Books

The Gospel of Eels

Sons, fathers and the world’s most mysterious fish

Author
Svensson, Patrik
Swedish title
Ålevangeliet
Pub Date
Aug 16, 2019

Part H is for Hawk, part The Secret Life of Cows, THE GOSPEL OF EELS is a personal reflection on the human condition, a meditation on the relationship between a father and son in their shared passion for eel fishing, and the elusive eel itself

'I don't remember us ever talking about anything else other than eels and what the best way is to fish them down by the river. I don't remember us talking at all actually. It may be because we didn't.' Thus begins Patrik Svensson’s THE GOSPEL OF EELS, a book about eel fishing, about his relationship with his father, as well as a fascinating exposé into the cultural, mythological and scientific life of eels, the world’s most mysterious fish.

Remarkably little is known about the eel, Anguilla anguilla, even today. What we do know is that eels and their mysterious lives captivate us, and this is the basis for Patrik Svensson’s quite unique natural science memoir; his ongoing fascination with this secretive fish, but also the equally perplexing and often murky relationship he shared with his father, whose only passion in life was fishing for this obscure creature.

In a perfectly balanced narrative in alternating chapters, we in turn get to know the complex father and son relationship and connection they shared through the arcane ritual of eel catching; and in every other chapter we find the collective knowledge about eels from Aristotle to the present day. Through the exploration of eels in literature (Günter Grass and Graham Swift feature amongst others) in the history of science (we learn about Aristotle’s and Sigmund Freud’s complicated relationships with eels) as well as modern marine biology (Rachel Carson, Johannes Schmidt and Friedrich-Wilhelm Tesch’s incredibly ambitious endeavours guide us) we get to know this peculiar animal, and in this exploration, also learn about the human condition.

Patrik Svensson concludes “through writing a book about eels, I have, in a way, also returned home.“