The Alexandria Link WRITERS NOTE
This book involved lots of travel. Trips were made to Denmark, England, Germany, Austria, Washington, DC, and Portugal. The basic concept was born during a dinner in Camden, South Carolina, when one of the hosts, Kenneth Harvey, asked me if I'd ever heard of a Lebanese scholar named Kamal Salibi. When I said no, Ken offered me four of Salibi's books. About a year later the idea for this novel blossomed. As always, though, the final story is a blend of fact and fiction.
Now it's time to know where the line was drawn.
As to the nakba, first described in the prologue, that tragedy was all too real and continues to haunt Middle East relations.
The monument described in chapters 8 and 34 is based on an actual marble arbor that exists at Shugborough Hall in England. New agers and conspiratorialists have debated its meaning for decades. The press conference in chapter 8 actually happened at Shugborough Hall, and the offered interpretations of the monument are the ones the actual experts expounded. The concept of the Roman letters being a map is my invention.
As mentioned, the idea of the Old Testament being a record of ancient Jews in a place other than Palestine is not mine. In 1985 Salibi detailed this theory in a book titled The Bible Came from Arabia. Salibi expounded on his ideas in three other works, Who Was Jesus (1988), Secrets of the Bible People (1988), and The Historicity of Biblical Israel (1998). George Haddad's experiences in how he noticed a connection between west Arabia and the Bible, detailed in chapter 52, mimic Salibi's. Also, the Saudi government did in fact bulldoze entire villages after the publication of Salibi's first book;to this day the Saudis refuse to allow any scientific digging in Asir.
The maps in chapters 57 and 68 are from Salibi's research. The idea that the land promised by God in the Abrahamic covenant lies in a region far removed from what we regard as Palestine is, to say the least, controversial. But as Salibi and George Haddad both noted, the matter could be easily proven, or dismissed, through archaeology. One point on language. Throughout the book, the term ’’Old Hebrew’’ is used to refer to the language of the original Hebrew Bible. Little is known of its orthography, grammar, syntax, or idiom. It was a language of learning, rarely spoken, and passed from common usage in the sixth or the fifth century B.C.E. ’’Old Hebrew,’’ as opposed to Biblical or Rabbinical Hebrew or some other descriptive label, was chosen simply for reader convenience.
The Old Testament inconsistencies noted in chapters 20, 23, and 57 are nothing new. Scholars have debated these points for centuries. The Bible, though, is, if nothing else, a fluid document, and each generation seems to leave a mark upon its interpretation.
The story of David Ben-Gurion in chapter 22 is accurate. The father of modern Israel did radically change his politics after 1965, becoming more conciliatory toward the Arabs. Thereafter, he was shut out of Israeli politics until his death in 1973. Of course, his visit to the library was my concoction.
The history of Nicolas Poussin in chapter 29 is true. His life also made a dramatic shift. The fate of his Shepherds of Arcadia is told correctly, and the excerpt from a letter that describes what Poussin may have secretly learned is real. Why Poussin created The Shepherds of Arcadia II, the reverse image of the first painting (which was chiseled on the monument at Shugborough Hall), is a mystery.
The Guardians are not real. Perhaps if they had existed, the Library of Alexandria might have been saved. The physical description of the library offered in chapter 21 is the best available. As to how more than half a million manuscripts vanished, the three explanations in chapter 21 are the experts'best guess. The learned men described in chapter 32 all lived, but sadly, thanks to the destruction of the Library of Alexandria, none of their writings have survived. The Piri Reis Map (chapter 32) still does exist, and offers a fleeting glimpse of what might have been lost.
The hero's quest is fictional, adapted from a mysterious manuscript called The Red Serpent. I came across it in Rennes-le-Chateau while researching The Templar Legacy.
The Order of the Golden Fleece was a French medieval society created as detailed in chapter 18. A social order bearing that name still thrives in Austria, but my fictional group is no relation. The robes and ornamentation described for the Order were inspired by the 15th century incarnation.
The Monastery of Santa Maria de Belem stands in Lisbon. I visited twice, and its history and magnificence-as described in chapters 46, 48, 51, 53, and 54-are accurate, though some of the building's internal geography was changed. It's a remarkable place, as is Lisbon.
The sacrarium that plays a pivotal role in the hero's quest stands in the monastery at Belem. The way sunlight changes its silver exterior to gold is a phenomenon noted centuries ago. Today, to keep the effect constant, floodlights bathe the silver. Of course, those were eliminated from this story.
The National Air and Space Museum is one of my favorite places, and I was glad it finally found its way into one of my tales. Kronborg Slot (chapter 9), Helsingør (chapters 11 and 14), the Baumeisterhaus in Rothenburg (chapter 22), and the Rhine Valley and bridge spanning the Mosel River in central Germany (chapter 27) are all real.
The letters between St. Jerome and St. Augustine (chapters 63 and 65) are my invention. Both were learned men, active in formulating the early church. The letters show how Jerome's translation of the Old Testament from Hebrew to Latin may have been manipulated to serve the emerging church's purposes. The noted inconsistencies in Jerome's translation are Salibi's, not mine, but they do raise fascinating questions.
I've never parachuted from a C130H, but Colonel Barry King has and he told me all about it.
The abbey in the Sinai (chapter 72) is a composite of many that dot that desolate region. Locating the preserved Library of Alexandria there, underground (chapter 78), is not beyond possibility. Ancient Egyptians mined those mountains extensively and their tunnels would have still existed after the time of Christ.
The tale of the Sinai Bible (chapter 63) happened as presented. The Aleppo Codex (chapter 23), dated from 900 CE, is on display in Jerusalem and remains the oldest surviving Old Testament manuscript. A Bible from a time before Christ, though-like the one noted in chapter 79-would certainly change everything that is known about the Old Testament.
The Middle East conflict rages on. Amazing how all three of the world's major religions-Judaism, Islam, and Christianity-chose to venerate the same spot in Jerusalem. For two thousand years these conflicting ideologies have battled for supremacy but, as stated in chapter 7, at its most fundamental level that fight is not over land, freedom, or politics. Instead, it centers on something far more basic.
The Word of God.
Each of the three religions possesses its own version. Each fervently believes the other two are wrong.
And that, more than anything else, explains why the conflict endures.