Prehistory is all around us. We just need to know where to look.
Juan José Millás has always felt like he doesn't quite fit into human society. Sometimes he wonders if he is even a Homo sapiens at all. Perhaps he is a Neanderthal who somehow survived? So he turns to Juan Luis Arsuaga, one of the world's leading palaeontologists and a super-smart sapiens, to explain why we are the way we are and where we come from.
Over the course of many months the two visit different places, many of them common scenes of our daily lives, and others unique archaeological sites. Arsuaga tries to teach the Neanderthal how to think like a sapiens and, above all, that prehistory is not a thing of the past: that traces of humanity through the millennia can be found anywhere, from a cave or a landscape to a children's playground or a toy shop.
Millás and Arsuaga invite you on a journey of wonder that unites scientific discovery with the greatest human invention of all: the art of storytelling.
Juan José Millás is a bestselling and multi-award-winning Spanish novelist and short-story writer, and an award-winning regular contributor to major Spanish newspapers. His narrative works have been translated into more than 20 languages, and include the novels From the Shadows and None Shall Sleep.
Juan Luis Arsuaga is a professor of palaeontology at the Complutense University of Madrid and the director of the Human Evolution and Behaviour Institute. He is a member of the American National Academy of Sciences and of the Musée de l’Homme of Paris, a visiting professor at University College London, and a co-director of excavations at the Sierra de Atapuerca World Heritage site. He is a regular contributor to Nature, Science, and the American Journal of Physical Anthropology, is the editor of the Journal of Human Evolution, and is a regular lecturer at the universities of London, Cambridge, Berkeley, New York, Tel Aviv, and Zurich, among others. The recipient of many national and international awards, he is the author of more than a dozen works.
Thomas Bunstead is a writer and translator, and currently a Royal Literary Fellow at Aberystwyth University (2021–23). His recent translations include Portrait of an Unknown Lady by María Gainza and Skin by Sergio del Molino.
Daniel Hahn is a writer, editor, and translator, with some eighty books to his name. His work has won him the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize and the International Dublin Literary Award, and has been shortlisted for the Man Booker International Prize, among many others. His recent translations include Diamela Eltit’s Never Did the Fire, a novel, and Sidarta Ribeiro’s The Oracle of Night, a nonfiction book about neuroscience and dreaming.
"Dazzling [...] The charming result of this collaboration combines Millás's surreal, ironic humour and beautiful reflections with Arsuaga's expertise, expressed with sharp and surprising observations and an ability to bring prehistory up to date."
– Rebecca Wragg Sykes, New Scientist
"A very special book indeed: a passionate, sympathetic portrait of one life scientist's world view."
– Simon Ings, The Telegraph
"Written with humour and lightly-worn learning, this book makes the familiar strange and the strange uncannily familiar; a fascinating journey into our shared prehistory via the shops, galleries, restaurants, playgrounds, and parks of a twenty-first century city."
– Helen Gordon, author of Notes from Deep Time: A Journey Through Our Past and Future World
"Millás is one of the writers with the most truth per square centimetre of a page."
– Antonio Iturbe, What to Read
"Absorbing, amusing, and enlightening; a charming exploration not only of evolution, but of human enquiry and wonder."
– Rebecca Wragg Sykes, author of Kindred: Neanderthal life, love, Death and Art
"We like wise men to explain things to us and understand each other. This is what Arsuaga does wonderfully in his book, a luminous treatise on life, the universe, and human existence."
– Víctor M. Amela, La Vanguardia
"Juan José Millás is the owner of a fantastic territory of unquestionable personality."
– J.E. Ayala-Dip, El País
"Juan Luis Arsuaga has recounted that prodigious start of human life with all the force of the great chronicles of travel and discoveries, with his double talent as a storyteller and scientist."
– Antonio Muñoz Molina
"Millás takes advantage of the present to tell us about his life, to express his perplexity, which is ours, before the passing of the world [...] Navigating through it allows our imagination to travel."
– Fernando Delgado, La Opinion
"[Arsuaga] is one of the world's leading experts on the evolution of our species, as well as a prestigious scientist and a born populariser."
– Ixone Díaz Landaluce, ABC
"Novelist Millás [...] and palaeontologist Arsuaga combine forces in this introspective and playful exploration of human prehistory and evolution [...] Erudite yet fun, this is an illuminating trip into the past."
– Publishers Weekly