Edmund de Waal: Letters to Camondo
Letters to Camondo is a collection of imaginary letters from Edmund de Waal to Count Moïse de Camondo (1860–1935), a banker and art collector who created a spectacular house in Paris and filled it with an exquisite collection of art objects.
The Camondos were a Jewish family from Constantinople who made their home in Paris in the 1870s and became philanthropists, art collectors, and fixtures of Belle Époque high society, as well as targets of anti-Semitism—much like de Waal’s relations, the Ephrussi family, who lived a few doors away. Moïse de Camondo transformed the mansion into a monument to his son, Nissim, who was killed in World War I, and upon his own death in 1935 bequeathed the house and its contents to the French state; the following year, it opened to the public as the Musée Nissim de Camondo.
Invited to make an exhibition in this historic house, de Waal began to write a series of letters to its former owner. In more than fifty deeply personal missives, he reflects on assimilation, melancholy, family, art, the vicissitudes of history, and the value of memory.