How I Came to Know Fish

Ota Pavel, Author, Robert McDowell, Translator, Jindriska Badal, Translator Story Line Press $16.95 (156p) ISBN 978-0-934257-41-1
In his epilogue the Czech author ( The Death of Beautiful Deer ) admits that these poignant sketches about his childhood were written after he was hospitalized for a mental breakdown. The hurried, tremulous quality of the prose suggests his emotional turmoil, but perhaps it is a result instead of a desire to capture his memories as they tumbled forth. We are introduced to a charming Middle European cast: his father, the top Elektrolux salesman in Czechoslovakia and an avid fisherman; his mother, whose dreams of a vacation in Italy are dashed when her husband buys a stocked carp pond instead; the lethargic, beautiful wife of the Elektrolux firm's director. Most stories revolve around the escapades of the narrator's father and his passion for fishing, which he imparts to his son. Pavel's love for nature is evident in his beautiful descriptions of bucolic prewar Czechoslovakia, which capture the intensity of childhood experience. The mood darkens as the Jewish family is doubly menaced by the Nazi invasion. Pavel's father and older brothers are sent to concentration camps, to return after the war, forever changed. This affecting book was published posthumously in Europe after the author's death in 1973. (July)
Reviewed on: 07/01/1990
Release date: 07/01/1990
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