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By György Spiró

A literary sensation in Hungary, György Spiró’s Captivity is either a hugely refined old novel and a gripping page-turner. Set within the tumultuous first century A.D., among the yr of Christ’s demise and the outbreak of the Jewish conflict, Captivity recounts the adventures of the feeble-bodied, bookish Uri, a tender Roman Jew.

Frustrated together with his hapless son, Uri’s father sends the younger guy to the Holy Land to regain the family’s status. In Jerusalem, Uri is imprisoned by means of Herod and meets thieves and (perhaps) Jesus earlier than their crucifixion. Later, in cosmopolitan Alexandria, he undergoes a scholarly and sexual awakening—but also needs to break out a pogrom. Returning to Rome finally, he unearths a wholly unforeseen inheritance.

Equal components Homeric epic, brilliantly researched Jewish heritage, and picaresque event, Captivity is a dramatic story of relations, destiny, and fortitude. In its weak-yet-valiant hero, lovers can be reminded of Robert Graves’ classics of historical Rome, I, Claudius and Claudius the God.

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Blundell Trust, administered by the Society of Authors, for their generous contribution to the research expenses of this book. Many people in a number of countries have helped me. For my research trips to the United States I am indebted to the staff of the New York Public Library, the Library of Congress, and the National Archives, in particular Jackie Cohen, who went far beyond the call of duty in guiding me through the enormous amount of material—particularly the French records—held at NARA. I was also well looked after in the United States by Peter Sollis and his family in Washington and by Ben and Louise Edwards in New York.

In the same year, however, the British were establishing control over a section of the Nicaraguan coast through an alliance with the Mosquito Indians, who refused to recognize Spanish sovereignty. It was not a coincidence that this gave the British control over the mouth of the San Juan River, and therefore the Atlantic terminus of any future Nicaraguan canal. But France still made the running—over the next twenty years no fewer than four French trans-Isthmian canal proposals were made. With the independence of Gran Colombia,* officially declared on November 28, 1821, the dead hand of Spanish rule was at last removed, and a major barrier to the construction of a canal disappeared at the same time.

S. Navy, and by promised payments from the federal government for carrying mail and officials to and from the West Coast. Crucially, they were also protected by the Bidlack Treaty. With the interior of the United States largely unsettled and un-pacified, the Isthmus was seen in Washington as a key strategic artery linking the two coasts of the country. Aspinwall also had a plan for a railway across the Isthmus, and with the gold rush in full swing there was new impetus to start the construction straightaway.

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