Conversations with Claude Levi-Strauss

Overview

At the age of eighty, one of the most influential yet reclusive intellectuals of the twentieth century consented to his first interviews in nearly thirty years. Hailed by Le Figaro as "an event," the resulting conversations between Claude Lévi-Strauss and Didier Eribon (a correspondent for Le Nouvel Observateur) reveal the great anthropologist speaking of his life and work with ease and humor.

Now available in English, the conversations are rich in Lévi-Strauss's candid ...

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Overview

At the age of eighty, one of the most influential yet reclusive intellectuals of the twentieth century consented to his first interviews in nearly thirty years. Hailed by Le Figaro as "an event," the resulting conversations between Claude Lévi-Strauss and Didier Eribon (a correspondent for Le Nouvel Observateur) reveal the great anthropologist speaking of his life and work with ease and humor.

Now available in English, the conversations are rich in Lévi-Strauss's candid appraisals of some of the best-known figures of the Parisian intelligentsia: surrealists André Breton and Max Ernst, with whom Lévi-Strauss shared a bohemian life in 1940s Manhattan; de Beauvoir, Sartre, and Camus, the stars of existentialism; Leiris, Foucault, Dumézil, Jacob, Lacan, and others. His long friendships with Jakobson and Merleau-Ponty are recalled, as well as his encounters with prominent figures in American anthropology: Lowie, Boas (who suddenly died in his chair beside Lévi-Strauss at a banquet at Columbia University), Benedict, Linton, Mead, and Kroeber.

Lévi-Strauss speaks frankly about how circumstances and his own inclinations, after his early fieldwork in Brazil, led him to embrace theoretical work. His straightforward answers to Eribon's penetrating questions—What is a myth? What is structuralism? Are you a philosopher?—clarify his intellectual motives and the development of his research; his influential role as an administrator, including the founding of the Laboratory of Social Anthropology and of the journal L'Homme; the course of his writings, from Elementary Structures of Kinship to The Jealous Potter; and his thoughts on the conduct of anthropology today. 

Never before has Lévi-Strauss spoken so freely on so many aspects of his life: his initial failure to be elected to the Collège de France; his reaction to the events of May 1968; his regrets at not being a great investigative reporter or playwright; his deep identification with Wagner, Proust, and Rousseau. This is a rare opportunity to become acquainted with a great thinker in all his dimensions.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In these kinetic, irreverent, engaging, unpredictable interviews with French journalist Eribon, eminent cultural anthropologist Levi-Strauss speaks with a rare degree of candor about his life and work. He confesses that his ethnological vocation is partly a flight from a century in which he does not feel at home. Mellowing at age 80, the structuralist recalls his childhood participation in rites conducted by his grandfather, a rabbi, and then confesses, ``I get along better with believers than with out-and-out rationalists.'' Levi-Strauss reviews his research on marriage and kinship patterns, argues that the incest prohibition is culturally imposed, and mourns the fate of so-called primitive tribes under callous Third World regimes as he discusses racism, politics, musical creativity, literature and painting. An intellectual event, this memoir-in-conversation records his encounters with a host of figures--Sartre ``a being unto himself'', De Beauvoir, Foucault, Max Ernst, Ruth Benedict and Margaret Mead. May
Library Journal
The 1988 conversations between Levi-Strauss and Eribon now translated into English reveal the personal and historical currents that marked the life and work of one of the 20th century's most influential French intellectuals. Levi-Strauss's early attractions to the surrealists Max Ernst and Andre Breton, encounters with existentialists and his polemics with Jean-Paul Sartre, his friendship with Roman Jakobson, the influences of Anglo-American fieldwork methods, his travel to Brazil, and his years in New York are all recounted in candid, sometimes acerbic remarks. These conversations complement Levi-Strauss's voluminous contributions and shed light on his evaluation of his own work and the uses of his methods by others. They also cover his regrets, his perceived failures, and his caustic opinions on contemporary events and personalities. Recommended for larger public and academic library collections.-- Winnie Lambrecht, Brown Univ., Provi dence, R.I.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780226474755
  • Publisher: University of Chicago Press
  • Publication date: 4/23/1991
  • Edition description: 1
  • Pages: 192
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.37 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Claude Lévi-Strauss's many books include The Savage Mind; Structural Anthropology, volume 2; The Raw and the Cooked; From Honey to Ashes; The Origin of Table Manners; The Naked Man; and The Jealous Potter, all published by the University of Chicago Press.

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Table of Contents

Prologue
Part 1: When Don Quixote Returns
1. From Offenbach to Marx
2. Fieldwork
3. Bohemian Life in New York
4. Back to the Old World
5. The Mysteries of the Number 8
6. Structuralism in Paris
7. The Collège de France
8. The Académie française
9. "It Makes the Time Pass"
Part 2: The Laws of the Mind
10. The Rigors of Marriage
11. Sensible Qualities
12. Philosophers, Science, and the Sioux
13. The Ragpickers of History
14. On the Trail of the Bird-Nester
15. The Workings of the Mind
Part 3: Cultures and Culture
16. Politics and Race
17. Literature
18. Painting
19. Music and Voices
Epilogue
Index of Names

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