Archive work and Netsuke

My in-laws gave me a copy of The Hare with Amber Eyes (Edmund de Waal; Vintage/Random House, 2011) for my birthday. It’s a beautifully written book. Ostensibly it’s about a collection of netsuke which have been in the author’s family for 150 years; about the original collector, Charles Ephrussi, and the family’s War experiences. But what has really captured me about this book so far is the way the author talks about his research, how what starts as a simple enough task of looking up some papers can turn into an all-consuming project, how the researcher responds personally to the people he/she is researching, the invasion of privacy there is in trawling through other people’s personal effects, getting to know them (and what a chore it is if you don’t actually like the person you’re researching).

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