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  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784744311
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $32.99

Letters to Camondo

A haunting sequence of imagined letters to the Count de Camondo -- the owner of a Parisian palace filled with beautiful objects, turned into a memorial for his lost son -- by the bestselling author of The Hare with Amber Eyes

'Consistently illuminating... considered, compassionate and appreciative... This book is a wonderful tribute to a family and to an idea' Guardian
63 rue de Monceau, Paris
Dear friend,
As you may have guessed by now, I am not in your house by accident. I know your street rather well.
Count Moïse de Camondo lived a few doors away from Edmund de Waal's forebears, the Ephrussi, first encountered in his bestselling memoir The Hare with Amber Eyes. Like the Ephrussi, the Camondos were part of belle époque high society. They were also targets of anti-semitism.

Camondo created a spectacular house and filled it with the greatest private collection of French eighteenth-century art for his son to inherit. But when Nissim was killed in the First World War, it became a memorial and, on the Count's death, was bequeathed to France.

The Musée Nissim de Camondo has remained unchanged since 1936. Edmund de Waal explores the lavish rooms and detailed archives and uncovers new layers to the family story. In a haunting series of letters addressed to the Count, he tells us what happened next.

'Letters to Camondo immerses you in another age... de Waal creates a dazzling picture of what it means to live graciously' Financial Times
'Subtle and thoughtful and nuanced and quiet. It is demanding but rewarding' The Times

  • Published: 4 May 2021
  • ISBN: 9781784744311
  • Imprint: Chatto & Windus
  • Format: Hardback
  • Pages: 192
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

Edmund de Waal

Edmund de Waal is an artist whose porcelain is exhibited in museums and galleries around the world. His bestselling memoir, The Hare with the Amber Eyes, won the RSL Ondaatje prize and the Costa Biography Award and in 2015 he was awarded the Windham-Campbell prize for non-fiction by Yale University. He lives in London with his family.


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Praise for Letters to Camondo

De Waal's elegant prose, rapt eye for aesthetics, subtle character sketches, and nuanced musings on Jewish identity yield a rich, Proustian recreation of a lost era

Publishers Weekly

More than chronicling the [Camondo] family's splendor and tragic end, de Waal has created a deeply hued tapestry of a lost time and a poetic meditation on grief, memory, and the fragile consolation of art... A radiant family history.


Letters to Camondo immerses you in another age - one as sharply torn with rifts and bigotry, political uncertainty and changing fortunes as our own - but also a time of grace and the deliberate cultivation of pleasure... de Waal creates a dazzling picture of what it means to live graciously

Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times

Moving... beautifully produced... I visited the Musee Nissim de Camondo some dozen years ago. Now I long to go back

Gillian Tindall, Literary Review

De Waal's ability to conjure up the personality of a character long dead through his possessions is a joy... A moving picture of the Jewish condition in Europe, always ready for flight once the scapegoating begins again, is made starkly apparent... In de Waal's hands objects stand for much bigger truths, of questions of loss and injustice

Oliver Basciano, ArtReview

I was deeply moved... [de Waal] has found a way to meditate on exile, migration and polarisation that feels painfully relevant

Johanna Thomas-Corr, Sunday Times

Letters to Camondo... is subtle and thoughtful and nuanced and quiet. It is demanding but rewarding. It will make you think differently about trunks in the attic and it will make you read old letters with new eyes

Laura Freeman, The Times

Letters to Camondo tells de Waal's version of the Camondo story... layers of memories, hopes, fears embedded in the Musée Camondo brought alive...remarkable

Jackie Wullschläger, Financial Times

Consistently illuminating... excellently illustrated... De Waal's excavation of the meanings of assimilation is considered, compassionate and appreciative of its costs... he is a wise guide to people and things that are dispersed and are collected... This book is a wonderful tribute to a family and to an idea

Nicholas Wroe, Guardian

This is a marvellous book, elegant, tender, loving, appreciative, disturbing, a reminder of both the fragility and resilience of high culture, indeed civilisation

Allan Massie, Scotsman

A slim elegant volume of beautifully written letters

Louise Carpenter, The Times

Enchanting... the prose is immaculately polished. [Edmund de Waal's] intelligence and scholarship are fastidious, his sensibility quivers like the wings of a hummingbird

Rupert Christiansen, The Telegraph

de Waal's history, gives Letters to Camondo an undeniable emotional intensity

Brendan King, Times Literary Supplement

de Waal is a writer of grace and restlessly enquiring intelligence, and Letters to Camondo succeeds admirably... Edmund de Waal's beautiful book opens a window onto an entire lost world

Ian Thomson, Evening Standard

A rich and gorgeous meditation on art and grief... Beautifully written, elegantly odd and wonderfully immersive, this is a book like no other

Daunt Books

De Waal's sentences like to take the historical weight of the objects he describes, in prose that often puts you in mind of Bruce Chatwin, that other aesthete magically in thrall to painfully buried European history. He builds a picture of Camondo accumulating belongings in an extravagant effort at belonging... [an] unforgettable book

Tim Adams, Observer

De Waal's gentle and thoughtful probing is persuasive and his exploration of the family history after the count's death in 1935 - especially the deaths of family members under the Nazis - is both poignant and unforced

Michael Prodger, New Statesman

The form of a series of letters to Camondo... [is] an inspired idea, for it allows de Waal to achieve an intimacy of tone and directness of expression... a powerful address that is both a rupture with and a binding to all that precedes it

Laurel Berger, Spectator

A fascinating portrait of the French collector Count Moise de Camondo

A Little Bird, *Summer Reads of 2021*

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