Author Edmund de Waal's “Extraordinary Discovery” at the Hoover Archives

Wednesday, December 7, 2011
Elisabeth de Waal's letters to Eric Voegelin, box 39, Eric Voegelin papers.
Elisabeth de Waal's letters to Eric Voegelin, box 39, Eric Voegelin papers.

Edmund de Waal, author of The Hare with Amber Eyes: A Family’s Century of Art and Loss, visited the Hoover Archives this fall. His book traces the history of his paternal grandmother's family, using their collection of netsuke as his touchstone. At Hoover, de Waal viewed a cache of letters from his grandmother to Eric Voegelin, an Austrian political scientist whose papers are at Hoover. Connections, an entry in the blog Hoover Archivists' Musings, explains the link between Elisabeth de Waal and Voegelin and tells how The Hare with Amber Eyes led to the acquisition of more letters between the two, setting the stage for de Waal’s visit to Hoover.

Hours after de Waal left the Hoover Archives, he appeared in conversation with Barbara Lane at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. Near the end of their conversation (minute 47), just before taking audience questions, Lane prompted de Waal to talk about the “extraordinary discovery” he had made at Hoover that afternoon. De Waal, in telling them about a “huge, huge bundle of letters from 1926 onwards” then says that “the wonderful archivist said to me, ‘And somewhere in the seventies your grandmother writes about you.’”