About the book
In 2007 Chatto & Windus editor Clara Farmer was reading the
newspaper, when shecame across this articlehttp://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2007/jun/30/art.architectureon the potterEdmund de Waal.It described Edmund de Waal’s spare, slightly ethereal installations o pots, his views on the crat, and– almost in passing – mentioned that de Waal was writing a memoir, based on an inherited collectiono netsuke.Intrigued, Clara Farmer wrote to de Waal at his studio. Was this correct? Could she see the memoir when it was ready? She could, and in 2008 Chatto received a proposal or the book.The story outlined was
e Hare with Amber Eyes
, and it began with abeguiling collection o 264 netsuke. These small, portable objects weredesigned by cratsmen to be used as toggles or kimono, but becamecoveted and collected. This particular group included a beanpod, abeggar crouched over his bowl, a skull, and many more, including,o course, a hare with amber eyes. Their purchase, in
Paris, was part o a wave o
– a ashionable enthusiasm orall things Oriental – and the collector was Edmund de Waal’s great-great-grandather Charles Ephrussi. Part o the abulously wealthyEphrussi banking amily, Charles was a collector, a man about town,a contemporary o Proust (and one o the models or Swann in
À larecherche du temps perdu
) and a patron to the arts.In ollowing the netsuke we discover their story, but also the story o Edmund de Waal’s amily and,by extension, a microcosm o twentieth-century history: one amily’s experience o the tumultuouseects o war, occupation and confict. The narrative moves rom Paris to Vienna, and eventually to thehorrors o the Anschluss and the Second World War; events which would sweep the Ephrussi amilythemselves to the brink o oblivion and leave the survivors scattered around the world. And by thetime the tsunami o war receded, there was nothing let o the Ephrussi’s once legendary wealth – justa ew books and paintings, some photographs and memories, and the netsuke.In 2010 the book was published to almost instant acclaim. Margaret Drabble described it as ‘anextraordinary and touching journey with a backdrop glittering with images rom Proust and Zolaand Klimt’ in the
Times Literary Supplement
. ‘A book o astonishing originality,’ said the
. ‘You have in your hands a masterpiece,’ said Frances Wilson in the
. It wonthe 2010 Costa Biography o the Year and The Royal Society o Literature Ondaatje Prize, and wasshortlisted or the Du Cooper Prize, the Jewish Quarterly Wingate Prize, the PEN/Ackerley Prize,and the Southbank Sky Arts Award or Literature, and longlisted or the Samuel Johnson Prize andthe Orwell Prize. Edmund de Waal was named New Writer o the Year at the 2010 Galaxy BookAwards.
Copyright © Edmund de Waal 2011. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system,transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior written permission of the publisher.