Friday, February 12, 2010

Deserts and Mountains


Deserts and Mountains

Deserts and Mountains, is a 58,000 word novel. While simple its richness and depth emulate Sufi poetry. Novel tells story of Ali’s personal evolution. The outer events of the story give outward expression of this.
Ali, an expatriate Turk living in Canada contemplates changing his life.  Frustrated with his business, job, and family, he turns to his spiritual guide, the sheikh at a Sufi shrine he is associated with.  The sheikh suggests that Ali keep a journal of a proposed trip back to Turkey.  Ali approaches the trip with no fixed agenda other than to reflect on his life and the outcome of earlier events and choices.
His journey physically takes him from his adopted home to his family’s home in Turkey where he is confronted by a history of abuse, and experiences tragic loss in the present. His own return to Canada is by no means a given.  These events prepare him for a deeper inquiry into fundamental questions he seeks answers to while continuing his voyaging.  His irascible nature is reflected in asides written in his journal related to the countries he has lived and worked in.  Throughout this hiatus in his routine day to day life, Ali’s contemporary competencies are challenged as he struggles to reconcile what he sees of the people and scenes he witnesses with some overall encompassing appreciation for who he is to others and to himself. The story foreshadows his future, and a richer and more meaningful philosophy with which to approach it. On a deeper level, the story expresses, sometimes explicitly, Sufi ideas, particularly of self recognition.
There are several themes woven into the text, friendship, loyalty, freedom, choice and its consequences, love and the individuals’ capacity both to love and be loved.  Aside from the journey Ali has undertaken in the physical world, an overarching theme putting all the others in context is Ali’s journey towards a deeper understanding of the spiritual tradition of Sufism.  He approaches this both indirectly through the association with a cherished friend, and a young woman he comes to love, and directly through the, “chance,” meeting with two Sufis in the course of the pilgrimage he has undertaken.
A visit to the Acropolis recalls to them the enmity of the Turkish and Greek peoples, the contributions that both made to civilization, and how both depended on slavery and the subjugation of women. The day after returning, an attack from his Nour’s ex-husband, puts his friend in the hospital.
Shocked and grieving, Ali travels to his uncle’s home in Germany. They talk of the tragedies of the last century, world war and genocide, ethnic minorities in Turkey, the shames of all nations, and Africa today. His uncle takes Ali with him to Africa on a humanitarian mission.
Ali continues to dwell on the conflicts that seem inevitable in him and the world. Ali’s journey culminates in joining a pair of wandering Sufis who are crossing the Sahara desert to Timbuktu. Ali meets their grand sheik, and takes succor in their company, completing a journey of renewal and remembrance. Finally, he returns to Canada.
For Ali, the Acropolis portrayed an ideal, where visitors walk within an perfectly proportioned edifice among statues of gods, also representative of an ideal. In Canada he discovers an attempt to create, rather than merely portray, an ideal world. These experiences enter his heart, as a hope for how humanity could live in harmony.

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