The Gospel of Eels

Sons, fathers and the world’s most mysterious fish

Svensson, Patrik
Swedish title
Pub Date
Aug 16, 2019

Part H is for Hawk, part The Secret Life of Cows, THE GOSPEL OF EELS is a 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 fish itself.

I can’t recall us ever talking about anything other than eels and how to best catch them, down there by the stream. Actually, I can’t remember us speaking at all. Maybe because we never did.’

Thus begins Patrik Svensson’s THE GOSPEL OF EELS, a book about fishing for eels, about his relationship with his father, as well as a fascinating account of the cultural, mythological and scientific life of eels, the world’s most mysterious fish.

In a perfectly balanced and evocative narrative, written in alternating chapters, we get to know the complex father and son relationship through scenes of their eel catching adventures on idyllic Swedish rivers and lakes, and in every other chapter we learn of the collective knowledge about the fish itself, from Aristotle to the present day.

Remarkably little is known about the eel, Anguilla anguilla, even today and in this age of advanced science and knowledge, that sense of mystery captivates us. We don’t even know how they navigate to the Sargasso Sea where they supposedly breed, and no-one has ever seen eels mating.

Through the exploration of eels in literature , in the history of science (both Aristotle and Sigmund Freud had very complex relationships with eels) as well as modern marine biology, we get to see this peculiar animal from different angles. In this exploration, we also learn about the human condition, our origins, fate, life and death, through memoir and nature writing at its best. Patrik Svensson concludes “through writing a book about eels, I have, in a way, also returned home.”