The Patron Saint of Eels

Gregory Day’s The Patron Saint of Eels is a work of magical realism written as a modern fable that produces a problematic of migration and change. See reviews from The Age and transcript of a discussion with the author.

The narrator, Noel, and the rest of the rural town of Mangowak, wake one morning after heavy rain to find the ditches around the roads of the town full of eels that had been caugfht up in the overflow of the nearby lake and swamp. The plight of the displaced eels is resolved by Fra Ionio, a 300 year old monk, the Patron Saint of Eels. Ionio calms the eels down so they can return to their habit at the bottom of the lake.

The eels and Ionio capture the dynamic of forced displacement mirroring the displacement of the ‘old’ town by ‘seachange’ urban-rural migrants and tourists, and the uncanny experience of the ageing process as one is displaced from the life of one’s younger self.

Day’s antidote to this uncanny sensation of being displaced as the world and one’s self changes is to recognise the magic of the world. Not the extraordinary magic of the supernatural, but the extraodinary produced in the ordinary, the magic of the everyday and the overlooked dimension of the familar world.