Leading article: An anthropologist for our age

Click to follow
The Independent Online

When Claude Lévi-Strauss was feted on his 100th birthday last year, the surprise for many was that he was still alive. The surprise on his death, 11 months later, is that, despite becoming the first centenarian among France's immortels, his days had been numbered after all.

Lévi-Strauss was the quintessential man of his own culture and the global age. He was at once steeped in the ultra-rational intellectual tradition of France, while drawing universal rules from his myriad observations and experiences around the world.

Born in Belgium, persecuted in Vichy France and given refuge in the US until the war's end, he won fame, and then reverance, as the father of structural anthropology. Structuralism has its critics; it may in time seem less revolutionary, and revelatory, than once it did. But as a great international man of letters, Lévi-Strauss bequeathes a legacy that transcends the narrow academic labels of his time.