- 30 May 18
With the recent rise of the far right in Europe and the US, Edmund de Waal’s classic memoir The Hare With Amber Eyes offers a chilling warning from history.
Edmund de Waal’s memoir The Hare With Amber Eyes did the rounds up here on Hog Heights after it was published in 2010. It has a special resonance for us. Our late beloved chatelaine took it with her when she set out on a mission not unlike de Waal’s – to uncover the story of her grand-aunt Elizabeth, who died in Istanbul in the 1930s.
It had been a lifelong interest, piqued by a small file of documents, moved from one house to another over 70 years. Elizabeth had worked as a governess in fin-de-siecle Paris, then Biarritz early in the Great War, followed by Madrid in 1917, the Basque country in the early 1920s and finally Istanbul in 1926. She died there in 1930 at 59 years of age.
Her last employers were an Italian Sephardic Jewish family, Matteo and Suzanne Tazartes. The couple were married in the Italian synagogue in Constantinople. They had two children. Aldo was born in 1924 and Giorgio in 1927. Elizabeth lived with them in the Karakoy Building, at the north end of Galata Bridge, which spans the Golden Horn across to Eminönü. It is still there, full of financial services. Matteo Tazartes ran a large tobacco company. But he was also a Commandeur de la Légion d’Honneur, an award conferred for services rendered to France, and the Couronne d’Italie.