an intensely personal history of porcelain

Af847877-1357-4422-8afa-f1b34066a19dAN Wilson at the Financial Times:

In The White Road, de Waal turns his attention to porcelain — from its Chinese origins to Meissen, Wedgwood and the present day — and to humanity’s obsession with producing whiter than white ceramics. As with the earlier book, this becomes a scorchingly personal story. Every stage in the material’s history becomes a pilgrimage, as de Waal follows in the footsteps of the potters and travellers who discovered the clay and stone that porcelain is made of, and celebrates the beautiful objects that humanity has fashioned from this ingenious conjunction.

Readers who had only heard of, but not read, The Hare with Amber Eyes might have wondered what was so interesting about how a collection of little bibelots moved from pillar to post; those who had read the book could reply that what made it a page-turner was de Waal’s skill at explaining human passion as it survives in objects. Likewise the new book is no dry history of old pots. It is a story about — well, about skills and artistry, certainly, and about politics too. It is also a disquisition on whiteness, and its different meanings. “I’ve read Moby-Dick,” de Waal writes. “So I know the dangers of white. I think I know the dangers of an obsession with white, the pull towards something so pure, so total in its immersive possibility that you are transfigured, changed, feel you can start again.”

more here.