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A tragic family history told in a collection of imaginary letters to a famed collector, Moise de Camondo Letters to Camondo is a collection of imaginary letters from Edmund de Waal to Moise de Camondo, the banker and art collector who created a spectacular house in Paris, now the Musée Nissim de Camondo, and filled it with the greatest private collection of French eighteent A tragic family history told in a collection of imaginary letters to a famed collector, Moise de Camondo Letters to Camondo is a collection of imaginary letters from Edmund de Waal to Moise de Camondo, the banker and art collector who created a spectacular house in Paris, now the Musée Nissim de Camondo, and filled it with the greatest private collection of French eighteenth-century art. The Camondos were a Jewish family from Constantinople, “the Rothschilds of the East,” who made their home in Paris in the 1870s and became philanthropists, art collectors, and fixtures of Belle Époque high society, as well as being targets of antisemitism―much like de Waal's relations, the Ephrussi family, to whom they were connected. Moise de Camondo created a spectacular house and filled it with art for his son, Nissim; after Nissim was killed in the First World War, the house was bequeathed to the French state. Eventually, the Camondos were murdered by the Nazis. After de Waal, one of the world’s greatest ceramic artists, was invited to make an exhibition in the Camondo house, he began to write letters to Moise de Camondo. These fifty letters are deeply personal reflections on assimilation, melancholy, family, art, the vicissitudes of history, and the value of memory.


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A tragic family history told in a collection of imaginary letters to a famed collector, Moise de Camondo Letters to Camondo is a collection of imaginary letters from Edmund de Waal to Moise de Camondo, the banker and art collector who created a spectacular house in Paris, now the Musée Nissim de Camondo, and filled it with the greatest private collection of French eighteent A tragic family history told in a collection of imaginary letters to a famed collector, Moise de Camondo Letters to Camondo is a collection of imaginary letters from Edmund de Waal to Moise de Camondo, the banker and art collector who created a spectacular house in Paris, now the Musée Nissim de Camondo, and filled it with the greatest private collection of French eighteenth-century art. The Camondos were a Jewish family from Constantinople, “the Rothschilds of the East,” who made their home in Paris in the 1870s and became philanthropists, art collectors, and fixtures of Belle Époque high society, as well as being targets of antisemitism―much like de Waal's relations, the Ephrussi family, to whom they were connected. Moise de Camondo created a spectacular house and filled it with art for his son, Nissim; after Nissim was killed in the First World War, the house was bequeathed to the French state. Eventually, the Camondos were murdered by the Nazis. After de Waal, one of the world’s greatest ceramic artists, was invited to make an exhibition in the Camondo house, he began to write letters to Moise de Camondo. These fifty letters are deeply personal reflections on assimilation, melancholy, family, art, the vicissitudes of history, and the value of memory.

30 review for Letters to Camondo

  1. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Having thoroughly enjoyed “The Hare With Amber Eyes”, I knew I was interested in reading “Letters to Camondo”. Moise de Camondo (1860-1935), was born in Istanbul, the only son of Nissim de Camondo and Elise Fernandez. His Family moved to France when he was a nine-year-old boy. He grew up working for his family bank with his cousin Isaac. (who died in 1911). Several years later Moise de Camondo closed the bank down. In 1891 he married Irene Cahen d’ Anvers, daughter of a banker. They had two children Having thoroughly enjoyed “The Hare With Amber Eyes”, I knew I was interested in reading “Letters to Camondo”. Moise de Camondo (1860-1935), was born in Istanbul, the only son of Nissim de Camondo and Elise Fernandez. His Family moved to France when he was a nine-year-old boy. He grew up working for his family bank with his cousin Isaac. (who died in 1911). Several years later Moise de Camondo closed the bank down. In 1891 he married Irene Cahen d’ Anvers, daughter of a banker. They had two children: Nissim and Beatrice. When the marriage didn’t last, (separated, then divorced), The children were left in Moise’s care. They lived in a mansion on rue Hamelin in the 16th arrondissement before moving to rue de Monceau in 1913. Moise de Camondo was a private person, known as an extremely elegant gentleman and a keen sportsman. (yachting his own boat, a horseman, practiced shooting, and above all he was a collector with a passion for the 18th century). His son, Nissim, was killed in an air battle in 1917......(a devastating loss).... The mansion rarely came to life after the war. Visitors tended to be close friends, but scholars and antique lovers visited as well. After the death of Nissim, Moise de Camondo devoted his mansion and collection to the memory of a son son. On 20 January 1924, in the ‘Instructions and advice for the curators of the Musee Nissan de Comondo’, you write: “I wish my museum to be admirably maintained and kept meticulously clean. The task is not an easy one, even with the first-class staff, of whom there must be a sufficient number for this job; but the work is made easier buy a complete vacuum cleaning system which works cheaply and marvelously well. Due to its powerful operation, this method of cleaning should not be used for antique carpets, tapestries and silks but is this of great benefit”. During World War II his daughter Beatrice, married Leon Bertand. “Monseieur,” “Your daughter Beatrice marries Leon Reinach on 10 March 1919 in the temple and this is a truly happy day. You write that your mind is at ease”. Leon Reinach was a young man of great culture, a serious musician who studied at the Paris conservatory and a lover of poetry. He was absurdly rich, even by Camondo standards. Leon and Beatrice were the same age and knew each other their entire lives. They both mourned Nissim. The young couple began their married life in 63 rue de Monceau. Later we learn how Beatrice tried to make conversion work, while her husband Leon tried to make divorce work. The sad news is they both were murdered in Auschwitz. This book is really beautiful — not as flamboyant in storytelling as “The Hare With Amber Eyes”.... it’s written completely different. But I liked reading the imaginary letters written to Moise de Camondo…. (fifty letters). We learn of this beautiful man, a philanthropist, his family, his house, his art collections, his high society life, anti-Semitism, Jewish identity, and the history of the times. Because the Camondo family had no other offspring, The mansion was transferred to the French government, which converted it into a museum after Moises’s son Nissim. Since then the mansion has Remained exactly the same,… as a frozen in time. Around 50% into this book....I started to feel sad: it wasn’t full blown sad, yet. The deeper sadness was felt at the end— due to the tragedy of Camondo’ s murdered by the Nazis. There were gorgeous descriptions of the property, the house — and the many people who visited: family, cousins, close friends, politicians, writers, scholars, musicians, and artists... but through the letter writing — after Nissim died....a part of Moise de Camondo died too. A sample letter: Cher Monsieur, “I thanks there is a tendency to imagine you alone in this house. Happiness of a collector, happiness of the solitary: tête-à-tête with things, wrote Walter Benjamin with some kindness to the condition and one of his terse notes in ‘The Arcades Project’”. “And I know you must have been alone as you are long divorced and your son Nissim dies in the First World War and your daughter Beatrice marries and moves away”. “This is a house full of people. There are fourteen servants — butler, under-butler, a couple of man-servants, footman, chef, chef’s assistant, odd-job man, laundry maid, Gardner, a Stoker for the boiler, a couple of mechanics for the cars — but aloneness and living with servants isn’t incompatible I believe. And you entertain, of course”. “As I walk through these rooms with your cabinets and bronzers and marble sculptures and tapestries and gilded candelabra, I think of all those craftsman talking to each other” “Your house is full of noise” ......and sadness. “You do a very good job of morning, Monsieur, and I commend you”. It was still a quiet treasure to read about the house - the library …the books ... the bookcases .... etc. the beauty that was created...the love it was built with. “But melancholia is the extraordinary prolongation, the refusal to give up. It takes you off to detours and delays. It makes me think of Proust and his page proofs: paragraphs inserted, phrases, the fear of ending it. And I think you cannot give up your loss, cannot lose loss, cannot stop moving objects, adding, rag-picking” “I think this is truly melancholic. Not because of what happened next. Sadness isn’t melancholic”. ”I can’t stop either”. Edmund de Waal’s compassion, dedication, and prose — of the history, and the memories of Moise de Camondo were fascinating and moving.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jola

    Review to come.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    I struggled between a four and a five, because this book is nowhere near as great as Hare with the Amber Eyes, but it doesn’t try to be. It is a companion piece - another journey into the decorative arts of yesterday and the complex family trees of Europe’s briefly shining Jewish dynasties. As before, DeWaal succeeds in making me care about the first half of that equation when I didn’t think he would, and the poignancy of the second - of the failed dream of Jewish assimilation through the arts a I struggled between a four and a five, because this book is nowhere near as great as Hare with the Amber Eyes, but it doesn’t try to be. It is a companion piece - another journey into the decorative arts of yesterday and the complex family trees of Europe’s briefly shining Jewish dynasties. As before, DeWaal succeeds in making me care about the first half of that equation when I didn’t think he would, and the poignancy of the second - of the failed dream of Jewish assimilation through the arts and philanthropy - is just as powerful here. Indeed, while the book starts out seeming like quirky epistolary essays about a wealthy man and his perfectly assembled house that looks born to be a museum, and you settle in for ruminations on archives and art, this is a deceptive calm before the storm. It doesn’t take long to understand that these meditations on memory and remembrance, permanence and ephemera, are leading us to the horrific tale of anti-Semitism in France, a tale (De Waal is emphatic in stressing) that began before the Nazis and needed little encouragement from them to reach its full brutal flowering during World War II. If Hare with the Amber Eyes shows us Nazi pillages in Vienna - well, that’s a story that never stops hurting but is at least expected, Letters to Camondo collects the receipts to remind us of another face of France, a place as beloved to me as it was to Camondo. It’s painful and the book’s final chapters will haunt me for a long time. A note on format: I started this on my Kindle - what a huge mistake. The copious illustrations are a big part of this book. I finished on my iPad which allowed me to see the pictures in full color and to enlarge them. I imagine the hard copy is beautiful. Do not Kindle or audiobook!

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ula Tardigrade

    Edmund de Waal is truly one of a kind. His style is beautiful, moving and original. I remember how much I loved “The Hare with Amber Eyes”, his book from 2010. “Letters to Camondo” is a loose sequel, diving even deeper into the complicated history of not only the author's ancestors but the whole vanished world of Jewish European elite. It is a strange, intimate book, full of digressions, descriptions of various pieces of art, not finished thoughts - but as a whole it is a masterpiece. It was very Edmund de Waal is truly one of a kind. His style is beautiful, moving and original. I remember how much I loved “The Hare with Amber Eyes”, his book from 2010. “Letters to Camondo” is a loose sequel, diving even deeper into the complicated history of not only the author's ancestors but the whole vanished world of Jewish European elite. It is a strange, intimate book, full of digressions, descriptions of various pieces of art, not finished thoughts - but as a whole it is a masterpiece. It was very disturbing to see the similarities between the anti-Semitic rhetoric from the beginning of the 20th century and anti-immigration one from our times. Why the history has to repeat itself? Thanks to the publisher, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, and NetGalley for the advance copy of this book.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kidlitter

    A DRC was provided by Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and thoughtful review. Edmund de Waal's hypnotic prose is put to use yet again in a another tribute to the lost generation of early twentieth century highborn European Jews. In this book, it is the account of the French de Camondos, friends of De Waal's forbears, the Ephrussi. Count Moise de Camondo, like the Ephrussi, took his family's fortunes and build a series of houses, chiefly on le rue de Monceau, once a center of aristocratic Jewish l A DRC was provided by Edelweiss in exchange for a fair and thoughtful review. Edmund de Waal's hypnotic prose is put to use yet again in a another tribute to the lost generation of early twentieth century highborn European Jews. In this book, it is the account of the French de Camondos, friends of De Waal's forbears, the Ephrussi. Count Moise de Camondo, like the Ephrussi, took his family's fortunes and build a series of houses, chiefly on le rue de Monceau, once a center of aristocratic Jewish life. He filled his homes with 18th century French antiques and art work, some of which are reproduced here, all of which he donated to France in memory of his son Nissim, lost in the First World War. Le Musee Nissim de Camondo has remained unchanged since 1936, miraculously unscathed through the Nazi occupation. de Waal wanders through the rooms, writing letters to the Count about his impressions of his treasures, which strike him as how his own ancesters the Ephrassi must have lived. "Everything is dynastic, a site plan of deadly traps." At times it can feel like a bit of a laundry list of tchotkes and materialist wallowing, but de Waal's goal is to center the collection as living artifacts of all that was lost in the face of relentless anti-semitism and to try to see beyond the futility of the Count's hopes that his collection could ever truly elevate his family to safe, secure status in France. Like de Waal's family, the de Comondos suffered terribly with the advent of World War Two, and discovering just exactly what happened to them despite their fortune, education, breeding and generousity to a brutally rejecting France is heart wrending. de Waal may paint best on his own little piece of ebony, but no one is able to convey better just how objects, however frivolous, can convey a spirit of a person if viewed in a certain light. He is a master at showing us that view; just as Proust, a close contemporary of the Count's, found the sublime in the often petty or obsessive details of haute bourgeouis Parisian life. This would be an excellent title to pair with Tom Stoppard's play Leopoldstadt, which mourns a similar family in Vienna. Read to be educated, elevated if ultimately profoundly depressed.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Paul

    A strange postscript to the brilliant: Hare With the Amber Eyes. The book feels somehow rushed. Some quotes are in French, others are not; one quote begins in French and then, after an interruption, finishes in English. At one point, de Waal says that a particular recipe mentioned by de Camondo is almost certainly written about in Proust, but to look it up would be ‘taking research too far.’ This is obviously a ‘funny’ line but it does leave you wondering what this book really is? It occupies the A strange postscript to the brilliant: Hare With the Amber Eyes. The book feels somehow rushed. Some quotes are in French, others are not; one quote begins in French and then, after an interruption, finishes in English. At one point, de Waal says that a particular recipe mentioned by de Camondo is almost certainly written about in Proust, but to look it up would be ‘taking research too far.’ This is obviously a ‘funny’ line but it does leave you wondering what this book really is? It occupies the point between memoir and historical project, and is successful on neither count. Endless lists, and occasional ‘profound’ sentences give us little in the way of historical or personal revelation. The book is made up of letters to a man who is long dead. This gives de Waal a platform to deploy writing of a particular kind. If, for example, he has written a letter about de Camondo’s living room he will invariably end the correspondence with something like: ‘I see, Monsieur, that you are fond of candlesticks. I too like candlesticks. I wonder if you ever held a candlestick in your hands and twisted it about, looking for blemishes? After all, what is a candlestick but a place for light to brighten the darkness?’ After a while, one really does want to say: oh Edmund, do stop it.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Mandy

    At 63 rue de Monceau lies the Musée de Nissim de Camondo, originally the home of Jewish art collector Moise de Camondo, who left the house and its priceless collection to France after his death in memory of his son who had been killed in WW!. In spite of this generous gift, the Camondo family, as well as many other wealthy Jewish collectors, were betrayed by the nation that they felt they belonged to and many of them perished in the Holocaust. Edmond de Waal’s own family were caught up in this b At 63 rue de Monceau lies the Musée de Nissim de Camondo, originally the home of Jewish art collector Moise de Camondo, who left the house and its priceless collection to France after his death in memory of his son who had been killed in WW!. In spite of this generous gift, the Camondo family, as well as many other wealthy Jewish collectors, were betrayed by the nation that they felt they belonged to and many of them perished in the Holocaust. Edmond de Waal’s own family were caught up in this betrayal and he has written previously about this in his book The Hare with Amber Eyes. In this his latest book he writes a series of letters to Moise de Camondo, a result of his research into the house, the family and the collection during which he found himself frequently talking aloud to Moise. It’s a tragic story and de Waal’s book is a moving tribute to Camondo, to whom he feels a deep connection. It’s a delightful read, full of wonderful illustrations, and a compelling insight into the family’s world and the lost world of Jewish art collecting.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Manuela

    I just love everything Edmund de Waal writes about. His first novel ‘The Hare with the Amber Eyes’ is one of my favorite books and ‘Letters to Camomdo’ is just as good. De Waal is a Master in writing about the world of decorative arts and their collectors. It’s a fascinating weave of stories, with the most interesting people and the stories the works tell. This novel is told in letters and I loved the very descriptive style. I will probably read this book more than once and I highly recommend it I just love everything Edmund de Waal writes about. His first novel ‘The Hare with the Amber Eyes’ is one of my favorite books and ‘Letters to Camomdo’ is just as good. De Waal is a Master in writing about the world of decorative arts and their collectors. It’s a fascinating weave of stories, with the most interesting people and the stories the works tell. This novel is told in letters and I loved the very descriptive style. I will probably read this book more than once and I highly recommend it.

  9. 5 out of 5

    T P Kennedy

    An excellent book. It's a little like a sequel to the hare with the amber eyes. The framing device of letters to the Count while moving through his house is very effective. It draws you in. At first it seems like an innocent consideration of art and fin de siecle Paris but it becomes apparent it's about so much more. He considers the place of this family in French society and then follows their fates in World War II. Having learned so much about them, the spare account of their murders has all t An excellent book. It's a little like a sequel to the hare with the amber eyes. The framing device of letters to the Count while moving through his house is very effective. It draws you in. At first it seems like an innocent consideration of art and fin de siecle Paris but it becomes apparent it's about so much more. He considers the place of this family in French society and then follows their fates in World War II. Having learned so much about them, the spare account of their murders has all the greater impact. A super read.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jill Shaw Ruddock

    It's a stunningly written tragic story to Camondo, to whom de Waal feels a deep connection. It is through 58 imaginary letters to Camondo that De Waal tells the story of the man’s life and death, his house, his collections, his world and what became of it. This new book features several of the people and his journey that we first encountered in Hare with the Amber Eyes I think the 2021 book world will be defined by those who have read Letters to Camondo and those who have not It's a stunningly written tragic story to Camondo, to whom de Waal feels a deep connection. It is through 58 imaginary letters to Camondo that De Waal tells the story of the man’s life and death, his house, his collections, his world and what became of it. This new book features several of the people and his journey that we first encountered in Hare with the Amber Eyes I think the 2021 book world will be defined by those who have read Letters to Camondo and those who have not

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jane

    This is a beautiful book—the actual thing. It is printed on glossy paper and beautifully illustrated. It feels weighty in the hand even though it is not a long book. It tells the story of the Musée Nissim de Camondo, which is both a stately home and the personal collection of mainly 18th C. European artwork. It is a very personal collection, assembled and presented painstakingly by Moise de Camondo. It is also the story of wealthy, assimilated, cultivated and civic-minded Jews. Upon his death, Mo This is a beautiful book—the actual thing. It is printed on glossy paper and beautifully illustrated. It feels weighty in the hand even though it is not a long book. It tells the story of the Musée Nissim de Camondo, which is both a stately home and the personal collection of mainly 18th C. European artwork. It is a very personal collection, assembled and presented painstakingly by Moise de Camondo. It is also the story of wealthy, assimilated, cultivated and civic-minded Jews. Upon his death, Moise named the museum for his son, Nissim, killed in WWI, and donated it to the French state. That was the mid-30’s. Subsequently, WW2, Vichy, deportations, the ugly efflorescence of anti-Sémitism throughout Europe. The remainder of the de Camondo family was killed by the Nazis. I’m not sure how the museum survived but it did and it is a beautiful and hallowed place. I can’t wait to visit it again. The only thing that I did not like was the structuring of the book as a series of letters from the author to Moise, and the heavy use if the second person which I find clunky and distracting. The letter format was justified because de Waal is a descendant of the Ephrussi family, another wealthy, cosmopolitan banking family who suffered similar depredations at the hands of the Nazis. So de Waal was leaning on this connection which is interesting but was an impediment to my enjoyment.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Stef Smulders

    2 5* I dont think this a bad 'novel' but its definitely not to my taste. It almost reads as an art catalogue. Nothing much happens, its all about the past. Difficult to keep track of all the family relations and chronology of their dwellings. I would have liked to learn more about the people rather than their furniture. This one is not for me. 2 5* I dont think this a bad 'novel' but its definitely not to my taste. It almost reads as an art catalogue. Nothing much happens, its all about the past. Difficult to keep track of all the family relations and chronology of their dwellings. I would have liked to learn more about the people rather than their furniture. This one is not for me.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Nene La Beet

    A super wealthy Jewish family comes from Constantinople and makes Paris their home. They are naturalized (a huge thing in France where antisemitism was everywhere), and we follow how the son purges the family home of Russian and Jewish heirlooms because he wants to be FRENCH. When his son, third generation of Camondos, falls for France in 2016, the father turns the house into a museum for his dead son and bequeaths it to France upon his death. He dies early enough to avoid being interned by the A super wealthy Jewish family comes from Constantinople and makes Paris their home. They are naturalized (a huge thing in France where antisemitism was everywhere), and we follow how the son purges the family home of Russian and Jewish heirlooms because he wants to be FRENCH. When his son, third generation of Camondos, falls for France in 2016, the father turns the house into a museum for his dead son and bequeaths it to France upon his death. He dies early enough to avoid being interned by the Vichy government, but the rest of his family all perish in the concentration camps. In parallel to this sad story we hear about the art and antiques they collect. For instance, we follow two portraits by Renoir as they are robbed from the Camondos and make the rounds among Vichy traitors and German art collectors. Along the way, the fact that the young girls in the portraits were Jewish, is conveniently forgotten. Why not five stars? Because it didn't quite hit the mark in so far as the art it describes – the way its predecessor The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss did. Also, I never really became friendly with the literary form, letters to the dead count. That said, the book grows and grows as you read through it. To begin with it seems a somewhat superficial admiration of a very rich man and his art, but as the book progresses, it becomes clear that the museum and all the precious pieces inside it are just pretexts for talking about the real issues. We attach feelings to things – not least artworks, which the book Hooked: Art and Attachment that i just read – explains in great and riveting detail. I can hear people around me saying, yes, but what about all the dead jews who weren't rich and didn't leave an art collection behind. Well, this story is also about them, which you would know if you read it. Just like Anne Frank's diary has meant the world for our understanding of the destiny of a Jewish family before and during WWII, people like the count with his meticulous notes on everything, preserved for posterity in his library together with all the beautiful things, tell the story of the countless people who didn't leave anything behind or whose possessions were lost.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Lynn Feinson

    Beautiful, poignant novel about the patriarch of a wealthy French family who founded my favorite museum

  15. 4 out of 5

    Arjen Taselaar

    Beautiful book by Edmund de Waal on the Musée Nissim de Camondo, which opened in Paris a year after its owner, Count Moïse de Camondo, died, in 1936. Camondo was a banker and art collector, and belonged to a Jewish family from Constantinople who had becomes French. Like many French Jews of comparable social status - who often intermarried - Camondo believed in assimilation. The art collection now contained in his museum reflects this by focusing on 18th century French decorative art. Camondo don Beautiful book by Edmund de Waal on the Musée Nissim de Camondo, which opened in Paris a year after its owner, Count Moïse de Camondo, died, in 1936. Camondo was a banker and art collector, and belonged to a Jewish family from Constantinople who had becomes French. Like many French Jews of comparable social status - who often intermarried - Camondo believed in assimilation. The art collection now contained in his museum reflects this by focusing on 18th century French decorative art. Camondo donated his house and collection to the state. Some years later, that same state collaborated with the Nazis in arresting the remaining Camondo family members. They were murdered at Auschwitz. De Waal has structured his book as a series of letters, which address topics as collecting, belonging, blending in, dispersal, destruction, and memory. This small, careful, beautiful, poignant and unsettling book will long resonate and require rethinking and rereading.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Steve Streeter

    Edmund de Waal first came to literary prominence in 2011 with the autobiographical journey of his family history in The Hare With The Amber Eyes. This book could be considered a companion text as again de Waal breathes new perspectives into his forebears - the Ephrussi-as neighbours of the Count Moïse de Camondo. This book explores the life of the de Camondo family through a series of letters written to the Count from de Waal as he explores the archive of the Count’s life and family.The letters a Edmund de Waal first came to literary prominence in 2011 with the autobiographical journey of his family history in The Hare With The Amber Eyes. This book could be considered a companion text as again de Waal breathes new perspectives into his forebears - the Ephrussi-as neighbours of the Count Moïse de Camondo. This book explores the life of the de Camondo family through a series of letters written to the Count from de Waal as he explores the archive of the Count’s life and family.The letters are beautiful - poetic in many ways. As the reader we are given a tour of the house ( which was bequeathed to the French state as a museum). The beauty and melancholia pervading through the building is evident as the description of the rooms, furniture and family belongings ( still as they were in 1935)capture the life of the inhabitants over a number of years. Camondo created a memorial to his ancestors and Parisian life. The letter writing approach to describing the life of the Count and the house is beautifully structured and the manner through which de Waal questions the Count is poignant and sensitive. The story of the family is tragic and again highlights the brutality of the human and anti-semitism. As de Waal explores each room and its contents and those who lived there he draws together his thoughts ,”History is happening. It isn’t the past, it is a continuing unfolding of the moment. It unfolds in our hands.” And this book highlights how we are all part of an intricate web of living, dying, hoping and loving leaving a legacy of our belongings but ultimately the relationships within our lives- past,present and those in the future ). This is another exquisitely researched book that opens a window into the life of an extraordinary family. Thank you to NetGalley for the opportunity to read an advance copy

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kalliope

    This will probably remain as one of my most relished reads of this year and I have had to read it twice. The subject fascinated me, emigrated Jewish families who sought to belong to what seemed a welcoming nation by supporting the arts and knowledge - Western. Reading it was a way of paying homage to the unfortunate Camondo family. And Edmund de Waal’s style felt as soothing as drinking a lightly scented tea in peaceful surroundings. Reading it twice was also appropriate since I got two copies. This will probably remain as one of my most relished reads of this year and I have had to read it twice. The subject fascinated me, emigrated Jewish families who sought to belong to what seemed a welcoming nation by supporting the arts and knowledge - Western. Reading it was a way of paying homage to the unfortunate Camondo family. And Edmund de Waal’s style felt as soothing as drinking a lightly scented tea in peaceful surroundings. Reading it twice was also appropriate since I got two copies. When I saw it promoted, I had the hunch that the bookshop in whose Subscription formula I am inscribed, would select this as my April book. When I received another item instead, I went and ordered it from Blackwell’s since they were offering signed copies. I promptly began reading it when it made it into my mailbox. But then my hunch proved right, and I received what became my second copy for the May selection in my Subscription. In the past I enjoyed The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family's Century of Art and Loss and years later I received an invitation from Ivory Press to attend the presentation of De Waal’s exhibition “Breath” in Ivory Press (view spoiler)[ which belongs to Elena Ochoa and Norman Foster. https://www.ivorypress.com/en/art/bre... (hide spoiler)] . In a way this collection of fictional letters to Moïse Camondo (1860-1935) are a sequel to his Amber book. De Waal has shifted his attention from number 81 in Rue Monceau to 63. The two families were remotely related and one lady in the Camondo trunk, Louise Cahen d’Anvers (née Bischoffsheim) was the lover of Charles Ephrussi (attention, Proustians!) for fifteen years. In these fictional, elegiac, letters, Sebald’s tone (and this author is mentioned) rings in the back of one head, to the point that it made me want to visit Sebald’s pages again. Engaging in these letters means engaging with the art world in Paris at the end of the 19thCentury. Thanks to Charles Ephrussi, Renoir painted Louise’s daughters: first Irène and then Alice and Elizabeth. Louise was not too impressed however, since the one with the two girls hung in the maid’s room. It is now in the Sao Paulo Museum of Fine Arts, with that of Irène is in the Bührle Foundation in Zurich. And not only contemporary art engaged the Camondos and their circles. During this time a fair amount of 18thCentury art works that had been housed in the chateaux of the nobility were ransacked during the Revolutionary times, and found their way to the various showrooms of (Jewish – Seligmann’s, Duveen, Maison Carlhian) art dealers, and ended up in various hôtels in the Rue Monceau as well as in Mansions along the NY 5th Avenue. Other precious objects were put on sale at about this time; Moïse bought from the Russian government a silver service that used to belong to Catherine the Great and had been made by Jacques Nicolas Roettiers. As could be expected, Moïse was not the only serious collector. His cousin Isaac left his huge art collection to the Louvre – 107 pages of catalogue listings – amongst which were seven Manet paintings and fourteen Monets. But all these art and culture activities that enriched France, (view spoiler)[ Moïse was a contributor when in 1920 the Amis du Louvre raised funding for the purchase of Courbet’s 1855 L’Atelier du Peintre) (hide spoiler)] , leave the reader with a sour taste. For they are, after all, records of the Camondo’s desire to belong. In one of the schoolbooks De Waal finds the note “I belong here”. As Sephardic Jews they were expelled from the Iberian Peninsula and established themselves in the Ottoman Empire. They did well, since most of the Galata quarter in Constantinople belonged to them. A sign of their previous presence is still left in that Istanbul quartier, the Camondo stairs, beautifully photographed by Cartier-Bresson. They found their way to France via Italy during the second half of the 19thCentury establishing themselves in that Rue Monceau that first acquired a comfortable Jewish tone (the Cattavis at 55, the Reinach, the Rothschilds, and even Theodor Herzl at number 8) but which then became a Jewish hell since both the Haut Commisariat géneral aux questions juives was at number 43, and the HQ of the Milice (a facist paramilitary force) was established at 63 – uncle Abraham-Behor’s house. Moïse’s family did not survive. His son Nissim gave his life for the country that had adopted his family. His plane was shot down in September 1917. De Waal includes Proust’s letter of condolence to Moïse. His daughter Béatrice, her husband Léon Reinach and their two children Fanny and Bertrand were taken to Germany in 1942.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Caterina Pierre

    I really enjoyed Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes, originally published in 2010, and so I decided to read his latest book, Letters to Camondo. In a way, it is sort of a continuation of The Hare, because Count Moïse de Camondo lived a few doors away from de Waal's ancestors, the Ephrussi family, who where the subject of the earlier book, and like Camondo were art collectors. At first, the epistolary format, in which the living de Waal is the author of these letters to Camondo, who died i I really enjoyed Edmund de Waal's The Hare with Amber Eyes, originally published in 2010, and so I decided to read his latest book, Letters to Camondo. In a way, it is sort of a continuation of The Hare, because Count Moïse de Camondo lived a few doors away from de Waal's ancestors, the Ephrussi family, who where the subject of the earlier book, and like Camondo were art collectors. At first, the epistolary format, in which the living de Waal is the author of these letters to Camondo, who died in 1935, is a little confusing. So it takes a minute to realize that de Wall has chosen this method to tell the story of the family, and, more importantly, the story of how the Musée Nissim de Camondo, opened in 1936, came into being. I have been to Paris many times, and I always skip visiting this museum: I am not sure why, but I guess I am always too busy visiting the big museums, and I have therefore have missed many of the smaller spaces. The book (and the fact that the Musée Nissim de Camondo is used as a home in the highly popular Lupin Netflix series) has made me want to visit on my next trip. I made the mistake of looking up the museum online while reading the book, and that sort of "spoiled" the story for me, as I came to know what happened to Camondo's children before getting to that point in the book. So, don't look anyone up until you are done. The reader does know from the book jacket flap that the museum was set up by Camondo in honor of his son Nissim, who was killed in the First World War. But what we don't know, and what Camondo himself did not know by the time of his death, was that there are other factors that would make his museum a testament to his entire family, not just Nissim. It is nothing sort of a miracle that the museum survived the Occupation of France by the Nazis, and the fact that Camondo was Jewish makes this even more incredible. De Waal uses the archives of the museum, the archives de France, and other sources to construct, through these letters to Camondo, not only the history of a great French family, but also the discriminations and injustices they suffered as Jews, post-Dreyfus, and well before the Nazis arrived in Paris. We also see how de Waal's family, who suffered similarly, were intertwined with the Camondos. There's no chance a reader will want to miss a visit to the Musée Nissim after reading this lovely and heart wrenching book about the man who created it and the family for which it was created. Chapter 50 will rip your heart out of your chest (do not forward fast; wait for it). This hardback edition contained beautiful illustrations of the museum and Camondo family photographs, as well as other items, so heart wrenching they are unspeakable. This was an excellent read.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Steve

    This is my first de Waal book, but it won't be my last (the other 2 are on order already). A lot of the books I buy go to a TBR pile, and sit there for some time before I (hopefully) finally get to them. This arrived Sunday, and I had finished this short tome Tuesday night. de Waal is a highly regarded potter, whose porcelain works are often presented as multiple, rather than lone, items. He writes about family, and decorative arts, and history. Particularly the Jewish side of his family, and the This is my first de Waal book, but it won't be my last (the other 2 are on order already). A lot of the books I buy go to a TBR pile, and sit there for some time before I (hopefully) finally get to them. This arrived Sunday, and I had finished this short tome Tuesday night. de Waal is a highly regarded potter, whose porcelain works are often presented as multiple, rather than lone, items. He writes about family, and decorative arts, and history. Particularly the Jewish side of his family, and their porcelain collection. Here we have a short book, in letters, about the family, house and arts collection of Count Moise de Camondo. A family of Leventine Jews who relocated to Paris in the late 19th Century. It is also a valuable introduction to the history of anti-Semitism in France. de Waal presents us with multiple examples of how the family tried to integrate into French society (organizations, money, his son's life - even his own house, to be used as a museum after his death!), but were never found to be "French" enough. One issue I do have - money is never discussed. Where it came from, or how it continued to be earned. In one excerpt from a newspaper, the Count is referred to as "a sportsman and collector" (he loved his horses, and hunting). If he ever was active in business, we are not told. Or who did manage the wealth, if he didn't himself. The last third of the book is plainly presented by date and event and fact regarding the demise of the family (and all other Jews) under the Nazi regime in France. He calls what happens to this family (who lived near his own mother's family, and who were distantly related as well - he jokes about how convoluted a Family Tree - which is included in his "The Hare With Amber Eyes" - would be, especially if it included lovers and mistresses!) what it was. They did not "pass" or "die" - they were murdered in the Holocaust. One of the last chapters (nearly all the letters are only 1-3 pp long) traces the ownership of a Renoir portrait of one of the young girls in 1880. Ironically, Goering owned this beautiful portrait of a young, Jewish girl at one point! The physical book itself is wonderful in-hand. FSG did a great job. Thick, glossy pages - signatures sewn in. Well illustrated. Further Reading, Notes, and identification of the illustrations. There are some untranslated excerpts in French, but even with no background in Romance languages, most readers (including myself) will be able to make sense of them. The use of letters to present this story works well. He skips about a bit, but in the end it is a chronological presentation. About decorative arts, family, France, and anti-Semitism in Europe. Well, worth a read - quietly sad.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Sari Gilbert

    For me, this book was heartbreaking and it will take me a while to get over it. Don't get me wrong. There is more to this book than heartbreak. The letters which de Waal crafts to the long-deceased Moisé de Camondo are, in part, an instrument to delve into the artistic criteria with which this scion of a wealthy Jewish Istanbul family, transplanted to Paris in the late 19th century decorated his Parc Monceau mansion and then re-decorated it following the death of his only son as a French officer For me, this book was heartbreaking and it will take me a while to get over it. Don't get me wrong. There is more to this book than heartbreak. The letters which de Waal crafts to the long-deceased Moisé de Camondo are, in part, an instrument to delve into the artistic criteria with which this scion of a wealthy Jewish Istanbul family, transplanted to Paris in the late 19th century decorated his Parc Monceau mansion and then re-decorated it following the death of his only son as a French officer in an air battle during the First World War. But it is so much more. It is also the story of the wealthy, often highly cultured, sometimes aristocratic European Jewish families who emigrated from elsewhere to France in the 19th century and who despite continuing to practice their religion and often marrying among themselves, thought of themselves as true French citizens - Nissim, for example, was a volunteer - but came close to being undone by the undying antisemitism of many French people that culminated in the perfidies of the pro-Nazi Petainist French regime from 1940 till 1944. De Waal knows a lot about all this because he is a descendent of the Ephrussi family whose peregrinations and subsequent oppression by the Nazis in both France and Austria formed a good part of his previous book, "The Hare with the Amber Eye". In fact, Charles Ephrussi's mansion was right down the block from that built by Moise de Camondo. Just consider this. Not only did Nissim die for his country but in 1935, shortly before his death, Moisé de Camondo donated his mansion to the French state and can still be visited today - I've been there three times - as the Nissim de Camondo Museum of Paris. What happened next? In 1942 his daughter and grandchildren ended up being arrested and were, like so many others, murdered at Auschwitz. Perhaps because of the epistolary style chosen by the author, this is not as well written as "The Hare". But it is an eye-opening, gripping "must" read that left me weeping.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Clive Hodges

    Edmund de Waal wrote Hare with Amber Eyes, a memoir of the Ephrussi family that became a best seller in 2010. Letters to Camondo is about another prominent European dynasty of Jewish financiers and philanthropists. The Camondo family was part of the Sephardic community in Spain. They settled in Venice after the 1492 Spanish decree that ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism. In recognition of Abraham Salomon Camondo’s considerable financial assistance during the l Edmund de Waal wrote Hare with Amber Eyes, a memoir of the Ephrussi family that became a best seller in 2010. Letters to Camondo is about another prominent European dynasty of Jewish financiers and philanthropists. The Camondo family was part of the Sephardic community in Spain. They settled in Venice after the 1492 Spanish decree that ordered the expulsion of all Jews who refused to convert to Catholicism. In recognition of Abraham Salomon Camondo’s considerable financial assistance during the liberation in 1866 of Venice and its surrounding area from the Austrian Empire, Camondo was created a hereditary count by King Victor Emmanuel II of Italy. The last Count, Moïse de Camondo, died in 1935; his son Nissim, a pilot, was killed in World War I; his daughter Béatrice perished in Auschwitz during World War II. Edmund de Waal visited the former Camondo mansion in Paris which is now The Musée Nissim de Camondo – gifted to the French nation by Moïse in his will in memory of his fallen son. Béatrice and her family were only too pleased to be rid of it and its antiquated contents that needed an army of servants to keep dusted. Letters to Camondo is the result of de Waal’s research into the family, the house and its impressive contents. Each chapter is a letter written by de Waal to the dead Count. The chapters are short and much care has been taken with the text and design. The book will appeal to a niche audience. Anyone interested in beautifully made antique furniture, 18th century paintings and ancient door handles will be in their element. I was more interested in the family and why Béatrice, her husband and their young children stayed in Paris thinking her wealth and good works for the community would save them from being deported to concentration camps.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Jean-paul Audouy

    What a exceptional little book. What starts as a deceptively story of the passion for art by a rich Jewish banker from Constantinople interwoven with his attempt at assimilation in what seems the best country in Europe for Jews to settle in and find peace slowly turns into what I found in Hannah Arendt “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and Raul Hilberg “The Destruction of European Jews” which is the rise, banality and soon the total inhumanity of antisemitism in Europe from the mid the 1800’s to What a exceptional little book. What starts as a deceptively story of the passion for art by a rich Jewish banker from Constantinople interwoven with his attempt at assimilation in what seems the best country in Europe for Jews to settle in and find peace slowly turns into what I found in Hannah Arendt “The Origins of Totalitarianism” and Raul Hilberg “The Destruction of European Jews” which is the rise, banality and soon the total inhumanity of antisemitism in Europe from the mid the 1800’s to 1945. The last third of the book is both heartbreaking and infuriating with its accelerating pace from the riding places of the Bois de Boulogne through the camp of Drancy to Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen, the complicity of the French police in rounding up the Jews, the half million people happy too attend “Le Juif et la France” exhibition in 1941/1942, the advice on how to best denounce your Jewish neighbour in the right wing newspapers, how to acquire their houses and belongings for cheap. Gives a good kick in the pants to the myth of all of France being in the resistance. The writing style of Edmund de Waal is both gentle and driven. It becomes almost ferocious in the last part of the book. The illustrations are both exquisite and useful and help make a beautiful object of this book. I visited the Nissim de Camondo museum a month ago. What I remember of my visit has been completely altered by this book. I’ll go visit it again soon and I know it will be a much more emotional experience this time…

  23. 4 out of 5

    Myra Rose

    I miss Paris and this book makes me want to go back all that much more. The Musee Nissim de Camondo is one of the those small, off the beaten path museums. I'd say it's probably a museum most people have never even heard of. It's not a big ticket museum like the Louvre or the D'Orsay. Even so, I've visited this museum many times, although I haven't been to there in quite some time. It's a beautiful house filled with beautiful porcelains, furniture, tapestries-decorative arts, and some rooms furn I miss Paris and this book makes me want to go back all that much more. The Musee Nissim de Camondo is one of the those small, off the beaten path museums. I'd say it's probably a museum most people have never even heard of. It's not a big ticket museum like the Louvre or the D'Orsay. Even so, I've visited this museum many times, although I haven't been to there in quite some time. It's a beautiful house filled with beautiful porcelains, furniture, tapestries-decorative arts, and some rooms furnished as they were when the family lived there. I never realized, knew, that the house was left to France exactly the way it looked on the day Moise de Camondo died, nor could it be altered. Now, I understand its history. The last letters, chapters, in this book are tragic, just as the years of World War II were for the French Jews and France. Edmund de Waal lays out the timeline of events as they related to the family clearly. Any questions I had about how this tragedy could have impacted this family with the means to escape deportation and death were answered. When we travel to Paris again, I will go back to this beautiful museum and I will walk through these rooms really understanding the collection and the love that went into their acquisition all those years ago.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Margaryta

    I little different in tone and effect than his other books, "Letters to Camondo" is a book about working things through, which also highlights the powerful possibilities of the epistolary genre. It really helps to have read "The Hare with the Amber Eyes," as de Wall references to the events in it a lot, so while this is by no means a "sequel," the continuity is certainly present. Similarly, having read "The White Road" and some of his exhibition catalogues, or even having heard him speak about a I little different in tone and effect than his other books, "Letters to Camondo" is a book about working things through, which also highlights the powerful possibilities of the epistolary genre. It really helps to have read "The Hare with the Amber Eyes," as de Wall references to the events in it a lot, so while this is by no means a "sequel," the continuity is certainly present. Similarly, having read "The White Road" and some of his exhibition catalogues, or even having heard him speak about art, also contextualizes de Waal's astute observation skills, his ability to see and feel and describe a level of materiality that most would find very difficult to see but which is nonetheless there. Another touching and beautifully written book. I will probably read anything and everything de Waal publishes at this point, it is just too heartwarming and moving from an artistic as well as historical perspective.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Cavallari

    This book is exquisite, it is so delicate yet full of the melancholy you can feel within the walls of the Museum Nissim de Camondo, my favorite place in Paris. Between the lines of the book you can feel the loneliness of Monsieur Moise, the silence of his Hotel, his steps in the cruel silence surrounding him, the heaviness of his sadness. I am grateful the author addressed his letters to Monsieur Moise, I also imagine to talk with him when I’m visiting his house, we must be grateful for his lega This book is exquisite, it is so delicate yet full of the melancholy you can feel within the walls of the Museum Nissim de Camondo, my favorite place in Paris. Between the lines of the book you can feel the loneliness of Monsieur Moise, the silence of his Hotel, his steps in the cruel silence surrounding him, the heaviness of his sadness. I am grateful the author addressed his letters to Monsieur Moise, I also imagine to talk with him when I’m visiting his house, we must be grateful for his legacy and for what he and his family have done for us especially because life wasn’t kind with none of them. The photos included in the book are pearls. I strongly suggest you visit the Museum if you have the chance, it is and experience itself, a living testament.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Stacey

    I enjoyed this book, and felt 192 pages was perfect for this story. The story is told through 58 imaginary letters to a "friend"- written in beautiful prose. Camondo was originally for Constantinople; moving to Paris he was a jewish banker, art collector, and a philanthropist in the 1850's. His life was ended by the Nazi's, but his home was preserved with his personal art collection. The letters to Camondo address the authors concern of assimilation, antisemitism, and of course the wonderful cult I enjoyed this book, and felt 192 pages was perfect for this story. The story is told through 58 imaginary letters to a "friend"- written in beautiful prose. Camondo was originally for Constantinople; moving to Paris he was a jewish banker, art collector, and a philanthropist in the 1850's. His life was ended by the Nazi's, but his home was preserved with his personal art collection. The letters to Camondo address the authors concern of assimilation, antisemitism, and of course the wonderful cultures of art. Today, the home stands in a beautiful part of Paris as a museum with his personal art collection. Some readers wrote they feel this book is a "companion", (not a sequel) to "The Hare with the Amber Eyes"- I feel the same way. Both books are outstanding.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Maggie

    I remember I loved The Hare with the Amber Eyes, but I had forgot why. Reading Letters to Camondo reminded me. De Waal writes with beauty and precision. He weaves his family’s and the subject’s family history with that of European history. This book is written as letters to a neighbour of his great grandparents, but the connection he creates with that distant “cousin” causes time to evaporate. His letters are intimate, careful, and crafted. The book explores belonging and not belonging and the l I remember I loved The Hare with the Amber Eyes, but I had forgot why. Reading Letters to Camondo reminded me. De Waal writes with beauty and precision. He weaves his family’s and the subject’s family history with that of European history. This book is written as letters to a neighbour of his great grandparents, but the connection he creates with that distant “cousin” causes time to evaporate. His letters are intimate, careful, and crafted. The book explores belonging and not belonging and the line between these two states. Plus Paris! Art! Architecture! Literature! I think the biggest reason I love reading De Waal so much is when I’m reading him, I can imagine I’m more intelligent and urbane than I am. What a pleasure!

  28. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” – L. P. Hartley L. P. Hartley’s statement came to mind after reading Cynthia Ozick’s short novel “Antiquities” (Alfred A. Knopf) and Edmund De Waal’s musings in “Letters to Camondo” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Both authors review a past very different from contemporary times. Each work also seeks to understand and make peace with events that were out of the characters/author’s control. See the rest of my review at https://www.the “The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there.” – L. P. Hartley L. P. Hartley’s statement came to mind after reading Cynthia Ozick’s short novel “Antiquities” (Alfred A. Knopf) and Edmund De Waal’s musings in “Letters to Camondo” (Farrar, Straus and Giroux). Both authors review a past very different from contemporary times. Each work also seeks to understand and make peace with events that were out of the characters/author’s control. See the rest of my review at https://www.thereportergroup.org/past...

  29. 4 out of 5

    Michelle

    “Letters to Camondo” is a wonderfully written book. The book is actually a collection of fifty imaginary letters written by famous ceramic artist Edmund de Waal. The letter are to Moise de Camondo, who collected the spectacular collection of French eighteenth century art for his home in Paris. We know his home now as the Musee Nissim de Camondo. The letters give us the history of the Camondo family, which was tragically full of loss. They were living in Paris in the 1870s, which made them at tim “Letters to Camondo” is a wonderfully written book. The book is actually a collection of fifty imaginary letters written by famous ceramic artist Edmund de Waal. The letter are to Moise de Camondo, who collected the spectacular collection of French eighteenth century art for his home in Paris. We know his home now as the Musee Nissim de Camondo. The letters give us the history of the Camondo family, which was tragically full of loss. They were living in Paris in the 1870s, which made them at times targets of antisemitism. However they were members of high society and had a host of friends in Paris. I loved this book, my father actually visited the Musee Nissim de Camondo and spoke often of it. I had no idea of the museum’s history until reading this book. I received an uncorrected proof of this book by Farrar, Straus and Giroux through a gracious giveaway on Goodreads.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Bett

    I'm such a fan of everything by Edmund de Waal, starting, of course, with his porcelain. And although this book has little to do with de Waal's pottery, it is not unconnected, and that is one of the draws for me. "Letters to Camondo," though, ruminates on history, design, ego, family, and ultimately supreme evil (set in Jewish Europe of the early 20th century how could it not?) in the most heartfelt of ways. I'll always be grateful that de Waal has become, in his words, "a potter who writes." I r I'm such a fan of everything by Edmund de Waal, starting, of course, with his porcelain. And although this book has little to do with de Waal's pottery, it is not unconnected, and that is one of the draws for me. "Letters to Camondo," though, ruminates on history, design, ego, family, and ultimately supreme evil (set in Jewish Europe of the early 20th century how could it not?) in the most heartfelt of ways. I'll always be grateful that de Waal has become, in his words, "a potter who writes." I received an early proof of this book and this is my honest review as thanks.

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