Tony Grist (poliphilo) wrote,
Tony Grist

The Hare With Amber Eyes: Edmund De Waal

A collection of netsuke passes from hand to hand down the generations of a Jewish banking family. First assembled by a man who also patronized the Impressionists, it moves from fin de siecle Paris, to pre-war Vienna, to post-war Japan, to London. You could call this a family memoir, but that implies stuffiness. The narrative trips along smartly- picking the shiny stuff out of mountainous dust heaps of research.  Manet makes a good showing, Renoir reveals himself as a grouchy anti-Semite,  a restless young wife has love affairs, a studious daughter corresponds with Rilke, marries a Dutchman and converts to Anglicanism, the Nazis sweep into Austria, a gay younger son takes US citizenship, then rejects it in old age because he can't stand Nixon. It's a compressed history of our time- its tastes, its enthusiasms, its crimes.  And- wonderfully- it's all true.
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