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An Evening with Alastair Sawday

20th October, 2021, Steyning Cricket Club

The Gospel of the Eels

The Gospel of the Eels : A Father, a Son and the World's Most Enigmatic Fish

This is a lovely exploration of the complicated natural history of the eel, and of those entangled in its slimy coils, from Aristotle and Freud, to the author and his father. After nearly two and a half thousand years of study, we now know the rough outline of the eels’ lifecycle. It is born as a willow-leaf shaped larva in the Sargasso Sea, drifts across the Atlantic to the rivers of Europe, becoming a glass eel, and then a yellow eel, spending decades in murky freshwater, before undergoing its final transformation to a silver eel and travelling four thousand miles back across the Atlantic to breed in its birthplace. However, no-one has ever seen an eel reproduce, or been able to give a complete account of their metamorphoses, or even seen a mature eel in the Sargasso Sea. And no-one really knows why they are disappearing. This is a beautiful and fascinating book, its gentle melancholy coming from the fact that it is in fact an elegy, to Svensson’s father, and their relationship – conducted largely through eel-fishing – and perhaps to the eel itself, whose catastrophic declines may never recover.

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