A Brazilian Poet’s Perspective on a Fishy Human Connection

Cover of Humaniqueness by Glauco Ortolano Glauco Ortolano, a Brazilian poet and writer, who teaches college in the US has just released his first book in English. It's Humaniqueness: The Gift of Your Inner God," a well-humored response to yet another book recently published by a paleontologist who claims he has found the missing link between the human origins and fish from 350 billion years ago.

Ortolano writes from the perspective of a poet attempting to discredit such theory. His non-fiction work deals with "humaniqueness" or, as the Brazilian author sees it, the unique faculties that make human beings so different from all other species that have ever lived on the planet.

"Humans," the poet says, "are the most singular of all species. We are the only species able to compose music, write poetry, worship gods, explore space, drink vodka and write bad checks. What other species can claim such unique packet?"

The idea for the book came after Ortolano read a recent publication written by a respected paleontologist who tied human origins to fish that lived 350 billion years ago. Ortolano claims that after reading that book he can no longer enjoy going to a sushi bar.

From a quintessential poem by yet another South American poet, Vicente Huidobro, Ortolano builds an interesting paradigm to illustrate why humans are indeed small gods as Huidobro writes in his Poetic Art.

"Human beings have some key cognitive abilities that led us to a total different form of evolution when compared to the other animals, and this evolution of the brain is what has made our cultural evolution possible. And that's why I like to say that Humaniqueness is not for fish.

"I doubt fish would find any humor in my book at all. After all, these unique cognitive abilities are what made it possible for us to create the hook, the net and canned sardines," continues Ortolano. "Your inner god is that little someone who resides within your body and utters profound words of truth and wisdom," he concludes.

Glauco Ortolano is a poet, novelist, essayist, and scholar most recently at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania.

Among his works one finds Domingos Vera Cruz, a historical novel acclaimed by daily newspaper O Globo as "the greatest Brazilian odyssey of all times."

He is also known for the many articles he has published at World Literature Today including interviews with Paulo Coelho and Ana Maria Machado translated and published in many languages around the world.


Just prior to the end of my last semester as a lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, I was strolling down Locust walk on an early spring day when I read in The Daily Pennsylvanian about the intriguing work of a paleontologist related to the evolution of the human body. His basic concept is that our bodies have evolved from aquatic species that invaded land 3.5 billion years ago.

Entering freshman students at Penn that year were being encouraged to read that book. My inner and eternal freshman simply could not ignore the calling and prompted me to get a copy the next day.

I must confess that his well constructed "fish tale" has given me some wonderful insights not only on the possible evolution of the human body, but also in regards to the minds of paleontologists. I never knew they could possess such keen sense of humor. So much for evolution!

But far from being a brilliant paleontologist like Dr. Cod (a fictitious but well deserved name for the author) I fall in a very different category within the academic spectrum. I'm a linguist but not the kind that falls in the natural sciences. And I'm also a poet, which, I must add, is a species that does not belong to academia.

The author can be reached at ortolanos@hotmail.com or by phone at 215-922-2312.


Humaniqueness: The Gift of Your Inner God
(ISBN: 978-1-4357-3737-2)
Available at:


  • Show Comments (10)

  • Joyce Cava

    True Great Minds
    written by Jonn Mero, 2008-07-15 06:13:46

    Leonardo da Vinci was a a scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, painter, sculptor, architect, botanist, musician and writer. He experimented not only with the “tangible” things scientists seem to need in order to understand the world but also with the intangible things related to the mysteries of the human soul, God, and prophecies & revelations. He never referred to these things as “fantasies” and because of the respect he had for the divine he became immortal. A man who looks to the world only through his scienctific eyes end up seeing himself as just another animal. Let’s try not to limit our potential to just one discipline – and that’s what Glauco Ortolano’s book is all about.

  • Jonn Mero

    Glauco Ortolano is well published
    written by Joyce Cava, 2008-07-11 09:54:03

    Joyce, William Shakespear is also “well published”, but if you had ever gone to a university library you would not find many of his publications under “Science”.
    Heard about comparing apples and oranges? No??
    A poet may invoke god,jesus and the rest of the fantasy crowd in his writings, but a scientist needs something more tangible.

  • Gabriel Baez

    Humaniqueness is unique
    I have read both books being discussed on this thread. While I enjoyed mildly reading “Your Inner Fish” as an interesting attempt to explain the evolution of the human body,”Humaniqueness” has captured my imagination and given me a warm feeling. Glauco Ortolano has the gift to make us ponder about the small things that many times we take for granted about our own unique characteristics. After reading “Humaniqueness”, I started to look at the world differently. The other day I went to visit a friend at the hospital and I realized how truly blessed humans are for possessing the intelligence to build hospitals, improve technology, form doctors and nurses, and save lives. Glauco Ortolano has inspired me as only the best poets are able to. “Humaniqueness” belongs to the best libraries and bookstores in the country.

  • Joyce Cava

    3.5 Billion Years of the HUMAN BODY???
    Daniel Phelps seems to have a problem discerning things he reads. He cannot tell the writer from the article above from the book Mr. Ortolano wrote, but he seems to find his own justification for attacking the reputation of a great writer by calling him a “jackass”. If he is so interested in defending his colleague who wrote “Your Inner Fish”, how can he justify a subtitle such as “A Journey of 3.5 BILLION YEAR HISTORY OF THE HUMAN BODY”. Phelps himself states that 3.5 billion years ago there were no fish, and obviously no human bodies, only early organisms which are procaroyotes. Making the conclusion that human bodies were originated from these procaroyotes, as Dr. Schubin attempted, is actually the absurdity Phelps wants to attribute to others. And if there were no human bodies 3.5 billion years ago, nor any REAL evidence that human bodies started to develop during that time, then Mr. Phelps’ ridiculous defense can only be treated with humor as Mr. Ortolano did. Being a paleontologist does not give the authority to anyone to try to present his “scientific evidences” as the ultimate explanation for the mysteries that involve our existence on this planet. As Mr. Ortolano points out so beautifully in his book , there has to be something divine about our humaniqueness. The reason I enjoyed so much reading HUMANIQUENESS lies exactly in the fact it made me think beyond these scientific explanations people like Phelps sees as the only path to ascend to truth. But there is one thing I disagree with Mr. Ortolano though. After reading Your Inner Fish I would not call Dr. Schubin “brilliant” as Mr. Ortolano did.

  • Daniel Phelps

    Read _Your Inner Fish_
    Only Mr. Ortolano has claimed life existed 350 billion years ago. He and his followers here aparently have not read _Your Inner Fish_ and keep repeating this absurdity. The sub-title of the book mentions 3.5 billion years (NOTE THE DECIMAL POINT). If one had actually read the book they would know that the date of 3.5 billion years does not refer to any fish, but some of the earliest organisms which are procaroyotes. Procaryotes are neither plants nor animals, their modern representatives include bacteria and blue green algae (monera). Vertebrates are not thought to have left water until the Devonian Period, which is literally billions of years after life originated. Fish did not exist 350 billion years ago or 3.5 billion years ago. All of this is evidence that Mr. Ortilano either did not read _Your Inner Fish_ or has a most odd misinterpretation/misunderstanding of what he did read.
    _Humaniqueness_ is not listed on the Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble websites. Lulu Press appears to be a self publishing business. Why didn’t the university publish this? Will Mr. Ortolano revise his work or put an errata sheet in to point out that he has misrepresented Dr. Neil Shubin’s scientific work and cannot understand a decimal point? Will the respected scholar apologize for calling Dr. Shubin “Dr. Cod”?

  • Joyce Cava

    Who is the jackass here?
    Daniel Phelps is trying to discredit this wonderful book by calling Mr. Ortolano “an anti-intellectual jackass”. Phelps should be more carefull in choosing his words, after all, the subtitle of “Your Inner Fish” is “A Journey into the 3.5-BILLION-Year History of the Human Body”. Mr. Ortolano asserts that the paleontogist who wrote that book claims to have found the “missing link” between the human origins and fish that lived 350 billion years ago. He never wrote that Tiktaalik lived 350 billion years ago as Phelps is suggesting. If Tiktaalik is the “missing link” then there must have been something before that.

  • Jacob Miller

    Your Inner God
    Wow, this looks very interesting! I have often pondered this subject myself–the human experience is so distinctly different from that of any other animal; it is clear that we were made in God’s image. Scientists rave on and on about our close “cousins” in the animal kingdom when they find out that dolphins know how to communicate that they are hungry or a monkey learns to type his name. I am thinking, “humans freakin’ built the sonar machine and computer to figure this stuff out! Dolphins and monkeys are cute and extremely well adapted for their environments, but the comparison to humans is a little much!”

  • Glauco Ortolano

    Please don’t lie about their age
    According to “Your Inner Fish” Tiktaalik lived only 375 million years ago and not 380 million years ago. And five million years is a long time to be overlooked considering we only have some thousands of years of recorded human history. I supect Tiktaalik would be offended with the misrepresentation of their age, especially the females.

  • Daniel Phelps

    He probably didn’t even read _Your Inner Fish_
    Tiktaalik lived about 380 million years ago, not 350 BILLION years ago. I suspect Ortolano didn’t even read the book. Ortolano certainly reveals himself to be an anti-intellectual jackass rather than a fish.

  • Adriana

    Ignorant poet
    I feel bad for you. An embarrasment for Brazilian science.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

comment *

  • name *

  • email *

  • website *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


You May Also Like

The Long Goodbye

Death, which is rarely kind, was its unkindest, this beginning of year, taking away ...

Five Indian Kids Die for Lack of Medical Help in Amazonas, Brazil

In Brazil, the health condition of indigenous peoples in the Javari Valley, west of ...

Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was killed by British police

British Officers Who Killed Brazilian by Mistake Won’t Be Punished

Eleven British police officers involved in the fatal shooting of a Brazilian man wrongly ...

Portugal Company Has Energy Plans for Brazil Including Wind Power

Portuguese energy sector company Energias de Portugal (EDP), is discussing with the Algerian Sonatrach ...

Brazilians Protest US Nun’s Murder

Brazilian representatives of non-governmental organizations, the landless, performers, lawmakers, and intellectuals met in the ...

Brazil’s Attorney General Goes After Those Involved in Vote-Buying Scandal

Regarding the decision by Brazil’s Attorney-General of the Republic, Antônio Fernando de Souza, to ...

Argentina Will Probe Charges That Its Military Smuggled Weapons to Brazil

The Argentinean government will help Brazil in the clarification of accusations concerning the supposed ...

US and UK Main Beneficiaries of Brazil’s US$ 152 Billion Foreign Investment

The transfer of money from Brazil abroad, turned to financial investment both by natural ...

Brazil’s Foreign Debt Falls to US$ 165 Bi, 25% of GDP, Best Ratio in 30 Years

Indicators included in the Quarterly Inflation Report, released Wednesday, December 28, by Brazil’s Central ...

US Fed Offers Currency Swap Lines to Brazil, UK, Switzerland

According to Brazil's Central Bank President, Henrique Meirelles, the extension of a US Federal ...