A monthly literary discussion, run by Friends members.

26 March 2013

The Hare with the Amber Eyes by Edmund du Waal, discussion leader Margaret Robinson.

264 wood and ivory carvings of animals, plants and people—none of them larger than a matchbox: apprentice potter Edmund de Waal was entranced by the collection when he first encountered it in the Tokyo apartment of his great uncle Iggie. And later, when Edmund inherited the netsuke, they unlocked a story far larger than he could ever have imagined. The Ephrussis hailed from Odessa, and at one time were the largest grain exporters in the world; in the 1870s, Charles Ephrussi was part of a wealthy new generation settling in Paris. An early supporter of the Impressionists; Marcel Proust was briefly his secretary and used him as the model for the aesthete Swann in Remembrance of Things Past. Charles’s passion was collecting, and the netsuke, bought when Japanese objets were all the rage in the salons, were sent as a wedding present to his banker cousin in Vienna. The netsuke were banished to the bride’s dressing room. But later, three children—including a young Ignace—would play with the collection as history reverberated around them. The Anschluss, followed by the Second World War, swept the Ephrussis to the brink of oblivion, and almost the only thing that remained of their vast empire was the netsuke collection, smuggled out of their huge Viennese palace (then occupied by Hitler’s theorist on the ‘Jewish Question’), one piece at a time, in the pocket of a loyal maid—and hidden in a simple straw mattress. In this stunningly original memoir, Edmund de Waal travels the world to stand in the great buildings his forebears once inhabited. He traces the lines of a remarkable family against the backdrop of a tumultuous century. And, in prose as elegant and precise as the netsuke themselves, he tells the story of a unique collection which passed from hand to hand—and which, in a twist of fate, found its way back home to Japan.

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

Friends lounge, 7pm

Book online or 6262 1698