Wayne's Reviews > The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Hidden Inheritance

The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
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M 50x66
's review
Jan 21, 2012

it was amazing
bookshelves: art-and-artists, history, memoirs-biography, the-holocaust
Recommended to Wayne by: everyone it seems
Recommended for: everyone it seems
Read from September 29 to October 15, 2011 , read count: once

This is a splendid read because it is well told.
The Jews in it are pretty disgusting as is anyone in the Rich Classes.
People who need taps of gold in their bathroom haven't got their priorites right. The important thing about a tap is the water that comes out of it.
The poorer these Jews get, or the sooner they adopt a real job, the nicer and more realistic they become.

The theme of the Collection of Japanese netsukes is a device to hold the story together like a string of pearls.It is a tenuous thread and struck me finally like a slap across the face.The poor Gentile servant who risks her life to save these for a self-indulgent rich family stripped of all else by the Nazis was too high a price to pay for someone whose surname the family never knew and who lived in dingy, hidden accommodation in their otherwise resplendent palace.
The author is hoping that the publication of his book in Austria may have some relative of this servant come forward to claim a pat on the head for saving these exquisite little carvings which finally found their way to Japan to his uncle and now reside with him in London. Perhaps more likely he wants to give her the surname and a real identity her employers never thought to grant her.

The initial acquisition of these carvings belies the whole concept of a collection.For Charles the Dilettante never collects them at all, but purchases the whole lot in their cabinet in one foul swoop.Finally, 20 years later, when he has tired of them, when his refined taste has moved on to collecting Louis the Whatever furniture, he gets rid of the whole lot by sending it off to his newly married filthy rich cousin in Vienna who lives in a monstrous Palace,except for those servants' quarters.
Here they are stuck in his wife's dressing room, and they are used to distract the children who probably are the first ones in the family to really ever appreciate them.

The above does not detract from the story for the people are what they are. Show me a perfect family??? Some revel in the riches, others reject it. The humble servant shows up her shallow, promiscuous mistress.The gay uncle who runs away to America rather than live the Viennese moneyed life is a breath of fresh air. His Japanese life and love is far richer than anything Vienna could ever offer him. As is the love and respect offered by his now English nephew,the author.Not many uncles get such love and respect in my experience.
Beautifully told and illustrated, with a great spectrum of real characters to boot.
I marked the references to art works, museums and the netsukes and googled them afterwards. A real feast and it was like reading it a second time, but visually.


Almost half-way through this very well-written family memoir.

It is depressingly "Jewish" in that one knows what is coming next as one detects the seeds of it ALL from 1870's Paris where it escalates into the Dreyfus Affair; and then Vienna where the anti-semitism is far more virulent...it is all sickeningly OMINOUS.
Yet the Jews Edmund de Waal writes of were probably the ones who excited the envy, had the power and influence to antagonise their Guest Nations and the wealth to avoid the coming Holocaust.
This is not a Holocaust memoir by any means.
But it must feature in any Jewish memoir.

Otherwise there is much to be savoured here.

Proust's Paris is one such treat as de Waal's great-great uncle Charles Ephrussi was one source of inspiration for Proust's character Charles Swann, and we are given much of his life and career.

In the Ephrussi family's Vienna I have come across another favourite writer and playwright, Arthur Schnitzler. He has been titled "the Freud of Fiction".I have enjoyed his short stories and managed to see one of his plays in London starring Dorothy Tutin in 1979 when Maggie Thatcher, a minor holocaust, arrived on the scene.
Recently bought "Schnitzler's Century - The Making of Middle-Class Culture, 1815 - 1914" by Peter Gay at Sydney's Art Gallery of NSW.
A terrific store there to accompany out 3 month exhibition of German Expressionism 1910 - 1937, delving into all the arts from opera to caberet, posters, collage, photography, etching and painting, design and cinema...free films showing every week.
A Bonanza!!!

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Reading Progress

06/13 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-1 of 1) (1 new)

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message 1: by [deleted user] (new)

Ah yes, I've found it now, it is on your holocaust shelf. It sounds like a fascinating biography. Your review has prompted me to move it up my 'To Be Read Shelf'. I bought a copy some tome ago because as you said, it was 'recommended by everyone'. Sometimes I think that my book-buying is a form of gluttony! I should finish each one before going on to another.

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