Retouching History

Date of Graduation

Spring 2003


Master of Arts in Writing



Committee Chair

Ronald Sodowsky


Retouching History is an eight-chapter excerpt from a novel centering on protagonist Blenny Hilyard. Blenny is a Concord College senior who makes discoveries, both personal and otherwise, and who is on the last day of a three-month archaeological survey near Quseir, Egypt, a small town on the Red Sea cost. This excerpt reports aspects from two different days. Chaper one is an historical flashback detailing a band of determined Jews on a remote Red Sea island in 550 B.C. who are plotting to take back their holy writings carted off to Babylon following Nebuchadnezzar's siege of Jerusalem in 587 B.C. Chapters two through eight chronicle the actions of Blenny, Dr. Demming, Corduroy, Khalil, Emily and Walt on March 19, 1992. On that day, the reader finds this survey team preparing to exit field camp, examining a serendipitous pottery discovery by Blenny, driving from Quseir back to Qus, inquiring after a local antiquities official, Hamid Bashki, taking sustenance at Fadul's House of Food, and securing a motel for the night. Chapter eight begins with Blenny and Khalil roaming the black streets of Qus in search of Bashki's antiquities office, and concludes with Blenny motioning him to follow him through a gap in a gate. The discovery phase of the novel begins when Blenny finds an ostracon (inscribed fragment of pottery), while taking his morning constitution in a dry river bed. The text, broken and incomplete, is actually part of a detailed letter written by the scribe, Musnad, in chapter one, and then carried by an African convert and maritime trader, Hezelek, to like-minded Jewish brethren at Quseir. An initial rough translation hammered out by Khalil and Dr. Demming yields some basic elements behind the Jewish strategem to surreptitiously retrieve their texts from then-Babylonian king, Nabonidus. For Blenny, finding the ostracon (and the unforeseeable ramifications of that find) is the first event that will shape his perspective and guide his steps through Retouching History.

Subject Categories

Creative Writing


© Paul C Schreiber