Life As Told by a Sapiens to a Neanderthal

Scribe. Oct. 2022. 224p. tr. from Spanish by Thomas Bunstead & Daniel Hahn. ISBN 9781957363066. pap. $18. ANTHRO
This book is an eclectic nonfiction vehicle for information that will push the curious reader toward further research and leave the casual reader with a colorful experience. Told from the first-person perspective of Spanish novelist Millás (None Shall Sleep) as he meets leading paleontologist Arsuaga (Human Evolution and Behaviour Inst.; Green Fire) to look at cave paintings, sex toys, and playground seesaws. It is a whimsical ride that constantly threatens to jump the rails from nonfiction into magic realism. While exploring a subject as serious as the evolution of humanity, Millás constantly digresses into various other descriptions of Spanish landscapes, miserable weather, culinary forays, the varieties and effects of cold medication, and the discomfiture of bystanders to the authors’ public lectures. Part of the fun of this tour of Spain in a Nissan Juke is that Millás portrays himself as an unreliable narrator, focusing on details that are entirely self-absorbed or telling the reader things that are not true before being corrected later.
VERDICT Although an indirect way to approach a subject, even in translation there is literary sparkle to the text and plenty to learn.
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