law and skilled in intrigue the invading Semite arrived from Galicia or Hungary and carried everything before him Unknown and therefore unchecked by ublic opinion without any stake in the country and therefore reckless he sought only to gratify his insatiable appetite for wealth and ower English writer Henry Wickham Steed Capitalism and the Jews is really good regarding conspiracy theories like that The author Jerry Muller is a historian not an economist or businessman My review can be found at How recent the emancipation of Jews in Europe has been isn t always evident in this book Jews had only been allowed out of the ghettos or shtetls in the author s great and great great grandfathers day whereupon some had roceeded to achieve commercial rofessional academic and artistic heights within two generations A couple of years ago at the Decatur GA Book Festival I heard Doug Blackmon author of Slavery by Another Name The Re Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II speak He remarked on the "explosion of achievement and creativity by African Americans upon freedom from Jim Crow "of achievement and creativity by African Americans upon freedom from Jim Crow term was unprecedented if I remember right He might have considered the Jews of Europe in the 1800s to have been a The Magic Flute precedentIn the acknowledgements the author includes Michael Goldfarb as one of threeeople who encouraged him to stop talking and start writing That is almost certainly the same Michael Goldfarb who wrote Emancipation How Liberating Europe s Jews from the Ghetto Led to Revolution and Renaissance a highly readable history I recommend it to accompany this book and fill in the historical gapsReligious feelingThe reader could get the icture that the Ephrussis were secular Jews devoid of religious feeling or attachment to Judaism There are clues at the end albeit subtle that the reader could be wrong This author is not very adept at describing such feelings not even for example in his father a clergyman When a few generations earlier Jews were in their ghettos or shtetls Judaism wasn t a religion it was a way a way of life When they emerged the social realities upon which that was based were decimated Goldfarb writes that in the first generation there were a lot of conversions eg Heinrich Heine Marx s father etc With avenues of creativity opening the hemorrhaging slowed The Ephrussis could have converted before the Nazis forced their hand but did not I ve read that in Germany society demanded that the contribution of Jews be in terms of what they gave up of Jewishness not what they gave from their heritageSometimes I think of all the American Jewish celebrities and scientists today who declare they re secular or atheist They think they are being so smart and rational but it comes across to me that same way that they
re knuckling under I think eople know that being a minorityknuckling under I think Shanghai Performance people know that being a minority a majority culture has its impact but when it comes to ourselves we underestimate that kind of impactJuly 23 2013 I ve been editing somearts of this review that were too negative which I want to mention in case the editing affects how some of the comments appear in relation to the reviewNews The author s grandmother s novel which he thought was unpublishable has been Life of Pi published earlier this year The Exiles Return There was a beautiful review by Erica Wagner identified as the literary editor of The Times of London in the MayJune issue of Moment Magazine but there is no link that I canost Now I m thinking I may have been able to open and copypaste but I haven t done that yet Anyway she says Edmund de Waal was overly modest Eir world beyond recognition Ephrussi and his cosmopolitan family were imprisoned or scattered and Hitler’s theorist on the “Jewish uestion” appropriated their magnificent Simon Carne, Gentleman Burglar: The Duchess of Wiltshire's Diamonds / An Imperial Finale palace on the Ringstrasse A library ofriceless books and a collection of Old Master aintings 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 exileIn 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 recise as the netsuke themselves.
Edmund de Waal