Katie's Reviews > Tristes Tropiques

Tristes Tropiques by Claude Lévi-Strauss
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's review
Aug 27, 2008

it was amazing
Recommended to Katie by: Susan Sontag
Recommended for: anyone! everyone!

I don't think I can say it any better than SS:
"Tristes Tropiques is one of the great books of our century. It is rigorous, subtle, and bold in thought. It is beautifully written. And, like all great books, it bears an absolutely personal stamp; it speaks with a human voice."

Only forty pages in and I already sense that this will be one of the best books I've read in the last five years:

I wished I had lived in the days of real journeys, when it was still possible to see the full splendor of a spectacle that had not yet been blighted, polluted and spoiled; I wished I had not trodden that ground as myself, but as Bernier, Tavernier, or Manucci did.... In short, I have only two possibilities: either I can be like some traveller of the olden days, who was faced with a stupendous spectacle, all, or almost all, of which eluded him, or worse still, filled him with scorn and disgust; or I can be a modern traveller, chasing after the vestiges of a vanished reality. I lose on both counts,...for, while I complain of being able to glimpse no more than the shadow of the past, I may be insensitive to reality as it is taking shape at this very moment, since I have not reached the stage of development at which I would be capable of perceiving it. A few hundred years hence, in this same place, another traveler, as despairing as myself, will mourn the disappearance of what I might have seen, but failed to see. I am subject to a double infirmity: all that I perceive offends me, and I constantly reproach myself for not seeing as much as I should.
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