One thing is for sure – I have painfully little time left for reading nowadays. I can too easily count the latest books I have read, and here I am more than one month after my trip to Bilbao painfully ending the reading of the book about the history and culture of the Basque Country that I had bought at the Bilbao Guggenheim Museum Shop (I did not have time to get to a bookshop during my stay there). I started to read it on my flight back home and read maybe two thirds of it then, but life, work, the vacation to Paris, the Internet, the magazines, all the reasons and excuses made so that only now I have finished it.

 

source http://www.blogseitb.us/discoverbasquecountry/paddy-woodworth/

 

The name of the book is ‘The Basque Country, A Cultural History’, the author is Paddy Woodworth and one can learn more about his work and person on his Web site. He is Irish, so here I am, an Israeli reading a book about the Basque country written by an Irish, we all have in common the belonging to lands of conflict, long conflicts, with roots in history, with causes hard to understand for people coming from outside. This was one of the reasons I picked the book, which seemed to me the most serious out of not a very wide choice in the shop. Woodworth was a correspondent of the Irish Time since the late 80s, he lived and wrote about Spain and the Basque country. The book is published in the UK by Signal and in the US by the Oxford University Press in a collection nicely titled Landscapes of the Imagination.

 

source http://buber.net/Basque/?p=70

 

Reading such a book can be only an opener to a land, a people, and a culture such interesting and complex as the Basque. I would not take this book as a guide and it is not intended to be one. I would rather take it as an introduction and an essay about the complicated matter of the identity of one of the oldest (if not the oldest) people in Europe, about their history, traditions, political and economic challenges. There is a lot of useful information in the book about the historical background, about the folklore and the traditions, about the literature and art, about economic development and coping with the bigger neighboring nations and the integration in Europe and the modern world. The organization of the material may not be optimal, but again, the book seems not to be targeting the casual tourist, but the more attentive reader, the one who plans to travel with his mind and his body in the Basque Country and know it better. Beyond the useful information a rich bibliography and a small basic but very useful dictionary help a lot. The two maps in the book are however very schematic, so the reader needs to take a more detailed map to understand where many places referred in the book really are. Overall, Paddy Woodworth is careful to keep the balance and not take parts in the complicated political matters but what radiates from the writing is the huge respect and attachment for the country and the people he lives with and writes about more than a couple of decades. I spent too short a time during my business trip last month which was also confined to Bilbao only and I plan to be back for a trip that would allow me to know better the Basque Country. I will read again this book before that trip.