Edmund de Waal, James McAuley
Chair: Anne Sebba
Before the Second World War, several prominent French Jewish families built vast collections of art and treasures which sought to venerate beauty at a time of increasing hostility. But their collections – and their rarefied worlds, now vanished – also reveal the tragedy of their troubled lives and identities as they found themselves caught between emancipation, assimilation and antisemitism.
Drawing on connections made in the writing of his Costa and Ondaatje Prize-winning memoir The Hare With Amber Eyes, Edmund de Waal turns his attention to the family behind the greatest private collection of French 18th century art in Letters to Camondo. Washington Post Paris correspondent James McAuley has won acclaim for The House of Fragile Things: Jewish Art Collectors and the Fall of France, an evocative account of the period from 1870 to the end of the war. In this special Jewish Quarterly conversation presented by Jewish Book Week they join biographer and author of Les Parisiennes Anne Sebba to discuss these extraordinary stories of art and life.
Click here to purchase a copy of Letters to Camondo by Edmund de Waal, The House of Fragile Things by James McAuley and Les Parisiennes by Anne Sebba. To find out more about The Jewish Quarterly and to subscribe click here.
Edmund de Waal CBE is an internationally acclaimed artist and writer, best known for his large-scale installations of porcelain vessels, often created in response to collections and archives or the history of a particular place. His interventions have been made for diverse spaces and museums worldwide, including The British Museum, London, The Frick Collection, New York and the Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna. His memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes, won the RSL Ondaatje prize and the Costa Biography Award, was named as one of the books of the decade by the Sunday Times and of the 21st century by the Guardian. It was the Independent Bookseller Book of the Decade and has been translated into 29 languages. In 2015 he was awarded the Windham-Campbell prize for non-fiction by Yale University. The White Road, a journey into the history of porcelain, was published to great acclaim in 2015. Edmund will present a major new exhibition this autumn at the Musée Nissim de Camondo, Paris, inspired by his latest book Letters to Camondo . He lives in London with his family.
James McAuley is the Paris Correspondent for the Washington Post and a contributor to The New York Review of Books. He recently received his doctorate in French History at Oxford. The House of Fragile Things is his first book.
Anne Sebba: award winning biographer, historian and author of eleven books. Her latest book is Ethel Rosenberg: An American Tragedy published in the UK and US in 2021. In 2016 Les Parisiennes: How the Women of Paris Lived, Loved and Died in the 1940’s was the winner of the 2016 Franco-British Society book prize. Previously Anne wrote That Woman, a biography of Wallis Simpson and the scandal of the 1936 abdication crisis based on her discovery of a secret cache of letters. A former Reuters Foreign Correspondent, Anne is a broadcaster and regularly appears on television talking about her books. She is a former chair of Britain's 10,000 strong Society of Authors and lecturer who gives talks to a variety of audiences in the US and UK as well as on cruises and is a Senior Research Fellow at the Institute of Historical Research.