978-0-8027-1349-0 / 0802713491

The Basque History of the World

by Kurlansky, Mark

Publisher:Walker & Company



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About the book:

After basking in the shallows of success that surrounded Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World, Mark Kurlansky turns his attentions to the people who first hunted it and in doing so may have discovered America before John Cabot could say Isparsortalderatu. In a sense The Basque History of the World is the natural successor to Cod, for it grows organically from that book's early chapters. It unfolds the dramatic tale of the Basques as they fight off the challenges of the Vikings, the Romans, the Muslims and, for centuries now, the Spanish; proudly defensive of the remote and rugged hills on the edge of the Pyrenees, where Shakespeare set Love's Labour's Lost and that echoes with their peculiar agglutinating tongue. They are possibly Europe's aborigines and their language, unlike any other, was reputed to originate from, variously, the Tower of Babel, Atlantis and even the Garden of Eden. What's for certain is that it has defined their being when all else has been taken from them and that today, emerging from the shadow of the Franco regime's persecution, Europe's oldest nation wants to be its newest state. Kurlansky's recipe is reassuringly and familiarly unorthodox: intermingled with a stirring narrative are maps, photographs, pieces of reportage, quirky facts and, of course, recipes--the Basques are justly proud of their fish--and bean-based cuisine, something Kurlansky is not slow to savour. Where Cod was not simply about a big fish in The Big Pond but embraced the thorny problem of global over-fishing, The Basque History of the World does not confine its scope to the two and a half million people living in the seven Basque provinces. It speaks of violently modern and pervasive issues such as the notion of nationhood, borders and identity, and does so in a slyly humorous yet always passionate way. Be warned: This is not insipid, literary chloroform. What the imperious Kurlansky has written is a magnificently personal and driven tribute to a people and culture that have spellbound him for years and will warm the cockles of your heart (before adding them to a Ttoro stew). --David Vincent

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