The world began without the human race and will certainly end without it. What else has man done except blithely break down billions of structures and reduce them to a state in which they are no longer capable of integration?

—Claude Levi-Strauss, writing in 1955 in Tristes Tropiques. He died this week at age 100, just short of his 101st birthday.

I therefore claim to show, not how men think in myths, but how myths operate in men’s minds without their being aware of the fact.

Such is how I view myself: a traveler, an archeologist of space, trying in vain to restore the exotic with the use of particles and fragments


Western civilization now feels threatened in its turn. It has, in the past, destroyed innumerable cultures in whose diversity lay the wealth of humankind. Guardian of its own fraction of this collective wealth, weakened by dangers from without and within, it is allowing itself to forget of destroy its own heritage, which —as much as any other— deserves to be cherished and respected.

—Levi-Strauss in the NYRB