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ON MARCH 25, 1946, the French anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss, having left the rainforests of Brazil for the concrete canyons of New York City, confronted a social structure as complex and harsh as those he had found in the rainforests of Brazil. Moonlighting as the French Embassy’s cultural attaché, Lévi-Strauss received an unexpected visit from a group of French passengers who had just arrived on an American freighter, the Oregon. Immigration officials had detained one of them because he refused to give the names of friends who belonged to the Communist Party. Lévi-Strauss dispatched a colleague to the docks, and the French visitor, frazzled and frustrated, was finally released.

With this faintly absurd event began Albert Camus’s only visit made to America.

The Limits of Absurdity by Robert Zaretsky

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