Tristes Tropiques

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Tristes Tropiques was an immensely popular bestseller when it was first published in France in 1955. Claude Levi-Strauss's groundbreaking study of the societies of a number of Amazonian peoples is a cornerstone of structural anthropology and an exploration by the author of his own intellectual roots as a professor of philosophy in Brazil before the Second World War, as a Jewish exile from Nazi-occupied Europe, and later as a world-renowned academic (he taught at New York's New School for Social Research and was French cultural attache to the United States). Levi-Strauss's central journey leads from the Amazon basin through the dense upland jungles of Brazil. There, among the Amerindian tribes - the Caduveo, Bororo, Nambikwara, and Tupi-Kawahib - he found "a human society reduced to its most basic expression." Levi-Strauss's discussion of his fieldwork in Tristes Tropiques endures as a milestone of anthropology, but the book is also, in its brilliant diversions on other, more familiar cultures, a great work of literature, a vivid travelogue, and an engaging memoir - a demonstration of the marvelous mental agility of one of the century's most important thinkers. Presented here is the translation by John and Doreen Weightman of the complete text of the revised French edition of 1968, together with the original photographs and illustrations.
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What People Are Saying

Elizabeth Hardwick
Tristes Tropiques is a classical journey of discovery, a quest for the past and for the realization of self... It is a work of anthropology, grandly speculative and imaginative... a work of science, history, and a rational prose poetry, springing out of the multifariousness of the landscape... Levi-Strauss is pursuing his professional studies, but he is also creating literature.
Susan Sontag
Triste Tropiques is an intensely personal book. Like Montaigne's Essays and Freud's Interpretation of Dreams, it is an intellectual autobiography, an exemplary personal history in which a whole view of the human situation, an entire sensibility, is elaborated... [It] is a masterpiece.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140165623
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 8/28/1992
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.02 (w) x 9.06 (h) x 0.72 (d)

Meet the Author

Claude Levi-Strauss (1908-2009), the founder of structural anthropology, was born in Belgium and studied at the University of Paris. A member of the French Academy, he authored numerous works, including Structural Anthropology, The Savage Mind, and Myth and Meaning.
Patrick Wilcken is the author of Claude Levi-Strauss: The Father of Modern Anthropology. He lives in London.
John Weightman (1915-2004) and Doreen Weightman (d. 1985) together translated several important anthropological works of Claude Levi-Strauss and a book about Rousseau by Jean Guehenno.

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Table of Contents


1. Setting Out
2. On Board Ship
3. The West Indies
4. The Quest for Power

5. Looking Back
6. The Making of an Anthropologist
7. Sunset

8. The Doldrums
9. Guanabara
10. Crossing the Tropic
11. Sao Paulo

12. Towns and Countryside
13. Pioneer Zone
14. The Magic Carpet
15. Crowds
16. Markets

17. Parana
18. Pantanal
19. Nalike
20. A Native Community and Its Life-Style

21. Gold and Diamonds
22. Virtuous Savages
23. The Living and the Dead

24. The Lost World
25. In the Sertao
26. On the Line
27. Family Life
28. A Writing Lesson
29. Men, Women and Chiefs

30. A Canoe Trip
31. Robinson Crusoe
32. In the Forest
33. The Village of the Crickets
34. The Farce of the Japim Bird
35. Amazonia
36. Seringal

37. The Apotheosis of Augustus
38. A Little Glass of Rum
39. Taxila
40. The Kyong


CADUVEO A Caduveo woman with a painted face A Caduveo belle in 1895 (taken from Boggiani)
Facial painting: an original drawing by a Caduveo woman Two further facial paintings drawn by natives A Caduveo girl made ready for her puberty rites

BORORO The author's best informant, in ceremonial dress A meal in the Men's House Bringing out the mariddo
A funeral ceremony (photograph by M. Rene Silz)

NAMBIRWARA The Nambikwara group on the move Sabane, the sorcerer The chief of the Wakletocu A Nambikwara woman piercing mother-of-pearl from river shells The siesta The native method of carrying a baby Day-dreaming A Nambikwara smile

TUPI-KAWAHIB The Munde village square A Munde woman with her child A Tupi-Kawahib man (Potien) skinning a monkey Taperahi, the Tupi-Kawahib chief Kunhatsin, Taperahi's chief wife, carrying her child Pwcreza, Taperahi's son Penhana, the young wife shared by the two brothers Maruabai, the co-wife of Chief Taperahi

1 An ancient figa, found at Pompeii
2 A calvary cross, from the State of Sao Paulo
3 The axle of an ox-cart
4 Caingang pottery
5 A water-jar
6 Three specimens of Caduveo pottery
7 Two wooden statuettes
8 Caduveo jewerery
9 Two statuettes representing mythological figures
10 11 Caduveo patterns
12 17 Motifs used in body painting
18 19 Drawings made by a Caduveo boy
20 Two face-paintings
21 A pattern painted on leather
22 23 Body paintings, as recorded in 1895 and 1935
24 25 Motifs used in face- and body-painting
26 A facial painting
27 The penis sheath
28 A lip ornament and earrings
29 Plan of Kejara village
30 A wooden club for killing fish
31 Bows with clan decorations
32 Arrow-ends with clan decorations
33 Emblazoned penis sheaths
34 A black pottery bowl
35 Two specimens of the Bororo 'pocket-knife'
36 A pendant decorated with jaguars' teeth
37 Crowns of dried and painted straw
38 A bull-roarer
39 Ceremonial earrings
40 A Bororo painting representing religious objects
41 A Bororo painting representing an officiant, trumpets, a rattle and various ornaments
42 A diadem of macaw feathers
43 A diagram of the apparent and real structure of the Bororo village
44 45 Ancient Mexicans, from south-eastern Mexico and the Gulf Coast
46 47 Bas-reliefs ('the dancers'), from Chavin, northern Peru, and Monte Alban, southern Mexico
48 Hopewell, eastern United States
49 Chavin, northern Peru
50 Hopewell, eastern United States
51 Bamboo splinters defending the approach to the village
52 53 Details of hut wall-paintings

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2009


    This book was incredible! I enjoyed this book to the point where I couldn't put it down. Get it!

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