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Publisher's Summary

Award-winning author Mark Kurlansky has drawn enthusiastic praise for his books, which are sharply-focused studies as well as glorious celebrations of their subjects. In The Basque History of the World, he turns his eye toward Europe’s oldest surviving culture - a culture as mysterious as it is fascinating.

Settled in the western Pyrenees Mountains of France and Spain, the Basque nation is not drawn on maps, and the origin of their forbidden language has never been discovered. Yet Basques appear to predate all other cultures in Europe, with many significant global contributions to their credit. Most notably, one of their own took command after Magellan’s death and was the first person to circumnavigate the globe.

This informative book is full of lively anecdotes that illuminate an otherwise obscure culture. Narrator George Guidall rises to the challenge of the text, which includes many Basque terms, and interprets beautifully.

©1999 Mark Kurlansky (P)2000 Recorded Books, LLC

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  • 11-23-13

Fills a gap in most folks' historical knowledge

"Basque History of the World" I found very appealing since it was a corner of world history that I was sadly lacking in understanding. Mark Kurlansky does a creditable job in assembling this account and I for one am grateful. The influence of these people went far beyond their population and national power.

I don't know why I was unaware of their seafaring prowess and effect on trade and commerce throughout a great deal of European history and beyond. Ship building, mining and border issues were some of the important roles that Basques played a part in. I especially liked the ancient history of the Basques, including their origins, language and iconoclastic culture.

The narrator, George Guidall, is always good and makes the journey through the details of a long and eventful story a pleasure.

The last third of the book gets mired down in a miasma of multi party disputes and allegiances which I found not to be as engaging as the first part. The recitation of 20th century struggles of E.T.A. and Franco were not as enlightening as was the tale of the earlier centuries of how this small corner of Europe survived and thrived. It retained its own speech and customs which last to this day in spite of the pressure of vastly more powerful and numerous neighbors and enemies.

If you are a history buff this would be a good listen, at least most of it.

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating culture

The book is about one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world - the Basques.

The book discusses Basque language, cooking (including some recipes), culture, historically significant people, graffiti (3+4=1), sports (pelota), internal conflicts among the Basques themselves, the Spanish Civil War (the German bombing of Guernica), art, WWII, religion (Catholic versus secularism) and current issues. I didn't realize the Spanish government was so dictorial towards this culture.

The author is supportive of a Basque nation but that doesn't seem possible now. He almost justifies Basque violence by saying the Spanish government also engages in violence. The author thinks it is realistic for the Basques to follow their own laws but still be a part of Spain/France. That is not logical.

I gained so much knowledge and understanding of this culture. I wish I knew more about the people when I was in Spain so I could have been on the lookout for cultural references.

There is a question-answer session at the end of the audiobook. I would have liked to have heard how the Basque language sounded.

Highly recommended.

2 people found this helpful

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An incredible history of a fantastic people

I went to visit some friends in Durango and instantly fell in love with the Basque Country. I hope to return there ASAP, and this book is an invaluable resource to learn about their culture, their politics, and even their mysterious and beautiful language. The narrator’s voice somewhat creates the atmosphere of an outsider looking in, but Kurlansky himself has spent decades living in the Basque Country, and it reads as very even-handed and insightful. 6/5 stars!

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An enlightening history of a unique people

Mark Kurlansky has accomplished an extraordinary cultural and literary feat here which I unapologetically praise.