Eels defy many human categories and in doing so have obsessed the likes of Artistotle, Pliny the Elder, Isaak Walton, Sigmund Freud, Rachel Carson, countless marine biologists, and one Patrik Svensson, a Swedish journalist.
Centuries upon centuries passed in which European historians, scientists, and fisherfolk strove to understand basic facts about eels: did they have gender, how did they mate, did they give birth to live young, and why after spending most of their lives in fresh water, do they swam back to the sea to die—some of which are still unanswered. Eels of the European variety are nocturnal and shy; to this day, no one has ever bred them in captivity.
As Svennson recounts the natural history of human interest in eels, he also tells the story of his eel-fishing expeditions with his father in a Swedish freshwater stream. And from these stories a portrait emerges of eels and those who become obsessed with them, those who search for neat definitions but have to become comfortable outside them.