What state of mind were you in when you wrote Tristes Tropiques?
I wrote that book in a kind of rage and impatience.footnote1 I also felt a certain remorse. I thought it would have been better if I’d written something else. Having discussed the elementary structures of kinship, I should have moved on to the complex structures.
But you surely don’t regret having written Tristes Tropiques?
No, and all the more so because at the time it would have been impossible to deal with the complex structures; one would have needed computers for that. It was Françoise Héritier who, a few years later, took this in hand.
Why did you start writing Tristes Tropiques at the time you did—that is, in 1954, more than fifteen years after the field work on which the book reports?
Jean Malaurie, who set up the ‘Terre humaine’ series, asked me to write it at a moment when I had just come through crises in my personal and professional life. It offered me a change of air.
Your answer points to external, almost accidental motivations. But did you feel a deeper, more personal need or desire to write this book?