The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

Language: English

Pages: 354

ISBN: 0312569378

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


An Economist Book of the Year

Costa Book Award Winner for Biography

Galaxy National Book Award Winner (New Writer of the Year Award)

Edmund de Waal is a world-famous ceramicist. Having spent thirty years making beautiful pots―which are then sold, collected, and handed on―he has a particular sense of the secret lives of objects. When he inherited a collection of 264 tiny Japanese wood and ivory carvings, called netsuke, he wanted to know who had touched and held them, and how the collection had managed to survive.

And so begins this extraordinarily moving memoir and detective story as de Waal discovers both the story of the netsuke and of his family, the Ephrussis, over five generations. A nineteenth-century banking dynasty in Paris and Vienna, the Ephrussis were as rich and respected as the Rothchilds. Yet by the end of the World War II, when the netsuke were hidden from the Nazis in Vienna, this collection of very small carvings was all that remained of their vast empire.

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depth of patina that seemed far greater than those of the Renaissance; lacquers of an unequalled depth and darkness; folding screens of gold leaf to bisect a room, throw light. Monet painted Mme Monet in a Japanese Dress (La Japonaise); Camille Monet’s robe had ‘certain gold embroideries several centimetres thick’. And there were objects that were unlike anything seen in Western art, objects that could only be described as ‘playthings’, small carvings of animals and beggars called ‘netsuke’ that

in time and how the forces of reaction must be seen in the context of progress. And so on. Every young man has his own café, and each is subtly different. Viktor’s was the Griensteidl, at the Palais Herberstein close to the Hofburg. This was a meeting place for young writers, the Jung Wien of the poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal, and the playwright Arthur Schnitzler. The poet Peter Altenberg had his post delivered to his table. There were mountains of newspapers and a complete run of Meyers

circle, ‘privatissimum’, in which his selected disciples would give a paper. On 26th November 1918, a week after Rudolf was born, Elisabeth gave the first talk on ‘Carver’s theory of interest’. Mises’s students remembered the intensity of the scrutiny in these seminars, the genesis of a famous school of free-market economics. I have her student essays on ‘Inflation und Geldknappkeit’ (fifteen pages of small italic hand-rwriting), on ‘Kapital’ (thirty-two of the same) and ‘John Henry Newman’

(thirty-eight pages). But Elisabeth’s passion was for poetry. She sent her poems to her grandmother and to her friend Fanny Löwenstein-Scharffeneck, now working in an exciting contemporary art gallery selling the paintings of Egon Schiele. Elisabeth and Fanny were in love with the lyric poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke. It consumed them: they knew the two volumes of his Neue Gedichte (New Poems) by heart and waited impatiently for the next poem to be published: his silence was unbearable. Rilke had

damp. It is all about the dirty and the clean. The house has been breached. And that morning, as my great-grandmother and great-grandfather sit in silence in the library, there is Anna picking up the photographs of cousins from the floor, sweeping the broken fragments of porcelain and marquetry away, straightening pictures, trying to get the carpets clean, trying to close the door that has been opened. All that day squadrons of Luftwaffe planes fly low over Vienna. Viktor and Emmy do not know

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