The Hare with Amber Eyes : A Hidden Inheritance
by Edmund de Waal
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264 sculptures in wood and ivory, none of them are superior to a matchbox: Edmund de Waal potter was seduced when he first met the collection in his great uncle Christophe’s Tokyo apartment.Later, when Edmund inherited the netsuke, they unlocked a much bigger story than he ever imagined.The Ephrussis came from Odessa and at the same time were the world’s largest cereal exporters; in 1870, Charles Ephrussi was part of a rich new generation settling in Paris.Marcel Proust was briefly his Secretary and Charles served as a model for the Swann aesthete in memory of the past.Charles’ passion was the collection; the netsuke, bought when Japanese objects were raging in the living rooms, was sent as a wedding gift to his cousin banker in Vienna.Later, the three children – including a young Ignatius – would play with netsuke as a story radiated around them.The Anschluss and the Second World War swept the Ephrussis to the brink of oblivion.Almost all that remained of their vast empire was the collection of netsuke, smuggled out of the immense Viennese palace (then occupied by Hitler’s theorist on the Jewish Question), one piece at a time, in the pocket of a faithful servant – and hidden in a bench.In his incredibly original memories, Edmund delin travels the world to stand in great buildings, his ancestors once inhabited.It traces the network of a remarkable family in the context of a tumultuous century.And in prose, as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves, he tells the story of a unique collection that passed from hand to hand – and in an irony of fate, finds its way back to Japan.
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