Ota Pavel

Ota Pavel

Ota Pavel (1930–1973), born in Prague, originally intended to be a professional ice hockey player, but when an injury sidelined him, he turned to sports writing. He worked as a journalist for many years, but that had to be put on hold when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. The next period in his life proved to be the most productive; it was during these years that he wrote How I Came to Know Fish. He died of a heart attack in 1973.

How I Came to Know Fish

Fiction by Ota Pavel

Unassuming and unforgettable, the stories of How I Came to Know Fish memorialize Ota Pavel’s childhood in Czechoslovakia––his beloved family, the flash of fish in clear streams, and the annihilation of this world by the Nazis. His father (a wildly canny fisherman) first has his fish pond confiscated (“How can a Jew breed carp?”) and then, with his two older sons, is sent to a concentration camp. Too young to work in the camps, Ota remains with his gentile mother.…
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I know that one day we will go back to Isla Negra, that Pablo’s people will enter through that door and will find in every stone, in every leaf, in every seagull’s cry, the always-living poetry of that man who loved them so much.

—Julio Cortázar
< P. Lal Nayantara Sahgal >