10 April 2009

200 word Review: 'The Basque History of the World' by Mark Kurlansky

I have always been interested in European minority cultures – as a child, I attempted, and failed, to learn Welsh. When I first heard of Basqueland (in a Spanish lesson, the teacher saying their language is as different from Castilian as Welsh is from English) I wanted to know more. So when my husband got ‘The Basque History of the World’ as a present, I was keen to read it.

The book gives a complete overview of Basque history, from Roman times right up to its publication in 1999. This approach could have created a very dry, dull text, but Kurlansky’s style saves it. He uses the story of this ‘non-nation’ as a way of exploring histories from all over Europe and beyond. He peppers the narrative with personal accounts, recipes and cultural details that create a sense of what ‘Basqueness’ is. The later chapters, dealing with the twentieth century, drag a little but can be vivid and surprisingly moving. His account of the Guernica bombing nearly had me crying on my commute.

If you are interested in overlooked cultures, this book is a quirky, informative and fascinating read which will teach you parts of European history you’ve never heard before.

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