A sensitive portrait of Lévi-Strauss

A sensitive portrait of Lévi-Strauss

by Emmanuelle Loyer
Femina Prize 2015
  • Claude Lévi-Strauss en 1938 en Amazonie  © Journal de la Société des AmériquesClaude Lévi-Strauss en 1938 en Amazonie © Journal de la Société des Amériques

Emmanuelle Loyer, historian at Sciences Po, was awarded the 2015 Prix Femina Essai last autumn for her biography of Lévi-Strauss. Drawing on previously unused archives, Loyer’s book explores the career of a peerless figure whose thought was shaped by a keen sense of the senses. Interview.

Claude Lévi-Strauss’s multi-faceted identity is one of the most striking features to appear in your biography. He seems anxious to belong to several eras and several cultures at once.

Emmanuelle Loyer: Indeed, Lévi-Strauss was obsessed by eras that he had not lived in. I attach considerable importance to these pasts that were a part of his makeup; he said he was a man of the nineteenth century and liked the “freshness” of the sixteenth-century perspective. When he went to Brazil, he had Jean de Lery’s Voyage faict en la terre du Brésil in hand. During his fieldwork there he dreamed of that inaugural encounter of modernity between the first "Indian" and the first European, hoping in turn to rediscover, intact, a form of amazement....

Read the full interview

Back to top