Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

The Other Left Side

Left and Right in Evolution and Other Essays

by Tijs Goldschmidt


Translated by Sherry Macdonald

In essays like “How to Fake Faking,” and the title essay, “The Other Left Side: the Phenomenon of Left and Right in Evolution,” the evolutionary biologist and animal ecologist Tijs Goldschmidt shatters our expectations of what a scientific essay is and then rebuilds it in intensely personal, artful and wry ways. Goldschmidt has won the top awards in Holland and is well known internationally within the field of science writing. Now for the first time available in English, his essays crackle with insight and joy at the discoveries to be made in the world in which we live—whether comparing the courtship rituals of men on the dance floor to the springtime courtship rituals of Eurasian wading birds, or visiting Hitler’s watercolors in the vault of the US Army Center of Military History in Washington, D.C., or noting how clumsy swifts are when brooding on land, or writing fascinatingly about left- and right-handedness.

In the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould and Lewis Thomas, here is a gorgeous book of essays steeped in current evolutionary thought, one that invites readers to delight in our evolutionary present. This is a book for any reader, which turns the subject of contemporary evolutionary biology into something to be savored and enjoyed by all.

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Trained in animal ecology and evolutionary biology, Tijs Goldschmidt abandoned his academic career at Leiden University in 1993 to dedicate himself fully to writing. Darwin's Dreampond: Drama in Lake Victoria, his account of a five-year stay in Tanzania in the 1980s, was was subsequently translated into numerous languages and received several awards in the Netherlands and abroad. In 2000, Goldschmidt was awarded the Jan Hanlo Essay Prize, the most prestigious Dutch prize for essay writing, for his book Oversprongen (Crossovers). He has since written a number of other books and given many lectures, including the Stephen Jay Gould Lecture in 2003, on the phenomenon of left and right in evolution, and the Huizinga Lecture in 2007, on the role of play in culture. Goldschmidt lives in Amsterdam.