The Hare with Amber Eyes/E/D/20

Edmund de Waal is the writer of the fascinating book „THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES“

in which tries not only to explain of how the netsukes (very small objects made by Japanese craftsmen) came into the Ephrussi family but he also writes about the identity of his family, about loss or about  survival of stories.

This is the link to a Hot Potatoes drag & drop exercise which you can correct online.

In this video he starts speaking about the netsukes and their story. The object he is holding in his hand is quite heavy, made of ivory, it’s a well fed or fat hare with self-satisfied amber eyes. It’s from the 19th century Japan or Kyoto. This little carving used to be hanging from a belt. The writer thinks of going back to when he was 17 years old and when he was being apprenticed as a potter and to the first time he went off to Japan, to pottery villages and  finally turning up at his great uncle Iggie’s, an elderly Jewish gentleman in Tokyo. There were books everywhere and there was also a vitrine which lit up and which was full up of  264 ridiculous little netsukes. In the course of many years Iggie tells Edmund the story of these tiny things and how they brought him to Tokyo. By the years Edmund gets more and more involved with Japan.

Iggie tells Edmund that he visited his sister Elisabeth in London after having faught in the 2nd world war for the Americans. He knew that his father had died and his mother had committed suicide in Austria. Iggie and Elisabeth, E. de Waal’s grandmother, spoke about the fact that nothing remained of their family, nothing with what they had grown up with was left, except the netsukes.

Tower Bridge London265

Iggie doesn’t want to go back to America and does not want to stay in Europe and therefore decides to take the netsukes back home to Japan. There, these objects have an extraordinary life with him, his partner and their friends.

House of parliament, London,the Palace of Westminster serves as the meeting place for both the House of Commons and the House of Lords,

Der Westminsterpalast, ist der Sitz des britischen Parlaments in London, das aus dem House of Commons und dem House of Lords besteht.

Foto of the Palais in the Ringstrasse,Vienna:

Wien with memorial of  the Persecution of Jews/F.Ramsauer

Iggie tells Edmund about how they grew up in Vienna, about the ridiculous Palais in the Ringstrasse, opposite the University.

The family was then so rich they had servants for everything and horses. For the children, however, there was only one moment in the day when they could see their mother when she was getting dressed to go out for dinner. She loved to go out and she loved her lovers and Edmund de Waal has now realized that he has cousins all over the world. In the dressing room there was a vitrine and while the maid Anna was dressing Emmy, the key was turned and the children were allowed to play with the netsukes. Only in these magic moments could the children speak to their mother!

But the story starts, in fact, in Paris with Iggie’s uncle Charles who was a famous art collector, art historian and editor and an early mentor of impressionists. It was him who bought the whole vitrine of netsukes and later fell slightly out of love with them and gave them to Emmy and Victor as a wedding gift. The young couple, however, did not know either what to do with these objects because the Palais was already full up of things due to Jewish shopping on an Europena scale. So they put them into the dressing room where nobody could see them.

The famous Eiffel Tower in the beautiful Paris! When will it be possible again to visit this city?

In Renoir’s “Luncheon of the Boating Party”  we can see Charles at the back and he had Proust as his secretary!  Charles became one of the models for Charles Swann in “À la recherche du temps perdu”. Charles loved everything that had to do with contemporary art.

Luncheon of the Boating Party/F.Ramsauer

He lived in Rue Monceau and had a wonderful head of Donatello and on his walls  paintings by Renoir, Degas or Manet. Edmund de Waal says that he had to make a choice of whether to go back to the very beginning of this Jewish family, to the pact they made that they would survive in Europe by making themselves invisible.

The writer goes to Odessa and to the shtetl, the family’s very origin.  There he sees the name of the maker of these objects and thinks about going back to Kyoto .

Opera in Odessa in face of the Ephrussi Bank
Opera in Odessa opposite the Ephrussi Bank/ I just loved this city!

The video ends here, but you should, of course read the book and also start to make inquiries about your family story!

By the way, which character do/did you like best?

As I’ve recently been in Odessa, where the Ephrussi family comes from, I also add the link to that article:

I also have the following website for more aticles, exercies or