THE LAST OF THE CELTS

Marcus Tanner, Author . Yale Univ. $30 (432p) ISBN 978-0-300-10464-6

"[T]here is nothing that the British or the French love more than a good old Celtic revival," writes Tanner. But the recent renaissance of interest in all things Celtic is "vacuous," he continues, a mere mask for the rapid disappearance of genuine Celtic culture in the British Isles and Brittany. In this lively book, which is part travelogue and part social history, independent historian Tanner (Ireland's Holy Wars ) records the results of his world travels in search of the remaining vestiges of Celtic culture. As he moves from Scotland and Belfast to Wales, Cornwall and Cape Breton, he discovers that English has replaced Celtic languages and that modernization has erased many of the remaining Celtic rituals and practices. He provides not only a portrait of modern society in flux in these regions but also a picture of each society's rich history. Tanner finds that Celtic music has become the vehicle for preserving the distinctive features of the Celtic past, although some musical spectacles that purport to preserve the culture, such as Riverdance , are more faux Celtic than the real thing. Tanner particularly laments the disappearance of such languages as Welsh, for without a living language, proverbs and other sayings that preserve a people's folkways are lost forever. This thoughtful book provides a very different, less optimistic perspective on today's Celtic revival. Agent, Natasha Fairweather at A.P. Watt. (Oct.)

Reviewed on: 08/30/2004
Release date: 09/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 398 pages - 978-0-300-11535-2
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