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Tristes Tropiques (Penguin Classics) Paperback – January 31, 2012
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fully written. And, like all great books, it bears an absolutely personal stamp; it speaks with a human voice."
Tristes Tropiques was an immensely popular bestseller when it was first published in
France in 1955. Claude Levi-Strauss's ground-
breaking 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.
The Modern Library has played a significant role in American cultural life forthe better part of a century. The series was founded in 1917 by the publishers Boni and Liveright and eight years later acquired by Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foun-dation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hard-bound editions of important works of liter-ature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House redesigned the series, restoring as its emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurat-
ing a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.
From the Back Cover
Top Customer Reviews
Levi-Strauss, like most thinkers who come up with new ways of describing the world-- those who Richard Rorty calls "inventors of philosophical vocabularies"-- has of course been mis-read and his ideas mis-applied, as we see with the much-hyped "creation" and then "demise" of "structural anthropology." The real pleasure of this book, which mixes fascinating accounts of Levi-Strauss' travels in Brazil in the '30s with autobiography, and adds chapters on the Maya and ancient Hindu (Indian) civilisations, is in its sheer mass of artfully arranged detail and its endless, provocative play of ideas.
Levi-Strauss stays conversational, descriptive and straightforward, avoiding academic jargon and obscure references. He assumes you know the basics about people like Freud, Marx, Darwin and the Buddha, and then shows you a trip through largely non-industrial societies which unfolds from anthropological description into deep philosophical speculation on the meaning of society and life.
In Brazil, Levi-Strauss watches an illiterate but canny chieftain use his anthropological fieldnotes to intimidate his illiterate tribesmen subordinates, and speculates on the parallel origins of writing and slavery. In Matto Grosso, he meets a butcher fascinated with elephants, since "he could not imagine so much meat in one place." On the banks of the Amazon, a non-industrial tribe is dying, hypnotically lost in the symbolic intricacies of an ancient social system that makes its citizens inbreed.Read more ›
The first section is primarily, I should say, an elaboration of Lévi-Strauss's observation in the first pages that, "Mankind has opted for monoculture." In many ways, it reminds one of the wistful lamentations of Gregor Von Rezzori, in its subject matter as well as in its stylism. It is a curious mixture of autobiography and a richly worded indictment of Western society as a whole which has the consistency, unusual amongst French writers, of not sparing any amour-propre for France as an exception. The entire landscape comes alive as if in agonised death-throes, as in the following passage:
"Towards evening, there was a thunderstorm and the water glistened in the distance like a beast's underbelly. At the same time, the moon was hidden by ragged patches of cloud, which the wind blew into zigzags, crosses and triangles.Read more ›
With one exception. In style and temperament, Tristes Tropiques is so different from almost everything else Levi-Strauss wrote that it is hard to believe it is written by the same man. Oh, the primitive tribes are there, and a brief personal intellectual history, that offers a bow to Freud, and Bergeson, and Saussure. In my own copy, which I first read about 1980, I even have a pencilled notation "structuralism" - this at page 375 (Pocket Books edition, 1977). But there is almost none of the portentous vacuity that you had to cope with in the so-called "serious" works.
What you get instead is Levi Strauss the raconteur, full of travelers' tales. He dines on roasted parrot, flamed with whisky. The termites make the earth rumble. Virgins are made to spit in pots of corn, to provoke fermentation - but "as the delicious drink, at once nutritious and refreshing, was consumed that very evening, the process of fermentation was not very advanced.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Interesting read. Learned a great deal from it. Would recommend it.Published 1 day ago by Carlos Moral
As I have worked my way through the four-volume masterpiece Mythologies I grew ever deeper into the mind of Claude Levi-Strauss. What a joy! Read morePublished 3 days ago by Michael
i don't think levi-strauss was a stoner, but this is a rambling, wry, glimmering autoethnographic, first person ethnography that is certainly the ripest, most crystal clear... Read morePublished 10 months ago by wo
I can not believe this was never given to me to read in any university I attended. It is one of the most remarkable books ever written IMO, for more reasons than I can enumerate,... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Jane
This presentation is what I see today when I live in emerging countries. Western thinking and economy may not fit some societies.Published 17 months ago by Cristanna M. Cook
Fascinating classis by the prime anthropoligst Claude Levi Strauss. It tells of his explorations and studies in Brazil, where he worked on an off doing visits to isolated and often... Read morePublished 18 months ago by Marco Polo
A legendary book from the legend, this travelogue came a decade before travel writing became more organized and formula driven. Read morePublished on May 2, 2014 by Shivaji Das
This digital version has serious defective links in the table of contents and Amazon will not allow you to return it once ordered.Published on January 29, 2014 by Jill Overley