Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe Review

Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe
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Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe ReviewThis book is a mixture of a travelogue, investigative journalism and history combined, written by a sympathetic amateur.
The author set out with her husband and two small children in a mobile home to visit many of the stateless minorities living in Western Europe, from the Sami in northern Scandinavia to the Sardinians in the South, from the Macedonians in the Balkans to the Breton in the West. Regrettably, Gaelic-speaking minorities of Britain and Ireland are omitted from the book.
Though I was somewhat baffled by her often decidedly ad hoc approach to finding informants and the family's hippy or gypsy style travel (complete with unwashed clothes and lice), overall she has presented a fascinating look at Europe from a very unusual angle.
Reading about often tiny minorities struggling to preserve their identity, culture and language under rather different circumtances in the various European countries, one can't fail to be shocked by the ignorance or even hostility exhibited towards them by many of the supposedly democratic nation states they live in.
Rather than case studies presented in a dry, academic manner, the fate of each group and their language is depicted through personal impressions of them and their lands by a layman (well, woman) and personal accounts of various members of these "tribes". This manages to bring the issue to life, giving us a good feel of what the minorities themselves think about their own history, present situation and future prospects.
As the title suggests, one of the focal points of the author's investigation was the fate of the mother tongues of these minorities, and she presents an often sad, yet sometimes cautiously optimistic picture of past (sometimes even present) opression, lethargic neglect, and passionate efforts to turn back the process of assimilation and extinction.
While those preferring just to get the essential facts and statistical data are advised to look elsewhere, this book can be an absorbing read for those who wish to get to know the human faces of Europe's endangered minority native peoples and languages.
Note that while it is marked out of print here, new copies of another edition (ISBN: 0330372815) of this book are still available cheaply on Amazon's UK site!Mother Tongues: Travels Through Tribal Europe OverviewOver a period of eighteen months, the author, her husband and their two young daughters rattled over the roads and motorways of Europe in their mobile home. Their journey took them to the heart of tribal Europe: to the Fresian Islands, Samiland, the Basque country; to Macedonia, Corsica and Provence. Drysdale sought out Europe's indigenous tribes and took stock of their place in our modern world, analyzing the link between language and identity and capturing many of the voices and cultures that are already fading away.

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