Claude Lévi-Strauss

Claude Lévi-Strauss has died just a few weeks before his 101st birthday.

 

The loss is a profound one because Lévi-Strauss revolutionized anthropology both as a discipline and as a cultural practice. It is Tristes Tropiques his first book, and his masterpiece that drew me to Lévi-Strauss. I still have the first edition of the paperback. But, it was one of his last books that sealed my respect and love for this man. The title, *Look, Listen, Read* provides a sense of his range and the book explores everything from opera to painting. It is a transcendent book, rich in metaphors about culture, creativity and the extraordinary importance of looking — looking that is, beyond the gaze which to Lévi-Strauss also means listening beyond the norms of conventional listening. The book is written in a cut and paste style echoing Lévi-Strauss's own concerns with 'bricolage' which is a central theme of his magnificent book, Structural Anthropology. I will not delve too deeply into the *Look, Listen, Read* here, but suffice to say that there is a section in which he presents a dialogue between himself and André Breton that explores the relationships among aesthetics, interpretation and painting. That dialogue alone makes getting hold of the *Look, Listen, Read* worthwhile.