The Hare With Amber Eyes Wins The Ondaatje Prize

May 26, 2011

The Royal Society of Literature administers The Ondaatje Prize which is an annual award of £10,000 ($16,382) for a distinguished work of fiction, non-fiction or poetry, evoking the spirit of a place. After winning the Costa Biography Award earlier, Edmund de Waal has now been awarded the 2011 Ondaatje Prize for The Hare With Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century Of Art And Loss.  The book describes how in the 1870s, Charles Ephrussi assembled a collection of 360 Japanese ivory carvings known as “netsuke.”  De Waal, a renowned ceramicist and the fifth generation to inherit the collection traces the story of a remarkable family and a tumultuous century.

Praise from judges Don Paterson, Ali Smith and Sarah Waters:

Don Paterson admired de Waal’s use of the history of a family heirloom – a collection of delicate netsuke – ‘as a device to trace the growth of the anti-Semitism that led to the horror of the holocaust. It is pitch-perfect in its haunting evocation of time and place, and never slips into sentimentalism; his book is as smooth and perfect as his own ceramic works’.

‘A work whose lightness, when it comes to dealing with the weight of history, is almost miraculous.’ – Ali Smith

Sarah Waters called the book ‘a very worthy winner of this important literary prize – a stunning piece of writing, conjuring up one memorable location after another with economy and grace’.

Edmund de Waal is Professor of Ceramics at the University of Westminster and lives in London with his family.  Apprenticed as a potter, he studied in Japan and read English at Cambridge. His porcelain is shown in museums around the world, and he has recently made installations for the V&A and Tate Britain.