Levi-StraussA Biography
A Biography
Translated by Ninon Vinsonneau, Jonathan Magidoff
Academic, writer, figure of melancholy, aesthete – Claude Lévi-Strauss (1908–2009) not only transformed his academic discipline, he also profoundly changed the way that we view ourselves and the world around us. 

In this award-winning biography, historian Emmanuelle Loyer recounts Lévi-Strauss’s childhood in an assimilated Jewish household, his promising student years as well as his first forays into political and intellectual movements. As a young professor, Lévi-Strauss left Paris in 1935 for São Paulo to teach sociology. His rugged expeditions into the Brazilian hinterland, where he discovered the Amerindian Other, made him into an anthropologist. The racial laws of the Vichy regime would force him to leave France yet again, this time for the USA in 1941, where he became Professor Claude L. Strauss – to avoid confusion with the jeans manufacturer.

Lévi-Strauss’s return to France, after the war, ushered in the period during which he produced his greatest works: several decades of intense labour in which he reinvented anthropology, establishing it as a discipline that offered a new view on the world. In 1955, <i>Tristes Tropiques</i> offered indisputable proof of this the world over. During those years, Lévi-Strauss became something of a French national monument, as well as a celebrity intellectual of global renown. But he always claimed his perspective was a ‘view from afar’, enabling him to deliver incisive and subversive diagnoses of our waning modernity.

Loyer’s outstanding biography tells the story of a true intellectual adventurer whose unforgettable voice invites us to rethink questions of the human and the meaning of progress. She portrays Lévi-Strauss less as a modern than as our own great and disquieted contemporary.
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  • November 2018
  • 740 pages
  • 160 x 232 mm / 6 x 9 in
Available Formats
  • Hardback $45.00
  • 9781509511983
  • Open eBook $36.00
  • 9781509512010
Table of Contents
  • Acknowledgements
  • Foreword Adam Kuper
  • Introduction. The Worlds of Claude Lévi-Strauss
  • Part I Yesterday’s Worlds (É-1935)
  • Chapter 1 The Name of the Father
  • Chapter 2 Revelations (1908-1924)
  • Chapter 3 Revolutions (1924-1931): Politics vs. Philosophy
  • Chapter 4 Redemption: Anthropology (1931-1935)
  • Chapter 5 The Enigma of the World
  • Part II New Worlds (1935-1947)
  • Chapter 6 France in São Paulo
  • Chapter 7 In the Heart of Brazil
  • Chapter 8 Massimo Lévi with the Nambikwara
  • Chapter 9 Crisis (1939-1941)
  • Chapter 10 A Frenchman in New York City: Exile and Intellectual Invention (1941-1944)
  • Chapter 11 Structuralism Ð the American Years
  • Part III The Old World (1947-1971)
  • Chapter 12 The Ghosts of Marcel Mauss
  • Chapter 13 Manhood
  • Chapter 14 The Confessions of Claude Lévi-Strauss
  • Chapter 15 Structuralist Crystallization (1958-1962)
  • Chapter 16 The Manufacture of Science
  • Chapter 17 The Scholarly Life
  • Chapter 18 The Politics of Discretion
  • Part IV The World (1971-2009)
  • Chapter 19 Immortal
  • Chapter 20 Metamorphoses
  • Chapter 21 Claude Lévi-Strauss, our Contemporary
  • Notes
  • Works by Lévi-Strauss
  • Archives consulted
  • Abbreviations of Works by Lévi-Strauss
  • Illustration credits
  • Index
About the Author
Emmanuelle Loyer is Professor of Contemporary History at Sciences-Po, Paris. Her biography of Lévi-Strauss was awarded the Prix Femina essai in 2015.
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‘Emmanuelle Loyer has produced a meticulously researched, intelligent and sensitive biography worthy of her subject, one of the greatest Francophone intellectuals of the twentieth century. Critical yet generous, her portrait of Claude Lévi-Strauss rings true and comes alive on the page.’
Michael Harkin, University of Wyoming

‘The inspiration that continues to spring forth from the work of Lévi-Strauss is a mystery to many anthropologists. He has told us of the many influences on his work, and commentators have argued for yet others, but they don’t really account for his extraordinary originality and independence. Emmanuelle Loyer’s thorough account of his life and work may help us resolve this wonderful puzzle.’
Maurice Bloch, London School of Economics

‘This is the first true biography of one of the greatest French intellectuals of the twentieth century, who lived to be 100 years old and who finished his life covered in glory and honours. Emmanuelle Loyer’s book is a marvel of intelligence that holds the reader’s attention from beginning to end.’
Élisabeth Roudinesco, LeMonde

"Loyer's biography offers an unprecedentedly rich sense of the man."
Financial Times

“Loyer offers a vivid portrait of the anthropologist and his time. But she also invites us to imagine how Lévi-Strauss might endure as a thinker for our century, as much for his own.”
Boston Review

"deeply researched . . . engaging and engaged"
The New York Review of Books

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