Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Obituary: Claude Lévi-Strauss

The great ones are slowly, but surely, fading away.

Of course, new ones will come. They always do. But, most of them I will not know about. It takes time to achieve greatness. And, once achieved it may not be recognised until later. Sometimes much later.

Could it be then that Claude Lévi-Strauss deliberately, and in a calculated way, set out to live to be 100? Or did he just want to add one more feather to an already richly decorated cap? Does it matter at all? Still, it would have been cool if he held on for another week, and scored a 101!

Obituaries usually include many salient facts and opinions about the sadly deceased. Unfortunately, my knowledge of Claude Lévi-Strauss's life and work is deeply insufficient for me to even try. Luckily, others, much more capable than me, have bravely set out to do just this. On my part, suffice it to say that his were the works that originally made me interested in, and acquainted with the great, and important, science of anthropology. In the end, and for whatever little it's worth, I may not have agreed, at least not completely, with some of what he said and believed, but that neither diminishes him, nor does it elevate me. However, one thing I do find defining about Claude Lévi-Strauss is that in the very first book of his I read I recognised that the author must be a major force in his field. And remember, at the time I was only just discovering anthropology, and have not previously heard of Claude Lévi-Strauss. It just happened that his book, The Elementary Structures of Kinship (in Serbian translation), was available in my grandparents' library.

So, I am going to stop now, and point you to his biography, and one short obituary. I will also urge you to read at least some of what he wrote. You do not need to be an anthropologist. I know I'm not, and I still love the science, and how Claude Lévi-Strauss wrote about it.

Go now, and see for yourself how a 100 years can be put to good use.

PS
I intend to produce short obituaries for other people that meant something to me at some point in my life. All will have the title in the form of "Obituary:
" so you can easily find them (and skip over them if you want). I will also tag them with "obituary". Be warned.