The Basque: History of the World

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9781597771269: The Basque: History of the World

They are a mythical people, almost an imagined people, writes Kurlansky. Signs of their civilization exist well before the arrival of the Romans in 218 BC. Their forbidden tongue is equally mysterious, as it is related to no other, but today the Basques are enjoying what may be the most important cultural renaissance in their long existence.

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Review:

The buzz about the Guggenheim Bilbao aside, the Basques seldom get good press--from the 12th-century Codex of Calixtus ("A Basque or Navarrese would do in a French man for a copper coin") to current news items about ETA, the Basque nationalist group. Mark Kurlansky, author of Cod, sets out to change all that in The Basque History of the World.

"The singular remarkable fact about the Basques is that they still exist," Kurlansky asserts. Without a defined country (other than Euskadi, otherwise known as "Basqueland"), with no known related ethnic groups, the Basques are an anomaly in Europe. What unites the Basques, above all, is their language--Euskera. According to ETA, "Euskera is the quintessence of Euskadi. So long as Euskera is alive, Euskadi will live." To help provide a complete picture of the Basques, Kurlansky looks at their political, economic, social, and even culinary history, from the valiant Basque underground in World War II to medieval whalers to modern makers of the gâteau Basque. The most affecting chapter focuses on Guernica, a small market town bombed by German planes for over three hours on April 26, 1937, and uses interviews with survivors to illustrate the horror of the attack.

Kurlansky is clearly enamored of the Basques, which leads him to see them in a uniformly positive light. That rosy outlook aside, The Basque History of the World is an excellent introduction to these romantic people. Are they the original Europeans? Kurlansky doesn't weigh in on the issue, preferring instead to honor the Basque request Garean gareana legez--let us be what we are. --Sunny Delaney

From the Inside Flap:

"They are a mythical people, almost an imagined people," writes Mark Kurlansky. Settled in a corner of France and Spain in a land marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a nation without a country, whose ancient and dramatic story illuminates Europe's own saga.

Where did they come from? Signs of their civilization exist well before the arrival of the Romans in 218 B.C., and their culture appears to predate all others in Europe. Their mysterious and forbidden tongue, Euskera, is related to no other language on Earth. The Basques have stubbornly defended their unique culture against the Celts, the Romans, the Visigoths and Moors, the kings of Spain and France, Napoleon, Franco, the modern Spanish state, and the European Union.

Yet as much as their origins are obscure, the Basques' contributions to world history have been clear and remarkable. Early explorers, they made fortunes whaling before the year 1000 and became the premier cod fishermen in Europe after discovering Canada's Grand Banks. Juan Sebastian de Elcano, a Basque, was the first man to circumnavigate the globe in 1522. Their influence has also been felt in religion as founders of the Jesuits in 1534, and in business, as leaders of the Industrial Revolution in southern Europe.

Mark Kurlanky's passion for the Basque people, and his exuberant eye for detail, shine throughout this fascinating history. Like his acclaimed Cod, it blends human, economic, political, literary and culinary history into a rich and heroic tale.

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Mark Kurlansky
Published by Phoenix Books (2006)
ISBN 10: 1597771260 ISBN 13: 9781597771269
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Book Description Phoenix Books, 2006. Audio CD. Book Condition: Brand New. abridged edition. 5.50x6.00x1.50 inches. In Stock. Bookseller Inventory # 1597771260

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