The Basque Country: A Cultural History

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Oxford University Press, Dec 27, 2007 - Travel - 320 pages
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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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Contents

Wherixe Are We Exactly? And What Will We Call This Place?
1
A Short Version of a Long History From the Stone Age to the Civil War
13
Bai Bai Urdaibai Cave Paintings Painted Trees Tree of Gernika
39
The Frontón at the Heart of Life The Power and Beauty of Pelota
63
Cinco Villas Pío Baroja Flying Mari Sword Dances and Sorcery
73
Gastronomy Some Answers to the Most Urgent Basque Question
95
Wow Bilbao The Transformation of a Tough City
103
From the Music of Labour to Music as a Labour of Love
135
Bay of Biscay Wlhales Belle Epoque Decapitated Geese Sexual Politics
189
Navarre Heartland or Hinterland?
213
Mountain High Pleasure Penitence and Pagan Gods
239
IparraIde The Basques on the Other Side of the Mountains
245
The Reality of Magic the Magic of Reality
271
Further Reading
277
Glossary
281
Index of Names Organizations
285

Obaba in Asteasu the Basque Village as a Literary Universe
141
Serious Fun Fiestas in Laguardia
159
Dont Mention the War The Dark Side of Basqueand SpanishPolitics
171

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About the author (2007)

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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