What Were They Thinking?
On holiday recently I read Edmund de Waal’s book, THE HARE WITH AMBER EYES, the fascinating story of a collection of netsuke acquired by his family in the nineteenth century. I read it with rapt attention, in particular the account of how the collection survived the second world war. The Ephrussi family were among the wealthiest in Vienna, but virtually all their assets including their art collections were appropriated by the Nazis. The netsuke were surreptiously removed from their cabinet one by one by Anna, a family servant, who was allowed to stay on in the house, and hidden in her mattress to be returned to the family after the war. It’s an extraordinary story, well told. And yet as I read on, I got more and more irritated. There were illustrations, yes, but not a single one of the netsuke that are at the heart of the story, not even the eponymous hare with amber eyes. I see that the paperback does at least have the hare on the cover, but my hardback (a Christmas present) doesn’t. What were the publishers (Chatto & Windus) thinking of? Yes, it would have cost a few pounds more, but still . . . I see there is now a illustrated edition in hardback, so maybe I’m not the only one to be annoyed by this.