The Gospel of Eels

Swedish title: Ålevangeliet

Category: General Non-Fiction / Narrative & General Non-Fiction

Pub date: 30-07-2019

The Gospel of EelsSons, Fathers and The World’s Most Mysterious Fish

Patrik Svensson

Part H Is for Hawk, part The Soul of an Octopus, THE GOSPEL OF EELS is both a meditation on the world’s most elusive fish—the eel—and a reflection on the human condition

Remarkably little is known about the European eel, Anguilla anguilla. So little, in fact, that scientists and philosophers have, for centuries, been obsessed with what has become known as the “eel question”: Where do eels come from? What are they? Are they fish or some other kind of creature altogether? Even today, in an age of advanced science, no one has ever seen eels mating or giving birth, and we still don’t understand what drives them, after living for decades in freshwater, to swim great distances back to the ocean at the end of their lives. They remain a mystery.

Drawing on a breadth of research about eels in literature, history, and modern marine biology, as well as his own experience fishing for eels with his father, Patrik Svensson crafts a mesmerizing portrait of an unusual, utterly misunderstood, and completely captivating animal. In THE GOSPEL OF EELS, we meet renowned historical thinkers, from Aristotle to Sigmund Freud to Rachel Carson, for whom the eel was a singular obsession. And we meet the scientists who spearheaded the search for the eel’s point of origin, including Danish marine biologist Johannes Schmidt, who led research efforts in the early twentieth century, catching thousands upon thousands of eels, in the hopes of proving their birthing grounds in the Sargasso Sea.

Blending memoir and nature writing at its best, Svensson’s journey to understand the eel becomes an exploration of the human condition that delves into overarching issues about our roots and destiny, both as humans and as animals, and, ultimately, how to handle the biggest question of all: death. The result is a gripping and slippery narrative that will surprise and enchant.


“An account of the mysterious life of eels that also serves as a meditation on consciousness, faith, time, light and darkness, and life and death… [Svensson] warns that if we are to save this fascinating creature from extinction, we must continue to study it. His book is a highly readable place to begin learning. Unsentimental nature writing that sheds as much light on humans as on eels.”

— Kirkus Reviews

“What an amazing book.  About eels! — a haunting and extraordinary creature. When Eugenio Montale wanted a metaphor for the revival of Europe after World War II, he found it in a glimpse of a gold-brown eel in a muddy Ligurian stream, and when Rachel Carson wanted to convey to her readers the intricacy of the relationship between salt and fresh water, she imagined the migration of eels. Patrik Svensson explores both their mystery and the science that has brought them into focus in the last few decades and made them seem a vivid indicator species for the health of our planet.”

— Robert Hass, author of Summer Snow

“A wonderful read. The story of the eel is one of the most fascinating on the planet, but equally fascinating is the story Patrik Svensson tells so well here about the mysteries of being.”

— Bernd Heinrich, author of Mind of the Raven

Rights sold

Arabic: Dar al Muna
Bulgarian: Prozoretz
Chinese (simp): Booky
Chinese (comp): Chi Ming
Croatian: Stilus Knjiga
Czech: Albatros
Danish: Gads
Dutch: De Bezige Bij/Thomas Rap
English (UK Com): Picador
English (N Am): Ecco
English (US): Harper Collins US
Estonian: Tänapäev
Finnish: Tammi
French: Le Seuil
German: Hanser
Greek: Metaixmio
Hebrew: Modan
Hungarian: Athenaeum
Icelandic: Benedikt
Italian: Maurispagnol/Guanda
Japanese: Schinchosha Publishing
Korean: Tornado Media
Latvian: Zvaigzne
Lithuanian: Baltos Lankos
Norwegian: Gyldendal Norsk
Polish: Otwarte
Portuguese (EU): Objectiva
Portuguese (BR): Intrinseca
Romanian: Editura Cartea Romaneasca
Russian: Mann, Ivanov & Ferber
Serbian: Vulkan
Slovak: Albatros
Slovenian: Mladinska
Spanish: Libros del Asteroide
Turkish: Domingo
Vietnamese: Huy Hoang

Johanna Lindborg
Johanna Lindborg

Senior Literary Agent | Fiction & Narrative Non-Fiction, Film & TV

+46 737 12 92 02

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