The Hare with Amber Eyes

A Family's Century of Art and Loss

Edmund de Waal

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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In the 1870s, Charles Ephrussi assembled a collection of 360 Japanese ivory carvings known as netsuke, some comical and some erotic, none of them larger than a matchbox. The scion of a rich, respected banking family that “burned like a comet” in Parisian and Viennese society, Ephrussi was an early supporter of the impressionists; Marcel Proust was briefly his secretary and used him as the model for the aesthete and lover Swann in Remembrance of Things Past.

The Holocaust swept Ephrussi and his glorious, cosmopolitan family into oblivion, and almost the only thing that would remain of their vast empire was the netsuke collection, smuggled out of their Vienna palace (now occupied by Hitler’s theorist on the “Jewish question”) in the pocket of a loyal maid, Anna—one carving a day for a year.

In this grand story, the renowned ceramicist Edmund de Waal, the fifth generation to inherit the collection, traces the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century. At once sweeping and intimate, A Hare with Amber Eyes is a deeply personal meditation on art, history, and family, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves.

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The Hare with Amber Eyes 1. LE WEST END

One sunny April day I set out to find Charles. Rue de Monceau is a long Parisian street bisected by the grand boulevard Malesherbes that charges off towards the boulevard Pereire. It is a hill of golden stone houses, a series of hotels playing discreetly on neoclassical themes, each a minor Florentine palace with heavily rusticated ground floors and an array of heads, caryatids and cartouches. Number 81 rue de Monceau, the Hôtel Ephrussi, where my netsuke start their journey, is near the top of the hill.

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Edmund de Waal: Discovering Netsuke

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.

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Edmund de Waal: A Reading

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.

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Edmund de Waal: Describing Netsuke

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.

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The Hare with Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal--Audiobook Excerpt

Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Edmund de Waal's book The Hare with Amber Eyes. 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.

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Reviews

Praise for The Hare with Amber Eyes

“Enthralling . . . [de Waal’s] essayistic exploration of his family’s past pointedly avoids any sentimentality . . . The Hare with Amber Eyes belongs on the same shelf with Vladimir Nabokov’s Speak, Memory.” —Michael Dirda, The Washington Post Book World

“At one level [Edmund de Waal] writes in vivid detail of how the fortunes were used to establish the Ephrussis’ lavish lives and high positions in Paris and Vienna society. And, as Jews, of their vulnerability: the Paris family shaken by turn-of-the century anti-Semitism surging out of the Dreyfus affair; the Vienna branch utterly destroyed in Hitler’s 1937 Anschluss . . . At a deeper level, though, Hare is about something more, just as Marcel Proust’s masterpiece was about something more than the trappings of high society. As with Remembrance of Things Past, it uses the grandeur to light up interior matters: aspirations, passions, their passing; all in a duel, and a duet, of elegy and irony.” —Richard Eder, The Boston Globe

“Absorbing . . . In this book about people who defined themselves by the objects they owned, de Waal demonstrates that human stories are more powerful than even the greatest works of art.” —Adam Kirsch, The New Republic

“Delicately constructed and wonderfully nuanced . . . There are many family memoirs whose stories are as enticing as Edmund de Waal’s. There are few, though, whose raw material has been crafted into quite such an engrossing and exquisitely written book as The Hare with Amber Eyes . . . One of the great triumphs of The Hare with Amber Eyes . . . is not just the assiduous way in which de Waal interrogates his raw evidence—scattered articles and newspaper cuttings, old paintings, forgotten buildings—but the way he summons up different eras so evocatively . . . [De Waal] is, too, as you would expect of a potter, wonderfully tactile in his investigations, interrogating the physical feel of the Ephrussis’ different buildings, touching surfaces, assessing materials. This sensuality transmits itself also to his prose, which is beautiful to read—lithe and precise, crisp and delicate. The result is a memoir of the very first rank, one full of grace, economy, and extraordinary emotion.” —Andrew Holgate, The Barnes & Noble Review

“Remarkable . . . To be handed a story as durable and exquisitely crafted as this is a rare pleasure . . . Like the netsuke themselves, this book is impossible to put down. You have in your hands a masterpiece.” —Frances Wilson, The Sunday Times (London)

“From a hard and vast archival mass of journals, memoirs, newspaper clippings and art-history books, Mr. de Waal has fashioned, stroke by minuscule stroke, a book as fresh with detail as if it had been written from life, and as full of beauty and whimsy as a netsuke from the hands of a master carver. Buy two copies of his book; keep one and give the other to your closest bookish friend.” —The Economist

“What a treat of a book! It projects an iridescent mirage that once was real, a pageant of exquisite fragility, an aesthetic passion somehow surviving the brutalities of history. Mr. de Waal’s nostalgia is tart, tactile, marvelously nuanced.”—Frederic Morton, author of A Nervous Splendor: Vienna, 1888/1889 and The Rothschilds: Portrait of a Dynasty

“A self-questioning, witty, sharply perceptive book . . . The Hare with Amber Eyes is rich in epiphanic moments . . . By writing objects into his family story [de Waal] has achieved something remarkable.” —Tanya Harrod, The Times Literary Supplement

“A beautiful and unusual book . . . [A] unique memoir of [de Waal’s] family . . . De Waal has a mystical ability to so inhabit the long-gone moment as to seem to suspend inexorable history, personal and impersonal . . .  A work that succeeds in several known genres: as family memoir, travel literature (de Waal’s Japan is the nearest thing to being there, and over decades), essays on migration and exile, on cultural misperceptions, and on de Waal's attempt to define his relationship with his own kaolin creations. His book is also a new genre, unnamed and maybe unnameable.” —Veronica Horwell, The Guardian

“Part family memoir, part Proustian confession, subtle, spare and elegant.” —Hilary Spurling, The Independent

“A marvelously absorbing synthesis of art history, detective story and memoir . . . A nimble history of one of the richest European families at the turn of the century . . . Remarkable.” —Kirkus Reviews


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About the Author

Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal is a potter whose work in porcelain has been exhibited widely and is in many international museum  collections. He currently curates ceramics at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. This is his first book.

Edmund de Waal

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Edmund de Waal

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Available Formats and Book Details

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

Award

RSL Ondaatje Prize Shortlist, RSL Ondaatje Prize Winner

Hardcover

Hardcover
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
August 2010
Hardcover
ISBN: 9780374105976
ISBN10: 0374105979
5 1/2 x 8 1/4 inches, 368 pages, 30 Black-and-White Illustrations
$26.00

Unabridged Compact Disc

Unabridged  Compact Disc
Macmillan Audio
September 2012
Unabridged Compact Disc
ISBN: 9781427230065
ISBN10: 1427230064
Audio Run Time: 10:30
$39.99

Unabridged Digital Audio

Unabridged  Digital Audio
Macmillan Audio
June 2011
Unabridged Digital Audio
ISBN: 9781427215703
ISBN10: 1427215707
Audio Run Time: 10:36
$19.99

Trade Paperback

Trade Paperback
Picador
August 2011
Trade Paperback
ISBN: 9780312569372
ISBN10: 0312569378
5 1/2 x 8.25 inches, 368 pages, Includes 4 black-and-white maps and 26 black-and-white photographs throughout
$16.00

e-Book Agency

e-Book Agency
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
August 2010
e-Book Agency
ISBN: 9781429979597
ISBN10: 1429979593
368 pages
$9.99
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Farrar, Straus and Giroux

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