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:


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