The Paris Review

Interview with the Neanderthal

Jindřich Štyrský, The Cave, 1926, oil on canvas.

THE NEANDERTHAL

I’m already uncomfortable with this.

INTERVIEWER

Why? Are you worried people are going to misunderstand, or … ?

THE NEANDERTHAL

The whole thing is misleading. I’m not even a Neanderthal.

INTERVIEWER

Listen, there’s nothing to worry about. We can start the interview right there on that note. Go ahead and explain the situation.

THE NEANDERTHAL

It’s … I don’t even know where to begin. 

INTERVIEWER

Just tell everybody what you told me. How you started “listening down into yourself,” your Neanderthal DNA and all that.

THE NEANDERTHAL

All right. My belief—and I fully admit I can’t prove any of this—is that the whole thing got started because I was working hard at getting a grip on the differences between nearly identical feelings. My intuition was that there’s a subtle but palpable distinction between, for example, the feeling of being rightly accused. The two feelings seemed identical for most of my life, which caused a lot of problems. But then I started to see—

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