Edmund de Waal: Objects of Desire

There’s a house on the Rue de Monceau in Paris that’s home to a museum of lavish art and objects, all collected in the name of young Count Nissim de Camondo. This belle epoque treasure is a few doors down from the home of Edmund de Waal’s ancestors, whose collection of carved ivory figures he wrote about in his memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes. During lockdown, De Waal – a ceramicist first and foremost – has been planning an exhibition in the Camondo museum. In thinking about the collection and the people who amassed it, he found himself writing missives to the long-dead Count Nissim as a way of interpreting the family’s treasures and uncovering new layers to the Camondo story. The resulting book, Letters to Camondo, is a brilliant companion piece to The Hare, exploring similar themes of familial love, identity, and despair at the anti-semitism endured by Jewish citizens in the 1930s. In this event, filmed live at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival, De Waal explains his deep fascination with the objects in the museum – and why they also reveal much about his own personal and cultural history – with Lennie Goodings, author of A Bite of the Apple: A Life with Books, Writers and Virago.

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