The Basque Country: A Cultural History

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The Basque Country is a land of fascinating paradoxes and enigmas. Home to one of Europe's oldest peoples and most mysterious languages, with a living folklore rich in archaic rituals and dances, it also boasts a dynamic modern energy, with the reinvention of Bilbao creating a model for the twenty-first-century city.

In The Basque Country, Paddy Woodworth takes us on a sweeping tour of this enchanting land. We discover a small territory which abounds in big contrasts, ranging from moist green valleys to semi-desert badlands, from snowy sierras to sandy beaches, from harsh industrial landscapes to bucolic beech woods. The book reveals how this often idyllic scenery forms the backdrop for a land of ancient and modern culture, where Basque poets still compose spontaneous stanzas in public contests and where strange age-old sports—rock lifting, goose decapitation—are still held at fiestas. Likewise, the region has made important contributions to modern culture, through novelists like Bernardo Atxaga, sculptors like Eduardo Chillida, painters like Zuluoaga, and cineastes like Julio Medem. And of course Bilbao's flagship museum, the Guggenheim, designed by Frank O. Gehry, may be the best work of architecture of the last century.

Here then is a marvelous guide to the culture and landscape of one of the most intriguing places on Earth.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"The Basque Country is full of gems.... Woodworth has a good eye for architecture and topography.... This is a splendid portrait of a bewitching land."—Financial Times

"An enthralling homage...deserves to rank as [the] companion of Julio Medem's film, The Basque Ball."—The Sunday Tribune

"A terrific modern introduction to the Basque Country...succeeds in showing us the complexities of the Basque struggle for identity."—Irish Times

"He weaves a rich tapestry from his catalogue of stories and journeys but is not slow to criticise, often with acerbic wit...knows his subject intimately...a roller-coaster ride around the region...expands our idea of identity in a world of sameness...more than a travel book. Through this valuable record of a culture surviving, often thriving, we share a richness and depth often missing from modern life. Woodworth guides us down that road with style and intensity, until you want to savour the uniqueness of the Basque country first-hand."—Sunday Business Post

"A spectacular achievement by any standards. Definitive in scope and lyrical in to set alongside any of the finest travel writing of recent decades."—The Hot Press

"A marvellous book...subtle and ironic...he has] an exasperated love for this buy this book if you are going to the Basque Country, or if you have no intention of ever going but enjoy armchair exploration."—The Dubliner

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195328004
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/27/2007
  • Series: Landscapes of the Imagination Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 632,821
  • Product dimensions: 8.30 (w) x 5.40 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Paddy Woodworth has written about the Basque Country for thirty years, and is the author of Dirty War, Clean Hands: ETA, the GAL and Spanish Democracy, described by Paul Preston as "one of the best books ever published on post-Franco Spain."

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Table of Contents

Introduction - Land of stone, iron, glass: Land of the Basques
Chapter One. Where are we, exactly? And what will we call this place?
Chapter Two. A short version of a long history: From the stone age to the Civil War
Chapter Three. Bai, bai, Urdaibai: cave paintings, painted trees, tree of Gernika
Chapter Four. The fronton at the heart of life: the power and beauty of pelota
Chapter Five. Cinco Villas: Pio Baroja, flying Mari, sword dances, and sorcery
Chapter Six. Gastronomy: some answers to the most urgent Basque question
Chapter Seven. Wow, Bilbao! The transformation of a tough city
Chapter Eight. From the music of labor, to music as a labor of love
Chapter Nine. Obaba in Asteasu: the Basque village as a literary universe
Chapter Ten. Gudari for God
Chapter Eleven. Serious Fun: fiestas in Laguardia
Chapter Twelve. Don't mention the war: the dark side of Basque - and Spanish - politics
Chapter Thirteen. Bay of Biscay: whales, Belle Epoque, decapitated geese, sexual politics
Chapter Fourteen. Living in shadowlands: Basque, but not Basque nationalist
Chapter Fifteen. Navaree - heartland or hinterland?
Chapter Sixteen. Mountain high: pleasure and penitence and pagan gods
Chapter Seventeen. Iparralde: the Basques on the other side of the mountains

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Posted June 30, 2010

    Informative, interesting and easy to read!!

    Posted June 30, 2010, 5:41 PM EST: I have to say that I am actually a Basque person myself and that I enjoyed every single word and every single page of this book: in my opinion you don't need to love the Basque people to start reading the book... but once you read the book, you cannot but help it loving us...:-) The book is not just a cultural or historical book or a travel guide of the Basque Country. Well, it could be considered to be a mixture of the above, but I would say that the book goes far beyond the specifics of depicting the Basque people: the book is more like a celebration of human identity, of our universal need of belonging to a group (any at all!!): In a nutshell the book "The Basque Country" is a hymn to the beauty of belonging to the human race!!!! no more, no less. God bless the author for that.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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