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Tristes Tropiques

    == Introduction ==
    Tristes Tropiques is a memoir first published in France in 1955 by the anthropology and structuralism Claude Levi-StraussClaude Levi Strauss (1955) Tristes Tropiques (1973 English translation by John and Doreen Weightman) New : Atheneum
    It documents his travels and anthropological work focusing principally on Brazil though it refers to many other places such as the Caribbean and India Although ostensibly a travelogue the work is infused with philosophical reflections and ideas linking many academic disciplines such as sociology geology music history and literature
    In many respects the work seems remarkably prescient in its assessments of the impact of development on the environmentalism the 'shrinking' of the world through travel and tourism and the consequent emergence of a form of globalisation


    The book consists of 40 chapters organised into nine sections
    Parts 1 to 3 consist of Levi Strauss' reflections on leaving Europe and visiting the New World and the Tropics comparing his first impressions with subsequent visits relating aspects of his academic training as well as his work as a professor during the founding years of Sao Paolo University
    Part 4 'The Earth and its Inhabitants' sets out a geographical analysis of the development of South American settlements as well as an aside into social structure in India and what is now Pakistan
    Parts 5 through 8 each focus on a Native Brazillian culture group: Caduveo (or Guaycuru) Bororo Nambikwara and Tupi-Kawahib respectively while touching on many other topics
    Part 9 'The Return' closes the book with reflections on, among other topics the nature and purpose of anthropology the effects of travel on the mind the roles of Buddhism and Islam in global culture humankind's place in the universe and our connections to the world and to one another


    The opening sentence 'I hate travelling and explorers' is notable for its irony and in general the narrative is highly reflexive often critiquing itself or the author and reader's assumed pretensions such as a thirst for the 'exotic' ibid p37f
    Though the writing style is fluid almost conversational at times the structure of the text is extremely complex linking together numerous places times and ideas For example Part One: 'An End to Journeying' connects Levi Strauss' first trip to Brazil in 1935 with his escape from France to New York in 1941 and his later visits to South America in a stylistic imitation of memory
    In Chapter 14, Levi-Strauss compares the ancient cities of the Indus valley with those of the USA implaying that Mohenjo-Daro and Harappa could be seen as foreshadowing Chicago or Sao Paolo 'after a prolonged period of involution in the European chrysalis' (p130)
    The work maintains a tone of poignant ambivalence pehaps a product of the paradoxical status of the anthropologist as a Participant Observation who nevertheless remains engaged as a human partcipant

    Critical Reception and Influence

    Apparently the book was extremely well-received on its publication Wikipedia article Claude Levi Strauss The organizers of the Prix Goncourt Prix Goncourt lamented that they were not able to award Lévi-Strauss the prize because Tristes Tropiques was technically non-fiction ibid