Thursday 2 July 2020

Ashes to Ashes, Eel to Eel (2020)

As a teenager, I spent many sunday afternoons happily fishing on the Shropshire Union canal. My favourite fish were crucian carp. My least favourite were eels (Anguilla anguilla). At the time I never knew how strange their full life-cycle was, or how they had been a mainstay of uncanny (unheimlich) literature. HERE is an extract from The Book of Eels, by Patrik Svensson - translated by Agnes Broomé. The extract describes a number of stories involving eels - this is what Svensson says about Waterland by Graham Swift:
Toward the end, Tom Crick tells his students about the eel itself. About the eel question and its scientific history, with all its guesswork and mysteries and misunderstandings. About Aristotle and the theory of the eel springing from mud. About Linnaeus, who thought the eel was self-propagating. About the famous Comacchio eel, about Mondini’s discovery and Spallanzani’s questioning of it. About Johannes Schmidt and his dogged search for the eel’s birthplace. About the curiosity that drove them all. This is what the eel can teach us, Tom Crick argues. It tells us something about the curiosity of humankind, about our unquenchable need to seek the truth and understand where everything comes from and what it means. But also about our need for mystery. “Now there is much the eel can tell us about curiosity—rather more indeed than curiosity can inform us of the eel.”