The author Edmund de Waal, a ceramicist, tells the story of the Ephrussi, his family, who had been a very wealthy and well-known European Jewish banking dynasty.
The story’s central theme is the rise and fall of the Ephrussi, symbolized by a collection of netsuke 根付, ivory or wooden miniature sculptures from Japan. The collection of 264 of these tiny objects were passed down as inheritance through five generations of the Ephrussi from 1871 until today and took station in Odessa, Paris, Vienna, London and Tokyo throughout their journey.
The story starts with reflections about art history and the author’s quest for his family history. The first chapters can be seen more as an essay about Western art and Japonism than a personal story, because only few details of his family history are certain. Reading through the first passages of theoretical thoughts is rewarding, because you gain insights of both art and his family history. When the story evolves more personally, it becomes very emotional. The beginning is not easy to read, but the more you read, the more his personal story carves out.
In search of his family roots Edmund de Waal creates a personal atmosphere by visiting the places, where his family members once had lived. The chapters draw you into his search and into the live of his family. De Waal develops a very moving history of about 200 years. It is a very fascinating book, a moving family history.
Edmund de Waal: The Hare with Amber Eyes. 2010.