9780330372800 / 0330372807

Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe





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About the book:

Escaping the dog-mess parks and childcare conversations, Helena Drysdale and her husband Richard rented out their South London house and embarked on an epic eighteen-month journey across Europe. With them were their two infant daughters. They had no plans but they did have a goal: to probe the secrets of Western Europe's indigenous tribes. Over seven seasons Helena Drysdale and her family travelled from the Mediterranean to the Arctic, from the Atlantic to the Aegean. By living in a van 'on location' rather than flying in and out like foreign correspondents, the family got to know people, visited their homes, and through them explored the very basis of the cultures inhabiting Europe's ambiguous fringe. What drives the Basques' fight for independence? Why are the Corsicans so volatile and the Frisians so lonesome? Who are the Sami? The Alanders? The Ladin? Mother Tongues reveals the struggles of these people to stave off extinction in an increasingly homogenised world. As the last speakers of their ancient languages die off, taking with them the remaining vestiges of their distinctive identity, Europe's indigenous minorities have woken up. But can we talk of a resurgence of historic identities, or are we witnessing a last gasp - a sort of ethnic death rattle? This beautiful book delves not only into the highs and lows of peripatetic family life, but digs deeper into the very nature of tribalism and nationalism, and the powerful bond between language and identity that affects us all, whether we know it or not.

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