In 701 B.C. the Assyrian empire was in its ascendancy. It had already vanquished the kingdom of Israel to the north including the capital at Samaria. It then prepared an assault on Judah and its capital at Jerusalem.
But in one of those significant events that changes the course of world history, Assyria was repelled. Jerusalem was saved until 586 B.C. when the Babylonians sacked the city, forcing its leadership class into exile.
Henry Aubin, in a major feat of scholarship, determines that Jerusalem was aided by a Kushite army from Africa which had marched northeast from the Nile valley. While the Bible attributes the Assyrian retreat to an angel and secular commentators cite pestilence, Aubin, in a meticulously documented work, demonstrates that an alliance with the African nation of Kush bolstered Jerusalem’s defences.
Kush, also known as Nubia, was located in what is now southern Egypt and northern Sudan. A monarchy that existed for more than 1000 years, from 900 B.C. to A.D. 350, Kushites held sway over Egypt from 712 B.C. to about 660 B.C. Of Egypt’s 31 dynasties, this, the 25th Dynasty, is the only one that all scholars agree, was black.
The commander of the Kushite expeditionary force was Taharqa (or as the Bible calls him Tirhakah). This Kushite prince, who had his own interests in halting Assyrian expansion, likely caught the aggressors by surprise as they prepared their siege of Jerusalem.
Aubin offers a thrilling military history and a stirring political analysis of the ancient world. He also sees the event as influential over the centuries.
The Kushite rescue of the Hebrew kingdom of Judah enabled the fragile, war-ravaged state to endure, to nurse itself back to economic and demographic health, and allowed the Hebrew religion, Yahwism, to evolve within the next several centuries into Judaism. Thus emerged the monotheistic trunk supporting Christianity and Islam.
Maurice Yacowar, who writes extensively on popular culture, knew of Bratby the artist. When he spotted out-of-print copies of his novels for sale on eBay, which were previously unknown to him, his interest was piqued. It led him to a mountainous cache of diaries, letters and documents. He supplemented these with interviews of Bratby’s intimates.
Middlesex University Press July 2008
The Great Bratby
A Portrait of the British Artist John Bratby (1928-1992)
Artistic reputations are subject to whims of fortune. The public’s perception of genius shifts radically, as if on a bungee chord, as Margaret Atwood once remarked.
In the late 1950s John Bratby suddenly became England’s most prominent artist, the leader of the Kitchen Sink Realist painters. Flouting the tradition of pretty paintings he poured out thick images of everyday experience–his family junk, wild gardens, crammed tabletops, sunflowers, toilets.
He was the darling of the British media from the social and style pages to the literary pages, to television talk shows. His paintings were featured in the film based on Joyce Carey’s novel The Horse’s Mouth and actor Alec Guinness modelled his portrayal of artist Gully Jimson on Bratby’s wild and outrageous energy.
Bratby lived large. He maniacally produced 1500 portraits of famous people from music hall comedians to the Queen Mother. He also wrote copiously. Hutchinson published four of his autobiographical novels. Bratby also chronicled his life, moods, and sexual appetites in diaries.
But the passion (or fashion) for abstract art swamped Bratby. The spotlight and critical attention was on New York not London.
Maurice Yacowar has produced a vivid account of an artist, his times, and the way reputations soar an die and sometimes flare to life again in this age of personal celebrity.