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How I Came to Know Fish (Penguin Translated Texts) Paperback – 6 May 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (6 May 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141192836
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141192833
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 0.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 280,653 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


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 Schüler 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 )

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.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mr Dog on 23 Jun. 2010
Format: Paperback
"How I Came To Know Fish" flickers with memory as Ota Pavel remembers his boyhood and youth, spent fishing in and around the countryside just outside of Prague - before and during the second world war- a time when Czechoslovakia was annexed by the Germans. The overlapping stories he tells have a lyrical cadence and rhythm bordering at times on the magical in their powers of description. At the same time darker undercurrents tug at the tales of high jinx and adventure, especially those of his beloved father, who as a Jew, is persecuted by the Germans, and who, for example, has to secretly fish out his beloved carp whilst the Wehrmact sleep. There is a sense of loss, and change, which takes on a greater poignance, after one reads the author's epilogue, where in he tells us how the book came into being in the first place. "How I Came to Know Fish" is a gentle, understated book, that made me laugh and feel sad almost at the same time, life affirming in the author's love of his father, fishing and of nature and left me wishing I could read more - a slender book with deeper currents.
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Format: Paperback
Arrived in time and in good condition

Contenwise a five stars. A charming, very moving story, apparently simple, but with dark under tones i stays with the reader.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 8 reviews
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Fishing against a backdrop of war. 21 Dec. 1998
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This gentle, unassuming book is one of the most powerful I have ever read. It is the story of a young boy's experiences with life as his days change from idyllic afternoons of fishing to the realities of WWII. Much more than a book about fishing, though it contains many wonderful espisodes about fish and fishing, it is a recounting of the hardships, terrors, and ultimate kindnesses that populate war. As you will learn, fish and fishing became the metaphor for freedom for Ota Pavel.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
more than a fishing book 13 May 1999
By - Published on
Format: Paperback
I fell quickly and completely in love with this book. Unpretentious, disarmingly honest, simple without being simplistic. It's also sneaky -- it purports to be a memoir of a simple, arcadian time and place, then blindsides you with the realization that this was not such a simple time after all. I wish I could give it six stars.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer - Published on
Format: Hardcover
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Excellent depiction of people - in their complexity. 19 Dec. 2000
By M. J. Smith - Published on
Format: Paperback
One sentence on the first page caught my attention - the remainder of the book continued to hold my attention with the same mastery of depicting the complexity of people in simple terms. The sentence? "He could plow and sow, milk cows, cook potato pancakes, find wild boletus mushrooms even out of season, ferry people in his boat during high waters, weave baskets, hunt deer, rescue travelers and half-frozen animals, silence the stupid, and he knew how to laugh." - that is the description of Uncle Prosek who, to the young narrator, knew how to do everything.
It is Uncle Prosek who taught the narrator to fish, who helped the narrator's Jewish father poach a deer ... The independent chapters which make up this novel tell of the family adventures before the war - father becoming the world's best Electrolux salesman for the love of the wife of his boos, falling for a scam on purchasing a carp pond and years later giving the scam artist appropriate revenge. During the war, the two older sons and the father are sent to concentration camps; they survive but grandmother does not. Here the novels tells of the narrator's escapades fishing to survive - encountering mill owners who cheat him and fish wardens who act kindly to him. And finally the book follows his father into life after the war.
Throughout the book, the ability of the author to depict people - an attribute the narrator ascribes both to the narrator's father and to a famous painter known to the father - makes this "simple" memoir into a memorable study of human behavior. This is human behavior of the roguish, flawed but fundamentally kind nature.
Fishermen may enjoy this book but the book is of human nature, portrayed in conjunction with fishing, not a book of fishing. Well worth the short time it takes to read this book.
A story of a very tough life 16 Mar. 2014
By Geoff Anderson - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed the book because although it is very simply written it gives the reader an understanding of how things were at that very difficult time in history.The book was recommended to me by our daughter who is a teacher in Europe.
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