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Each one tells a story but each one's story is incomplete, open-ended; His family history shows that.The ornaments rest in a cupboard in Paris, fabulously wealthy..they are complete but no they are sent as a wedding present to an equally wealthy austrian branch of the family.
This is exactly what happened with this really clever concept.After the war she hands them back to surviving members of the family, a small fragment, almost all that is left of the ridiculous wealth enjoyed by this family prior to their undoing by the foul action of the Nazis.Nevertheless one small side of me is saddened by the fact that the devotion and fidelity of the servant who, at risk of her own life, preserves this wealth, is just accpeted by the family as their right.Edmund de Waal, a potter, traces the history of 264 netsuke, small japanese ornaments made from various woods and stones, through their purchase by one of his ancestors in the 1870's through their journey to Paris, Vienna, Tunbridge Wells on to a return to Japan and then back to their final (? The 120 years or so of their possession by the Ephrussi family corresponds to the families journey from fabulously wealthy bankers forming alliances and business deals which involve massive amounts of money and floating in social circles involving the Emperor of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and assorted high related royals and politicians to the hideous reversal of fortunes with the anschluss, the arrival of Hitler and the betrayal of the family along with all the other jewish men, women and children who had been so useful in some situations but now necessary as the traditional scapegoat.Edmund de Waal has a simple technique of relating his family history through their relationship to these small ornaments.The cruelty and degradation perpetrated on the family in the 1930's and 40's was monstrous but prior to that the family themselves struck me as heartless, egocentric libertines.
Living lives of wasteful opulence and insensitive gluttony.
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.
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. Ackerley Prize for Autobiography Nominee (2011), The Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize (2011), Samuel Johnson Prize for Non-Fiction Nominee for Longlist (2011), Jewish Quarterly-Wingate Prize Nominee (2011) 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.
But Edmund de Waal easily escapes the clichés when he relies on well-known cultural episodes.