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.
“In Engel’s memoir, he relates the difficult journey from bookworm word-jockey to near-illiterate and back again; a successful mystery novelist in his native Canada, Engel awoke one morning to discover he’d lost the ability to read. Soon, he’s informed that he suffered a stroke while asleep, and is afflicted with alexia sine agraphia, a condition in which he can still write, but can’t read-even what he himself has written. While battling alexia in rehab, Engel juggles a young son and a girlfriend, and tries to figure out how to support himself and his family. After accepting that he will never again write adventures for his long-time lead, detective Benny Cooperman, he eventually finds himself forging a therapeutic novel in which Benny suffers from a brain injury similar to Engel’s own. This intriguing account of personal tragedy, overcome with grace and humility, is an inspirational and instructive tale.”
“Engel uses his novelistic gifts to spin a tale that is equal parts heart-wrenching, inspiring, and self-deprecatingly funny.”
Quill & Quire
“In The Man Who Forgot How to Read, Engel tells his story from the inside, with extraordinary insight, humour and intelligence. It is a story that is not only as fascinating as one of his own detective novels, but a testament to the resilience and creative adaptation of one man and his brain.”
“It is witty, insightful, moving without being sentimental, and it keeps you turning the pages. I urge you to read it.”
“His memoir manages to transcend…a self-consciousness that is predicated on unreliable memories….[It avoids] jargon, hyperbole or self-glorification. It finds humour in the grim.”
The Globe and Mail
HarperCollins Can/World Rights 2007
St. Martin’s US 2008
Rizzoli Italy 2008
The Man Who Forgot How To Read
One morning crime novelist Howard Engel picked up the newspaper from his front step and found that he couldn’t read it. The letters had mysteriously jumbled into something that looked to him like Cyrillic at one moment and Korean the next.
While he slept, Engel had experienced a stroke and was now suffering from a rare condition known as alexia sine agraphia, the inability to read. It was a devastating blow for a man whose entire life had been devoted to books and reading.
In this absorbing and uplifting memoir, Howard Engel chronicles his rehabilitation, how he slowly began to learn to read again and how he continued to write.
Since his stroke Howard Engel has written two more Benny Cooperman mysteries, Memory Book and East of Suez.
Listen to an interview with Howard Engel on NPR: