So Much More than Fishing
How I Came to Know Fish Ota Pavel
Translation Robert McDowell
An exceptional collection of stories about a magical childhood during the Nazi occupation. One of Czech literature’s best-loved classics.
A moving, bittersweet coming of age… A collection that works its magic quietly
The book consists of eight short stories packed with memories of both a happy childhood before the war and the bitter survival of a mixed Jewish family under the German occupation. The main character is the author’s father, Leo Popper, with his little love affairs, sense of humour and love of fish and water in general. Pavel’s mother tolerated her husband’s affairs. His Uncle Prosek was a jack-of-all-trades, a poacher devoted to the natural surroundings of Krivoklat and the Berounka River. Pavel’s pared-down language fits the delicate subject matter of these stories, which recreate his childhood. The solace and tenderness flowing from these pages conceal a disquieting undercurrent that eventually overpowers everything. At first glance a clutch of childhood memories, the book is actually one of the most powerful pieces of literature dealing with the disillusionment that accompanies adulthood, set against the drama of the war at a level so deeply personal that it can leave no reader indifferent.
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