Profile: From Naked Men to a New-World Order; January 1998; Scientific American Magazine; by Gibbs; 2 Page(s)
Outside Claude L¿vi-Strauss¿s office building in the Latin Quarter of Paris, chaos rules. Amid a haphazard jumble of institutes, bookshops and caf¿s, mopeds and improbably tiny cars weave through the narrow streets, dodging knots of university students, all of whom seem, like myself, to be five minutes late for some crucial appointment.
Inside the Laboratory for Social Anthropology, the sense of order is palpable. As I climb the stairs to a mezzanine office, each step seems to lead not only up in space but also back in time. The door to the office opens, from all appearances, into the 19th century. Here, in his isolated aerie adorned with enclosed bookcases and exotic curios beneath bell jars, L¿vi-Strauss is perched at an antique desk. As I apologize for my tardiness, he looks at me quizzically, as if time is irrelevant, and moves over to his picture window overlooking the regiment of oversized file cabinets that nearly fill the laboratory below. Crowning them on the far wall is an ornate arching banner inscribed Pour la Patrie, les Sciences et la Gloire--For the Fatherland, the Sciences and the Glory.