2000-02-10: The Basque History of the World

The Basque History of the World (1999)

by Mark Kurlansky (1948-)

This is a deceptively interesting book. Although the topic doesn’t appear inherently very interesting, Kurlansky held my interest with a blend of historical fact, small stories, memetic analysis, and recipes. (OK, I didn’t really read the recipes, but I did like the fact that they were there.)

I was previously interested in the Basque language, but I didn’t know it was called Euskera, or that the synthetic dialectic created to bridge the several natural dialects (at least in literature) is called Batua.

The Basques have been key players in a lot of the history among Europe and the Americas. The first person to circumnavigate the world was not Magellan; he died somewhere around the Philippines. His second-in-command who completed the voyage was a Basque.

My interest is the definition and survival of isolated cultures, not political matters. The Basque culture, like the Welsh, Breton, and others, has been under pressure for a long time. In the perhaps less-nationalistic European Union, Basque culture seems to be thriving better than any time for the past century. If the Basques can temper terrorism, and focus on cultural preservation and enhancement, perhaps they will have something positive to contribute to the world’s consciousness concerning cultural matters.

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