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How I Came to Know Fish


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About the Author

Ota Pavel (1930-1973) worked for much of his short life as a journalist and sports reporter. Despite serious bouts of mental illness he wrote brilliant, lyrical accounts, some collected in How I Came to Know Fish, of his childhood and his family in a Czechoslovakia under overwhelming threat from Nazism.


Several of these interconnected, intensely poignant stories evoke the author's comic fishing trips with his charming father, a champion traveling salesman and avid fisherman. Other pieces evoke the German occupation of Czechoslovakia. In ``The Death of Beautiful Deer,'' the father poaches a deer to give his sons a last good meal before their departure to a concentration camp. In another story, before he is himself deported, the father again risks his life to fish for carp in a pond that as a Jew he no longer owns. This first English translation of Pavel's work captures the magic of his touchingly poetic, bittersweet tales about the joys of fishing, the beauty of nature, and the strength we derive from it. Recommended for public libraries and libraries collecting East European fiction.-- Marie Bednar, Pennsylvania State Univ. Libs., University Park

A moving, bittersweet coming of age . . . A collection that works its magic quietly * Kirkus Reviews *
[The series] sheds remarkable light on the literature, culture and politics of the region...anyone coming fresh to the field will be captivated by the richness, variety, humour and pathos of a classic literature that, through a shared historical experience, transcends national and linguistic boundaries. -- CJ Schuler * Independent on Sunday *
This [series] is a wonderful idea ... They are absurdist parables, by turns hilarious, unsettling and enigmatic. -- Nicholas Lezard * Guardian *
I urge you to go and read them. -- Adam Thirlwell * New Statesman *
This new series of Central European Classics is important well beyond simply providing 'good reads'. -- Stephen Vizinczey * Daily Telegraph *

Pavel's poignant autobiographical stories based on his childhood in bucolic, pre-war Czechoslovakia include beautiful descriptions of the countryside and reminiscences about his father's infectious passion for fishing. ``The hurried, tremulous quality of the prose suggests Pavel's emotional turmoil, but perhaps it is a result instead of a desire to capture his memories as they tumbled forth,'' said PW. (May)

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