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The Basque History Of The World (Anglais) Broché – 2 novembre 2000

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"Nomansland, the territory of the Basques, is in a region called Cornucopia, where the vines are tied up with sausages. And in those parts there was a mountain made entirely of grated Parmesan cheese on whose slopes there were people who spent their whole time making macaroni and ravioli, which they cooked in chicken broth and then cast it to the four winds, and the faster you could pick it up, the more you got of it." —Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, 1352

The game the rest of the world knows as jai alai was invented in the French Basque town of St.-Pée-sur-Nivelle. St. Pée, like most of the towns in the area, holds little more than one curving street against a steep-pastured slope. The houses are whitewashed, with either red or green shutters and trim. Originally the whitewash was made of chalk. The traditional dark red color, known in French as rouge Basque, Basque red, was originally made from cattle blood. Espelette, Ascain, and other towns in the valley look almost identical. A fronton court—a single wall with bleachers to the left—is always in the center of town.

    While the French were developing tennis, the Basques, asthey often did, went in a completely different direction. The French ball was called a pelote, a French word derived from a verb for winding string. These pelotes were made of wool or cotton string wrapped into a ball and covered with leather. The Basques were the first Europeans to use a rubber ball, a discovery from the Americas, and the added bounce of wrapping rubber rather than string—the pelote Basque, as it was originally called—led them to play the ball off walls, a game which became known also as pelote or, in Spanish and English, pelota. A number of configurations of walls as well as a range of racquets, paddles, and barehanded variations began to develop. Jai alai, an Euskera phrase meaning "happy game," originally referred to a pelota game with an additional long left-hand wall. Then in 1857, a young farm worker in St. Pée named Gantxiki Harotcha, scooping up potatoes into a basket, got the idea of propelling the ball even faster with a long, scoop-shaped basket strapped to one hand. The idea quickly spread throughout the Nivelle Valley and in the twentieth century, throughout the Americas, back to where the rubber ball had begun.

    St. Pée seems to be a quiet town. But it hasn't always been so. During World War II the Basques, working with the French underground, moved British and American fliers and fleeing Jews on the route up the valley from St.-Jean-de-Luz to Sare and across the mountain pass to Spain.

    The Gestapo was based in the big house next to the fronton, the pelota court. Jeanine Pereuil, working in her family's pastry shop across the street, remembers refugees whisked past the gaze of the Germans. The Basques are said to be a secretive people. It is largely a myth—one of many. But in 1943, the Basques of the Nivelle Valley kept secrets very well. Jeanine Pereuil has many stories about the Germans and the refugees. She married a refugee from Paris.

    The only change Jeanine made in the shop in her generation was to add a few figurines on a shelf. Before the Basques embraced Christianity with a legendary passion, they had other beliefs, and many of these have survived. Jeanine goes to her shelf and lovingly picks out the small figurine of a joaldun, a man clad in sheepskin with bells on his back. "Can you imagine," she says, "at my age buying such things. This is my favorite" she says, picking out a figure from the ezpata dantza, the sword dance performed on the Spanish side especially for the Catholic holiday of Corpus Christi. The dancer is wearing white with a red sash, one leg kicked out straight and high and the arms stretched out palms open.

    Born in 1926, Jeanine is the fourth generation to make gâteau Basque and sell it in this shop. Her daughter is the fifth generation. The Pereuils all speak Basque as their first language and make the exact same cake. She is not sure when her great grandfather, Jacques Pereuil, started the shop, but she knows her grandfather, Jacques's son, was born in the shop in 1871.

    Gâteau Basque, like the Basques themselves, has an uncertain origin. It appears to date from the eighteenth century and may have originally been called bistochak. While today's gâteau Basque is a cake filled with either cherry jam or pastry cream, the original bistochak was not a gâteau but a bread. The cherry filling predates the cream one. The cake appears to have originated in the valley of the winding Nivelle River, which includes the town of Itxassou, famous for its black cherries, a Basque variety called xapata.

    Basques invented their own language and their own shoes, espadrilles. They also created numerous sports including not only pelota but wagon-lifting contests called orgo joko, and sheep fighting known as agaritalka. They developed their own farm tools such as the two-pronged hoe called a laia, their own breed of cow known as the blond cow, their own sheep called the whitehead sheep, and their own breed of pig, which was only recently rescued from extinction.

    And so they also have their own black cherry, the xapata from Itxassou, which only bears fruit for a few weeks in June but is so productive during those weeks that a large surplus is saved in the form of preserves. The cherry, preserve-filled cakes were sold in the market in Bayonne, a city celebrated for its chocolate makers, who eventually started buying Itxassou black cherries to dip in chocolate.

    Today in most of France and Spain a gâteau Basque is cream filled, but the closer to the valley of the Nivelle, the more likely it is to be cherry filled.

    Jeanine, whose shop makes nothing besides one kind of bread, the two varieties of gâteau Basque, and a cookie based on the gâteau Basque dough, finds it hard to believe that her specialty originated as cherry bread. Just as the shop's furniture has never been changed, the recipe has never changed. The Pereuils have always made it as cake, not bread, and, she insists, have always made both the cream and cherry fillings. Cream is overwhelmingly the favorite. The mailman, given a little two-inch cake every morning when he brings the mail, always chooses cream.

    Maison Pereuil may not be old enough for the earlier bistochak cherry bread recipe, but the Pereuil cake is not like the modern buttery gâteau Basque either. Jeanine's tawny, elastic confection is a softer, more floury version of the sugar-and-egg-white macaroon offered to Louis XIV and his young bride, the Spanish princess Maria Theresa, on their wedding day, May 8, 1660, in St.-Jean-de-Luz. Ever since, the macaroon has been a specialty of that Basque port at the mouth of the Nivelle.

    When asked for the antique recipe for her family's gâteau Basque, Jeanine Pereuil smiled bashfully and said, "You know, people keep offering me a lot of money for this recipe."

    How much do they offer?

    "I don't know. I'm not going to bargain. I will never give out the recipe. If I sold the recipe, the house would vanish. And this is the house of my father and his father. I am keeping their house. And I hope my daughter will do the same for me."

Chapter One

1. The Basque Myth

The Basques share with the Celts the privilege of indulging in unrivaled extravagance on the subject of themselves.
—Miguel de Unamuno quoting Ampère,


The Basques seem to be a mythical people, almost an imagined people. Their ancient culture is filled with undated legends and customs. Their land itself, a world of red-roofed, whitewashed towns, tough green mountains, rocky crests, a cobalt sea that turns charcoal in stormy weather, a strange language, and big berets, exists on no maps except their own.

    Basqueland begins at the Adour River with its mouth at Bayonne—the river that separates the Basques from the French pine forest swampland of Landes—and ends at the Ebro River, whose rich valley separates the dry red Spanish earth of Rioja from Basqueland. Basqueland looks too green to be Spain and too rugged to be France. The entire area is only 8,218 square miles, which is slightly smaller than New Hampshire.

    Within this small space are seven Basque provinces. Four provinces are in Spain and have Basque and Spanish names: Nafaroa or Navarra, Gipuzkoa or Guipúzcoa, Bizkaia or Vizcaya, and Araba or Alava. Three are in France and have Basque and French names: Lapurdi or Labourd, Benafaroa or Basse Navarre, and Zuberoa or Soule. An old form of Basque nationalist graffiti is "4 + 3 = 1."

    As with most everything pertaining to Basques, the provinces are defined by language. There are seven dialects of the Basque language, though there are sub-dialects within some of the provinces.

    In the Basque language, which is called Euskera, there is no word for Basque. The only word to identify a member of their group is Eushaldun—Euskera speaker. Their land is called Euskal Herria—the land of Euskera speakers. It is language that defines a Basque.

The Central Mystery Is: Who are the Basques? The early Basques left no written records, and the first accounts of them, two centuries after the Romans arrived in 218 B.C., give the impression that they were already an ancient—or at least not a new—people. Artifacts predating this time that have been found in the area—a few tools, drawings in caves, and the rudiments of ruins—cannot be proved to have been made by Basques, though it is supposed that at least some of them were.

    Ample evidence exists that the Basques are a physically distinct group. There is a Basque type with a long straight nose, thick eyebrows, strong chin, and long earlobes. Even today, sitting in a bar in a mountainous river valley town like Tolosa, watching men play mus, the popular card game, one can see a similarity in the faces, despite considerable intermarriage. Personalities, of course, carve very different visages, but over and over again, from behind a hand of cards, the same eyebrows, chin, and nose can be seen. The identical dark navy wool berets so many men wear—each in a slightly different manner—seem to showcase the long Basque ears sticking out on the sides. In past eras, when Spaniards and French were typically fairly small people, Basque men were characteristically larger, thick chested, broad shouldered, and burly. Because these were also characteristics of Cro-Magnons, Basques are often thought to be direct descendants of this man who lived 40,000 years ago.

    Less subjective physical evidence of an ancient and distinct group has also surfaced. In the beginning of the twentieth century, it was discovered that all blood was one of three types: A, B, or O. Basques have the highest concentration of type O in the world—more than 50 percent of the population—with an even higher percentage in remote areas where the language is best preserved, such as Soule. Most of the rest are type A. Type B is extremely rare among Basques. With the finding that Irish, Scots, Corsicans, and Cretans also have an unusually high incidence of type O, speculation ran wild that these peoples were somehow related to Basques. But then, in 1937, came the discovery of the rhesus factor, more commonly known as Rh positive or Rh negative. Basques were found to have the highest incidence of Rh negative blood of any people in the world, significantly higher than the rest of Europe, even significantly higher than neighboring regions of France and Spain. Cro-Magnon theorists point out that other places known to have been occupied by Cro-Magnon man, such as the Atlas Mountains of Morocco and the Canary Islands, also have been found to have a high incidence of Rh negative.

    Twenty-seven percent of Basques have O Rh negative blood. Rh negative blood in a pregnant woman can fatally poison a fetus that has positive blood. Since World War II, intervention techniques to save the fetus have been developed, but it is probable that throughout history, the rate of miscarriage and stillborn births among the Basques was extremely high, which may be one of the reasons they remained a small population on a limited amount of land while other populations, especially in Iberia, grew rapidly.

    Before Basque blood was studied as a key to their origins, several attempts were made to analyze the structure of Basque skulls. At the beginning of the nineteenth century, a researcher reported, "Someone gave me a Basque body and I dissected it and I assert that the head was not built like that of other men."

    Studies of Basque skulls in the nineteenth century concluded, depending on whose study is believed, that Basques were either Turks, Tartars, Magyars, Germans, Laplanders, or the descendants of Cro-Magnon man either originating in Basqueland or coming from the Berbers of North Africa.

    Or do clothes hold the secret to Basque origins? A twelfth-century writer, Aimeric de Picaud, considered not skulls but skirts, concluding after seeing Basque men in short ones that they were clearly descendants of Scots.

    The most useful artifact left behind by the ancient Basques is their language. Linguists find that while the language has adopted foreign words, the grammar has proved resistant to change, so that modern Euskera is thought to be far closer to its ancient form than modern Greek is to ancient Greek. Euskera has extremely complex verbs and twelve cases, few forms of politeness, a limited number of abstractions, a rich vocabulary for natural phenomena, and no prepositions or articles.

    Etxea is the word for a house or home. "At home" is etxean. "To the house" is etxera. "From home" is etxetik. Concepts are formed by adding more and more suffixes, which is what is known as an agglutinating language. This agglutinating language only has about 200,000 words, but its vocabulary is greatly extended by almost 200 standard suffixes. In contrast, the Oxford English Dictionary was compiled from a data base of 60 million words, but English is a language with an unusually large vocabulary. It is sometimes said that Euskera includes just nouns, verbs, and suffixes, but relatively simple concepts can become words of formidable size. Iparsortalderatu is a verb meaning "to head in a northeasterly direction."

    Euskera has often been dismissed as an impossible language. Arturo Campión, a nineteenth-century Basque writer from Navarra, complained that the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy defined Euskera as "the Basque language, so confusing and obscure that it can hardly be understood." It is obscure but not especially confusing. The language seems more difficult than it is because it is so unfamiliar, so different from other languages. Its profusion of ks and xs looks intimidating on the page, but the language is largely phonetic with some minor pitfalls, such as a very soft b and an aspirated h as in English, which is difficult for French and Spanish speakers to pronounce. The x is pronounced "ch." Etxea is pronounced "et-CHAY-a." For centuries Spanish speakers made Euskera seem friendlier to them by changing xs to chs as in echea, and ks, which do not exist in Latin languages, to cs, as in Euscera. To English speakers, Basque spellings are often more phonetic than Spanish equivalents. The town the Spanish call Guernica is pronounced the way the Basques write it—Gernika.

    The structure of the language—roots and suffixes—offers important clues about Basque origins. The modern words aitzur, meaning "hoe," aizkora, meaning "axe," aizto, meaning "knife," plus various words for digging and cutting, all come from the word haitz or the older aitz, which means "stone." Such etymology seems to indicate a very old language, indeed from the Stone Age. Even though the language has acquired newer words, notably Latin from the Romans and the Church, and Spanish, such words are used in a manner unique to this ancestral language. Ezpata, like the Spanish word espada, means "sword." But ezpatakada means "the blow from a sword," ezpatajoka means "fencing," and espatadantzari is a "sword dancer."

    Though numerous attempts have been made, no one has ever found a linguistic relative of Euskera. It is an orphan language that does not even belong to the Indo-European family of languages. This is a remarkable fact because once the Indo-Europeans began their Bronze Age sweep from the Asian subcontinent across Europe, virtually no group, no matter how isolated, was left untouched. Even Celtic is Indo-European. Finnish, Estonian, and Hungarian are the only other living European languages that are not related to the Indo-European group. Inevitably there have been theories linking Finnish and Euskera or Hungarian and Euskera. Did the Basques immigrate from Lapland? Hungarian, it has been pointed out, is also an agglutinating language. But no other connection has been found between the Basque language and its fellow agglutinators.

    A brief attempt to tie the Basques to the Picts, ancient occupants of Britain who spoke a language thought to be pre-Indo-European, fell apart when it was discovered the Picts weren't non-Indo-European at all, but were Celtic.

    If, as appears to be the case, the Basque language predates the Indo-European invasion, if it is an early or even pre-Bronze Age tongue, it is very likely the oldest living European language.

    If Euskera is the oldest living European language, are Basques the oldest European culture? For centuries that question has driven both Basques and non-Basques on the quest to find the Basque origin. Miguel de Unamuno, one of the best-known Basque writers, devoted his earliest work, written in 1884 when he was still a student, to the question. "I am Basque," he began, "and so I arrive with suspicion and caution at this little and poorly garnered subject."

    As Unamuno pointed out, and this is still true today, many researchers have not hesitated to employ a liberal dose of imagination. One theory not only has Adam and Eve speaking Euskera but has the language predating their expulsion from the Garden of Eden. The name Eve, according to this theory, comes from ezbai, "no-yes" in Euskera. The walls of Jericho crumbled, it was also discovered, when trumpets blasted a Basque hymn.

    The vagaries of fact and fiction were encouraged by the fact that the Basques were so late to document their language. The first book entirely in Euskera was not published until 1545. No Basques had attempted to study their own history or origins until the sixteenth-century Guipúzcoan Esteban de Garibay. Spanish historians of the time had already claimed that Iberia was populated by descendants of Tubal, Noah's grandson, who went to Iberia thirty-five years after the Flood subsided. Garibay observed that Basque place-names bore a resemblance to those in Armenia where the ark landed, and therefore it was specifically the Basques who descended from Tubal. Was not Mount Gorbeya in southern Vizcaya named after Mount Gordeya in Armenia? Garibay traced Euskera to the Tower of Babel.

    In 1729, when Manuel de Larramendi wrote the first book of Basque grammar ever published, he asserted that Euskera was one of seventy-five languages to have developed out of the confusion at the Tower of Babel. According to Juan Bautista de Erro, whose The Primitive World or a Philosophical Examination of Antiquity and Culture of the Basque Nation was published in Madrid in 1815, Euskera is the world's oldest language, having been devised by God as the language of Adam's Paradise, preserved in the Tower of Babel, surviving the Flood because Noah spoke the language, and brought to present-day Basque country by Tubal.

    In one popular legend, the first Basque was Aïtor, one of a few remarkable men who survived the Flood without Noah's ark, by leaping from stone to stone. However, Aïtor, still recognized by some as the father of all Basques, was invented in 1848 by the French Basque writer Augustin Chaho. After Chaho's article on Aïtor was translated into Spanish in 1878, the legend grew and became a mainstay of Basque culture. Some who said Aïtor was mere fiction went on to hypothesize that the real father of all Basques was Tubal.

    Since then, links have been conjectured with languages of the Caucasus, Africa, Siberia, and Japan. One nineteenth-century researcher concluded that Basques were a Celtic tribe, another that they were Etruscans. And inevitably it has been discovered that the Basques, like so many other peoples, were actually the lost thirteenth tribe of Israel. Just as inescapably, others have concluded that the Basques are, in reality, the survivors of Atlantis.

 A case for the Basques really being Jews was carefully made by a French clergyman, the abbot J. Espagnolle, in a 1900 book titled L'Origine des Basques (The Origin of the Basques). For this theory to work, the reader first had to realize that the people of ancient Sparta were Jewish. To support this claim, Espagnolle quotes a historian of ancient Greece who wrote, "Love of money is a Spartan characteristic." If this was not proof enough, he also argues that Sparta, like Judea, had a lack of artisans. The wearing of hats and respect for elders were among further evidence offered. From there, it was simply a matter of asserting, as ancient Greek historians had, he said, that the Spartans colonized northern Spain. And of course these Spartan colonists who later became Basques were Jewish.

    With issues of nationhood at stake, such seemingly desperate hypotheses may not be devoid of political motives. "Indigenous" is a powerful notion to both the French and Spanish states. Both define their history as the struggle of their people, the rightful indigenous occupants, to defend their land against the Moors, invaders from another place, of another race, and of another religion. In Europe, this heroic struggle has long been an essential underpinning of both nationalism and racism. The idea that Basques were in their European mountains, speaking their own indigenous European language, long before the French and the Spanish, is disturbing to French and Spanish nationalists. Unless the Basques can be shown to be from somewhere else, the Spanish and French are transformed into the Moorish role—outside invaders imposing an alien culture. From the sixteenth century on, historians receiving government salaries in Madrid wrote histories that deliberately minimized the possibility of indigenous Basques.

    But the Basques like the idea, which most evidence supports, that they are the original Europeans, predating all others. If true, it must have been an isolating experience, belonging to this ancient people whose culture had little in common with any of its neighbors. It was written over and over in the records of those who observed the Basques that they spoke a strange language that kept them apart from others. But it is also what kept them together as a people, uniting them to withstand Europe's great invasions.

--Ce texte fait référence à l'édition Broché .

Revue de presse

"A diligently researched, entertainingly anecdotal and lovingly partisan history" (Independent)

"[An] informative, quirky and delightful book" (Express)

"A riveting [story] told with charm and dexterity" (Independent on Sunday)

"The award-winning author of Cod: A Biography of the Fish that Changed the World takes an equally unconventional and engaging approach to those curmudgeonly nationalists, the Basques... Each chapter...addresses a particular facet of Basque culture...while the whole is punctured with simple but mouth-watering recipes reflecting the glorious tradition of Basque cuisine. Proof - if proof were needed - that learning about history can be fun" (Kirkus Review)

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Détails sur le produit

  • Broché: 400 pages
  • Editeur : Vintage; Édition : New Ed (2 novembre 2000)
  • Collection : Hors Catalogue
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0099284138
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099284130
  • Dimensions du produit: 12,9 x 2,9 x 19,8 cm
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 4.5 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (2 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: 97.263 en Livres anglais et étrangers (Voir les 100 premiers en Livres anglais et étrangers)
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile  Par Alexandre LOT le 17 septembre 2012
Format: Format Kindle Achat vérifié
J'ai été enchanté de l'achat de ce livre le plus sérieux qu'il m'ait été donné de lire sur le peuple basque
Précis, détaillé tout en étant pas barbant
Pour tous ceux qui s'intéressent à ce peuple ou à cette région il me semble que c'est l'ouvrage de référence qui permet de comprendre
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Par arrossa64 le 9 février 2013
Format: Broché Achat vérifié
Livre en anglais racontant les origines énigmatiques et l'histoire du peuple basque: avec sa langue, sa culture, ses sports et son histoire culinaire. A déguster par tous ceux qui maîtrisent l'anglais.
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Commentaires client les plus utiles sur (beta) 137 commentaires
108 internautes sur 112 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Hard to put down, but... 3 juillet 2000
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I've always been interested in basque culture and language, have even tried to learn euskera on my own. That said, I also am very interested in spanish culture (castilian, galician, catalan etc.) as such and have lived in Madrid for a while.
I found this book very readable and hard to put down, Kurlansky has a knack for presenting the material in an entertaining and readable fashion without getting stylistically bland. Despite that, I have some gripes with it. Kurlansky is obviously a journalist and writes the book as such, but I for one would have wanted more of a historians account. His choice of not using footnotes or endnotes, but just supplying a general bibliography at the end, is very annoying, because that way he is able to put down statements without backing them up. I even found one wrong statement, that basque ships had been sighted in Iceland in 1412. That's wrong, these ships were english, ushering in what is called the English Age in icelandic history (basques didn't arrive in Iceland until the end of the 16th. century, there are at least no accounts available of earlier encounters). Kurlansky is not the only one guilty of making this mistake, but if he would have dug a bit further he would have found out the truth. So it goes to show, if he trusted is sources so blindly in this case, what else is inaccurate there? Again, the use of footnotes/endnotes would have solved this, as one would have been able to verify each statement.
Kurlansky is also quite romantic, and even if he tries to criticize when criticism is due, it's quite obvious that his sympathy lies with the basques. This mix works quite well in the earlies chapters on prehistory, but not as well when he talks about the political situation today. Although I doubt that what he says of the Madrid government is wrong, but he doesn't back it up sufficiently, again, something that would have been solved by using footnotes or endnotes. Furthermore, he doesn't tell much of the deeds of ETA except for the more heroic ones in the 60's and 70's. ETA has of course been guilty of extreme cruelty through the years, which Kurlansky fails to mention. He also fails to describe how ETA has changed through the years, getting more extremist every year as more moderate members leave. He also is guilty of inaccuracies such as stating that "Euskal Herritarrok" is just "Herri Batasuna" with another name, which is not entirely true. He's also not entirely right that the street violence (or "kale barroka") is not favourable to ETA or its supporters, as members of Herri Batasuna have recently shown support publically. He also doesn't mention that there are members within Herri Batasuna that feel that ETA should give up their violent struggle. I don't know why Kurlansky chose not to give a more balanced account, perhaps he found it necessary because the spanish (Madrid) press is usually is very biased against basque nationalism (not just ETA), and that is usually the viewpoint that comes across in the international media. Kurlanskys viewpoint deserves to be heard, though, the spanish government has not been the innocent bystander they like us to believe and it is amazing that accounts have not yet been settled after the Franco years. The authorities just seem to trust that these times will be forgotten in the "New Spain". Anyway, I give the book 3 stars, it's very readable and hard to put down and gives a good overview of the history of the basques, but shouldn't be taken at face value as it is not without bias and also is guilty of some inaccuracies and sometimes a bit careless handling of source material.
70 internautes sur 76 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par EriKa - Publié sur
Format: Relié
Kurlansky has written a brilliant introduction to a mysterious people. It is also a timely one, although not universally popular considering its rather lax treatment of ETA violence. Kurlansky does perhaps harbour sympathies for the Basque people and even for the most extreme of their nationalist tendencies, but he does not let this completely cloud his judgment, and it is not entirely clear that Kurlansky "takes sides" or endorses one course of action or another. I can see why it would be easy to become so attached to the Basques and their culture, their language, and the ongoing fight they have pursued in order to keep these fundamentals of who they are intact. People deserve to keep their history, heritage, language, and cuisine, and the Basques have a long, rich, and misunderstood history which deserves the kind of recognition Kurlansky's book brings to their cause, wherever Kurlansky's personal sympathies lie.
I felt that Kurlansky presented basically unbiased information, particularly about the history of the Basques in centuries past. The book is filled with revelations about this formidable and fascinating culture, and I feel that these kinds of explorations in Kurlansky's research and writing dominated this work much more so than current political issues or separatist violence. Sure, it is easy enough for me to say this, completely isolated from the violence and the everyday problems these tense relations may create, but I can say that there are groups in the world who are routinely terrorized by other groups without provocation. (Perhaps "terrorized" is not the ideal word choice because I do not see a reign of terror in the making. I do see that some people may perceive the unrest as such depending on their vantage point).
I, however, was an interested reader who was wholly ignorant of Basque culture and history and wanted to learn more. I got lucky when I wandered through the Halifax, Nova Scotia airport one afternoon and found this book there. Kurlansky has written a well-organized, clear, and thoughtful introduction to the Basque people... people who are misunderstood, underrepresented, and unknown in some cases (I rarely meet Americans, for example, who know what a Basque is. When I tell them they scoff and wonder why I would care to know). I emphasize that I consider this book to be only an introduction or a stepping stone. Kurlansky has not provided the definitive and comprehensive history of the Basque people. He has merely provided a useful tool for further study. One thing that was a fascinating, albeit seemingly random, addition to his work was the interweaving of Basque culinary information. Although I sincerely enjoyed those tidbits, I found their placement a bit annoying.
At the heart of the book is the question that lingers on... "if Euskera is the oldest living language in Europe, are the Basques the oldest European culture?" Euskera has been called an impossible, obscure and incomprehensible language, and for much of history the Euskera speakers were left to themselves, and they developed and explored (as other reviewers point out). They became expert whalers and fishermen, the world's first capitalists, industrialists and the first modern bankers in Spain. Yet there is little more than speculation to corroborate ideas that the Basques were so advanced, particularly in crossing the Atlantic earlier than anyone else.
Major turning points for the Basques have included the 1600s, when, as a nationless nationality, they were more or less locked out of the fishing industry. In the 1700s, the abolition of the Basque traditional laws, the Fueros, followed by the abolition of traditionally collectively held land, also seemed to change things. A pivotal character in the history of Basque nationalism was Sabino Arana, who invented words to create a nation, if in language only, for the Euskera speaking people. "In the Basque language, which is called Euskera, there is no word for Basque. The only word to identify a member of their group is Euskaldun-Euskera speaker. Their land is called Euskal Herria-the land of Euskera speakers. It is language that defines a Basque." Arana wanted to change this by making a new word-Euskadi-to give their region a name.
This is another key question-what exactly makes a person Basque? Is it parentage, residence in Basqueland, or speaking the language? The definition of a Basque has changed over time, but Kurlansky did a fine job exploring some of the changes in attitude and questions surrounded what makes a person Basque. In recent years, there has been a renaissance of "Basqueness" and trying to discover Basqueness. People in the region have been learning and teaching Basque language and culture, and there has been a more prolific creation of a Basque literature. I felt that these issues were key to the book, or at least I hope they were, because that was the most beautiful idea I could think of. The Basque people have survived centuries of adversity, and I think it is much more useful to look at the everyday people rather than ETA extremism. I feel inspired to travel to the Basque region and also to take up the study of Euskera myself (for anyone interested, the University of Nevada in Reno, USA offers online courses and even a PhD program in Basque!)
78 internautes sur 88 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
The first time somebody has written positively about Basques 29 octobre 1999
Par Gotzone Intxausti - Publié sur
Format: Relié
I am a Basque woman living in New York. It is the first time I have read a positive history about my people. Unfortunately, we Basque people have not been good in keeping our written records and most of our history has been written by people who wanted to conquer and dominate us. "The Basque history of the World" is a beautiful informative book about what it is to be Basque in a world that has not been able to understand our way of life. Most countries want to expand, and to create empires. Basques did not and do not want to expand. This different point of view is not well understood by people who believe there is something strange in a group of people who have travelled all over the world, who have been among the first to go and help conquer the new world,but who have never really wanted to broaden their borders. Mark Kurlanski's attempt to try and explain the rationale of Basque people is commandable. I thank him for this pleasure.
48 internautes sur 55 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Not a sheepish people. 12 mars 2000
Par Kurt Harding - Publié sur
Format: Relié
If you don't mind a little historical romanticism a la Michener, then you will probably greatly enjoy this fine introduction to the Basque people. I frequently travel to Northern Nevada where I've met many Basques and eaten at most, if not all of the Basque restaurants there. Yet when I rave about these places at home, a blank look appears on most faces followed by the question "What is a Basque?" Kurlansky's book goes a long way toward answering that question and shows how the Basque, despite not having a formal country, has been able to hold on to language and culture and to have an important influence on the development of the Americas from Argentina to our American West. Intertwined in his easy to read history are all sorts of fascinating tidbits about this little understood people. I only wish that there was more about the Basques in America because it is they who have given the most flavor to the western Great Basin. After reading this book, you will surely want to know more. If you can't make it to Euskadi, check out the Basque Festival in Elko or go by J and T's in Gardnerville and ask Marie to sell you a "Nevada, so many sheep, so little time" bumper sticker and then enjoy a Basque feast.
52 internautes sur 61 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Basques leap tall buildings with a single bound 27 septembre 2001
Par Un client - Publié sur
Format: Broché
I began reading Kurlansky's book about Basque history with some reservations. His engaging story about Cod, "...the fish that changed the world", was filled with speculation disguised as fact and half truths supporting some very dubious conclusions. Yet it was a wonderful yarn, well written, cleverly marketed as a "biography", and a joy to read. Given my deep admiration for the Basque people, I was hoping he would produce a better effort this time around.
Unfortunately, Mr. Kurlansky has reverted to his old habits of exageration, bias and a highly selective use of fragmented and questionable historical evidence ranging from the supposed medieval design of steam engines to the existence of multiple north and south American whaling colonies in the fourteenth century, all the product of Basque genius and daring. The reader is treated to an almost laughable interpretation of European history; to wit: the Basques invented nearly everything, they discovered the entire world, were the bravest soldiers, the best seafarers, most intrepid businessmen and greatest thinkers of the Iberian Peninsula. Oh, by the way, no footnotes.
To say that many of Kurlansky's claims are suspect or subject to interpretation, or possibly just a teeny bit overblown, would be charitable. Some are just wrong and others are impossible to verify. It is at least arguable the Basques are not the most Catholic people in Europe. Elcano was not the first man to circumnavigate the globe as Kurlansky suggests. Magellan had reached the Philippines sailing east before undertaking the westerly journey to the same area where he lost his life in a skirmish.
It's one thing to say the Basques were great fishermen which is true. It's something else to claim, as does Kurlansky without doubt or reservation, that they were the first to fish cod and whales off north America. That is a proposition which has sharply divided historians for years. To assert that the Basques developed the first commercial law of the sea is to ignor the Rhodian Code, Amalfi "Tablets", Rules of Oleron, parts of Justinian's Digests and the Llibre del Consolat de Mar of Barcelona.
The point of all this is that Kurlansky's book about Basque history is biased, misleading and distorted. His fondness and respect for the people of Basqland apparently has clouded his judgement to the point that credibility becomes an issue in the second or third chapter. I had trouble finishing the book. He is an author desperately in need of an editor, fact checker and some balance in his approach to European history.
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