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Mark Kurlansky and "The Basque History of the World" on Monday's Access Utah

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Penguin Books; Reprint edition (February 1, 2001)
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  With this episode we inaugurate a new series on AU: Our Favorite Books:

In “The Basque History of the World” (published 1999) Mark Kurlansky writes “They are a mythical people, almost an imagined people.”

Straddling a small corner of Spain and France in a land that is marked on no maps except their own, the Basques are a puzzling contradiction—they are Europe's oldest nation without ever having been a country. No one has ever been able to determine their origins, and even the Basques' language, Euskera—the most ancient in Europe—is related to no other current language on earth. For centuries, their influence has been felt in nearly every realm, from religion to sports to commerce.

  Among the Basques' greatest accomplishments:

  • Exploration—the first man to circumnavigate the globe, Juan Sebastian de Elcano, was a Basque and the Basques were the second Europeans, after the Vikings, in North America

  • Gastronomy and agriculture—they were the first Europeans to eat corn and chili peppers and cultivate tobacco, and were among the first to use chocolate

  • Religion—Ignatius Loyola, a Basque, founded the Jesuit religious order

  • Business and politics—they introduced capitalism and modern commercial banking to southern Europe

  • Recreation—they invented beach resorts, jai alai, and racing regattas, and were the first Europeans to play sports with balls

Mark Kurlansky was born in Hartford, Connecticut.  After receiving a BA in Theater from Butler University in 1970, and refusing to serve in the military, Kurlansky worked in New York as a playwright, having a number of off-off Broadway productions, and as a playwright-in-residence at Brooklyn College. He won the 1972 Earplay award for best radio play of the year.

He worked many other jobs including as a commercial fisherman, a dock worker, a paralegal, a cook, and a pastry chef.

In the mid 1970s, unhappy with the direction New York theater was taking, he turned to journalism, an early interest–he had been an editor on his high school newspaper.  From 1976 to 1991 he worked as a  foreign correspondent for The International Herald Tribune, The Chicago Tribune, The Miami Herald, The Philadelphia Inquirer. Based in Paris and then Mexico, he reported on Europe, West Africa, Southeast Asia, Central America, Latin America and the Caribbean.

His articles have appeared in a wide variety of newspapers and magazines, including The International Herald Tribune, The Philadelphia Inquirer, The Miami Herald, The Chicago Tribune, The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, Partisan Review, Harper’s, New York Times Sunday Magazine, Audubon Magazine, Food & Wine, Gourmet, Bon Apetit and Parade.

In addition to numerous guest lectures at Columbia University School of Journalism, Yale University, Colby College, Grinnell College, the University of Dayton  and various other schools, he has taught a two week creative writing class in Assisi, Italy, a one week intensive non-fiction workshop in Devon, England for the Arvon Foundation, and has guest lectured all over the world on history, writing, environmental issues, and other subjects.  In Spring 2007 he was the Harman writer-in-residence at Baruch College teaching a fourteen week honors course titled “Journalism and the Literary Imagination.” His books have been translated into twenty-five languages and he often illustrates them himself.

He has had 29 books published including fiction, nonfiction, and children's books.

Tom Williams worked as a part-time UPR announcer for a few years and joined Utah Public Radio full-time in 1996. He is a proud graduate of Uintah High School in Vernal and Utah State University (B. A. in Liberal Arts and Master of Business Administration.) He grew up in a family that regularly discussed everything from opera to religion to politics. He is interested in just about everything and loves to engage people in conversation, so you could say he has found the perfect job as host “Access Utah.” He and his wife Becky, live in Logan.