The Basque History of the World: The Story of a Nation
Product DescriptionFrom Mark Kurlansky, the bestselling author of Cod, Salt, Birdseye, and Paper—the illuminating story of an ancient and enigmatic people
Straddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction—they are Europe’s oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques’ language, Euskera—the most ancient in Europe—is related to none other on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce. Even today, the Basques are enjoying what may be the most important cultural renaissance in their long existence, as displayed by new cookbooks like chefs Alexandra Raij and Eder Montero’s The Basque Book and restaurateur Jose Pizarro’s Basque.
Mark Kurlansky’s passion for the Basque people and his exuberant eye for detail shine throughout this fascinating book. Like Cod, The Basque History of the World, blends human stories with economic, political, literary, and culinary history into a rich and heroic tale.
Among the Basques’ greatest accomplishments:
• Exploration—the first man to circumnavigate the globe, Juan Sebastian de Elcano, was a Basque and the Basques were the second Europeans, after the Vikings, in North America
• Gastronomy and agriculture—they were the first Europeans to eat corn and chili peppers and cultivate tobacco, and were among the first to use chocolate
• Religion—Ignatius Loyola, a Basque, founded the Jesuit religious order
• Business and politics—they introduced capitalism and modern commercial banking to southern Europe
• Recreation—they invented beach resorts, jai alai, and racing regattas, and were the first Europeans to play sports with balls
“A delectable portrait of an uncanny, indomitable nation.” –Newsday
“Exciting, Illuminating, and thought provoking.” –The Boston Globe
Entertaining and instructive… [Kurlansky’s] approach is unorthodox, mixing history with anecdotes, poems with recipes.” –The New York Times Book Review
Amazon.com ReviewThe 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
- Penguin Books