Shortlisted for the Richard Jefferies Society and White Horse Book Shop Literary Prize
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.
The European eel, Anguilla anguilla, is one of the strangest creatures nature ever created. Remarkably little is known about the eel, even today. What we do know is that it’s born as a tiny willow-leaf-shaped larva in the Sargasso Sea, travels on the ocean currents toward the coasts of Europe - a journey of about 4,000 miles that takes at least two years. Upon arrival, it transforms itself into a glass eel and then into a yellow eel before it wanders up into fresh water. It lives a solitary life, hiding from light and science both, for 10, 20, 50 years, before migrating back to the sea in the autumn, morphing into a silver eel and swimming all the way back to the Sargasso Sea, where it breeds and dies.
And yet...there is still so much we don’t know about eels. No human has ever seen eels reproduce; no one can give a complete account of the eel’s metamorphoses or say why they are born and die in the Sargasso Sea; no human has even seen a mature eel in the Sargasso Sea. Ever. And now the eel is disappearing and we don’t know exactly why.
What we do know is that eels and their mysterious lives captivate us.
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.
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 and others), we get to know this peculiar animal and in this exploration also learn about the human condition, life and death, through natural science and nature writing at its very best.
As Patrik Svensson concludes: '[B]y writing about eels, I have in some ways found my way home again.'
"This is one of those special books...even if it were only a book about eels, it would be wonderful." (Sunday Times)
"What a joy! Patrick Svensson’s sinuous weaving of natural history, philosophy, psychology and autobiography is as compelling and rewarding as a silver eel’s return to the Sargasso Sea. I loved every moment." (Isabella Tree, author of Wilding)
What listeners say about The Gospel of the Eels
Reviews - Please select the tabs below to change the source of reviews.
- Anonymous User
Lovely cross-over book on part scientific, part philosophical enigma
A very unique book in its approach. In style somewhat resembling Other Minds by Godfrey-Smith, but still very much its own catergory.
Mixing detective style excitement about the millenium search to discover the Eel’s many riddles with a very personal journey throuh the authors relation to his father, and the 3-generation journey that transformed Sweden into modernity.
Metaphysical pounderings that happily keeps it within the realms of the physical, but shoot out more questions to contemplate rather than laying down answers.
A book structure and tone of voice very hard to explain in a review - must be read.
Winner of the 2019 August-price (a Swedish litterary award).
If you are not interested in eels you will be after reading this
An easy fascinating compelling listen. Particularly I enjoyed the history of eel science and hunting.