Luxembourg (Cultures Of The World), by Patricia Sheehan
One of the more fascinating aspects of writing for young readers is that there is a far greater interest in books about cultures for young readers than for older ones. It is astonishing just how common it is to find books about other countries in the 100-150 page range or so, and how difficult it is to find books that are longer unless it is a nation large enough to have a few history books about it or to have travel guides devoted to it. By and large it appears that the English-language publishing business appears to devote books that discuss the basic history and culture of a nation to younger readers who might have to read it for school or who happen to be natively curious about such matters. I’m not sure what that says about the lack of curiosity that most adults are expected to have about the outside world but it’s definitely not a good thing. At any rate, this book is one of quite a few that discuss Luxembourg as a nation and praise it and its culture for young readers who are assumed to be interested in such matters and it’s as pleasant if superficial read.
This book is a bit more than 100 pages and is divided into various chapters. The book begins with an introduction. After that the author talks about the geography of the country as well as the history from Celtic rule to modern Luxembourg and its place in the European Union. After that comes a discussion of Luxembourg’s government as well as its economy and various aspects of the people themselves including demography, national identity, clothing, and some famous people from the country. There is a discussion of the country’s lifestyle, including its standard of living and environmental planning, as well as the importance of religion and the rivalry of languages that goes on in the country. After that there is a chapter on the country’s arts, including theater and cinema (which are surprisingly important) as well as traditional and modern architecture. After that there is a chapter on leisure including sports and travel, and then a discussion of the various festivals during the year, most of them related to the country’s Catholic identity, as well as a discussion of food (a lot of which has pork in it). The book then ends with a map, quite notes, glossary, bibliography, and index.
As far as a culture goes, there is a lot to think about when it comes to Luxembourg. In many ways Luxembourg demonstrates the sort of small culture that is not difficult to find in a place like Europe. It has a long tradition of being on the border between two regions (the French-speaking and German-speaking world) and of being distinct from either with its own dialect that has become a full-fledged if somewhat obscure language. Its cultural blend and linguistic quirkiness as well as its general religious homogeneity has helped to give it a very striking place as a small nation that has used its diplomacy as a chance to make it a neutral buffer state that is nonetheless fully committed to international institutions that allow it to punch above its weight and deal with things in a way other than through warfare and aggression that it is ill-equipped to handle. By and large this book does a good job at presenting Luxembourg in its complexity and discussing what elements of it would be of interest to a young and cosmopolitan reader, and that is probably enough to make it enjoyable for its target audience.