The Generous Man

(Det Generose Menneske)

Tor Norretranders
The Generous Man

This book by Scandinavia’s leading science writer is about how helping others is the sexiest thing you can do. In The Generous Man, Tor Norretranders develops an overlooked strand of Darwinian thought. In addition to the efficiency and survival instincts essential to successful evolution or natural selection, Norretranders argues that animal and human alike must show their worth physically by ‘doing something difficult’ in order to impress potential mates. Fittingly, the cover image for the book is of a peacock feather – the unwieldy plumage of a male peacock is precisely the sort of ‘generous’ symbol that Norretranders has in mind to convey that sexual selection almost seems to go against the cold adeptness usually associated with the ‘survival of the fittest’. The peacock’s plumage is useless in terms of survival, even counter-effective. The peahen sees a male able to survive and thrive with such a handicap and is smitten.

Published in hardcover to great critical acclaim by the People’s Press in Denmark, ‘The Generous Man’ has sold over 35,000 copies, and was advertised on national television.

‘Absolutely the most original ambitious book from this author since The User Illusion in 1991. A book attempting to embrace the entire human existence in all its vital aspects and also a work that in a very Norretrandersian way bridges sciences and culture. One wonders, one laughs, one is surprised, one is entertained. By its wit, originality and sheer entertainment value this work is way above the standard of the present science book scene. It is a potent book of high international standard. A very sexy book.’ Berlingske Tidende

‘From his first sentence – ‘Welcome to this book about sex, or, more precisely perhaps, a book about how to get it’ – Danish science writer Nørretranders offers his fresh, irreverent take on popular sociobiology (by this point a veritable genre). While deploying the standard tropes – a bit of game theory, descriptions of psychological experiments, some colorful anecdotes from the natural world – he does so in the service of a novel and intriguing perspective: that human generosity, creativity, cooperativeness and cleverness serve the singular evolutionary purpose of making us sexier. According to Nørretranders (The User Illusion: Cutting Consciousness Down to Size ), ‘costly’ actions, like sharing one’s food and expending valuable energy on artistic pursuits, that don’t directly contribute to our survival make us seem stronger and more virile. Rather than trying to transcend our sexual instincts, he claims, we should embrace them. Horniness is good! – it drives us to the limits of our capabilities. Nice guys do finish first! – at least when prospective partners are looking for more than a one-night commitment. And all the best in human endeavor, from open-source software to international medical aid, ‘everything spiritual, beautiful, and wise is ‘merely’ an aid to getting laid.’ Starred review in Publishers Weekly

‘Clad in silver peacock feather and with a new publisher, Tor Norretranders’ book offers a madly entertaining outline of why it pays for us humans to be both generous and skilful. […] Norretranders is a damned good communicator: a good brain, an unfailing sense of humour – eagerly applied in this book – and an easy flow in his writing. ‘Det generose menneske’ is a sober and forbearing analysis of our culture.’ Borsen

‘It is the overarching ambition of the book to go against the prevailing idea of the rational, economic man that has rotted western thought for centuries.’ Kristeligt Dagblad

‘Full of thought-provoking observations.’ Politiken

‘Tor Norretranders shows with care, clarity and accessibility, based on numerous topical sources, that naturalism and freedom are indeed compatible. Man has, by natural means, become a cultural animal. The theory of evolution has now become so sophisticated that it is possible to understand seemingly paradoxical forms of surplus behaviour such as ethical acts and aesthetic activity. […] While fundamentalism rages on and religious creation myths will probably soon be reinstalled with new dignity, here is sexy wisdom offering a refreshing contribution to the cultural and political debates we engage in, or should engage ourselves in.’ Weekendavisen Boger

‘This book will appeal to the hopeful youngsters of this decade.’ Rasmus Kragh Jakobsen, Information

‘I would like to focus on Norretranders’ abilities as a story-teller: he has become the Jules Verne of our time, elevating to universal truths boyhood dreams of doing what you are good at and getting sex in return. ‘Det generose menneske’ is not a science book, but a modern novel about the emergence of culture from nature, and on top of that a novel with a happy end: Norretranders recapitulates culture with the optimism of the evolutionist.’ Marie Louise Kjolbye, Information


  • People’s Press Denmark
  • Aschehoug Norway
  • Book House Publishing Sweden
  • Art House Finland
  • El Paradiso Estonia
  • Artist House Japan
  • Rowohlt Germany
  • Thunders Mouth Press USA
  • Woongjon Thinkbig Co Korea
  • Editura Publica Romania
  • Iztok-Zapad Bulgaria

Material: finished copies of US (350pp) Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Estonian, German and Japanese editions.