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.


WILLIAM WEINTRAUB is the author of two novels, Why Rock the Boat and The Underdogs, and the non-fiction book, City Unique: Montreal Days and Nights in the 1940s and 1950s.

McClelland & Stewart CAN/Oct 2001 O/P


A Memoir of the 1950s

With Letters From Mordecai Richler, Mavis Gallant, and Brian Moore.

“Dear Bill:
I got your highly unintellectual letter yesterday (Can’t you think of anything important to say? Don’t you know we live in highly explosive times?) and it confirmed my suspicions that you slipped a chair under your arse in the Deux Magots as soon as you arrived in Paris and probably haven’t moved since. And so the sad parade of life passes you by, son…”
Letter from Mordecai Richler, June 27, 1951

There are many ways to describe this witty, charming memoir of friendship and literature. We could portray it as the story of three guys and a gal getting started in life and work. Each longs to write and to have fun. Hope mixes with doubt. Indeed, can four kids incubated in 1950s Montreal find adequate income, an interesting life, and recognition in the domestic and world arenas?

Amazingly, yes. In the 1950s, Brian Moore emerges as a novelist of the top rank with The Lonely Passion of Judith HearneMordecai Richler sees The Apprenticeship of Duddy Kravitz become a success and a Canadian classic. Mavis Gallant moves to Paris and establishes herself as a major literary presence in the New Yorker magazine. And Bill Weintraub, hilariously funny, curious, and insightful, launches himself from journalism to a distinguished career as a filmmaker with Canada’s National Film Board, and becomes an author of two comic novels, and later, an acclaimed book on the rise and fall of Montreal.

Weintraub and his pals speak through their lively, unselfconscious letters. They are affectionate, witty, generous, encouraging, and playful as they gossip, explore their own values, or recount difficult personal and professional setbacks. And when the mature Weintraub recollects those tender years, we experience the mastery of understatement, the elegance of economy, and perfect comic timing.