I was on my way to Casablanca to record sessions for a film score and to attend the GNAOUA festival in Mogador. I started the festival thirteen years ago with Neila Tazi, Soundous El Kassri, and Andre' Azoulay, and I was also the artistic director for the first two years. Now there are four-hundred thousand people who attend it over the course of four days.
I read Desert and Mountains cover to cover on the plane. Ali becomes a brilliant writer through the course of writing his first book. We can feel him honing in on himself as he hones in on his craft. The crazy, tragic and profoundly spiritual events in this book really happened to him recently. His insight into these events is focused through his scientific/Sufi lens.
As a result, Yilmaz's main character, Ali, is the right man, in the wrong place, at the right time. Or the right man, in the right place, at the wrong time. One thing is for sure: he is the right man to uncover fault lines shifting beneath the surface of the repressive Turkish regime; a regime where a woman can never really escape from her ex-husband even after she is divorced, unless death is considered to be an acceptable escape.
He has the uncanny ability to focus the laser beam of his intelligence at his own inner life with the same laser focus he uses to create a new generation of intelligent computer chips capable of protecting identity. We follow him through "fire and tears" as he peals back the skin of his own identity. His in-depth understanding is both micro and macrocosmic. He stares directly through himself into the unknown and the totally fucked. As a result he has succeeded in explaining the Sufi path to me in a way that no other book or person has ever been able to do.
Ali is crushed with what he experiences in Istanbul. He leaves Istanbul to go to visit his favourite uncle in Germany. He has a nervous breakdown and he is hospitalized. He recovers enough to go with his uncle to Mali where his uncle does benevolent work building wells. He makes his way deep into the Sahara with armed guards. See Frank Coles' film Life Without Death. I did the music. Frank crossed the Sahara alone on a camel, and when he tried to do it again, he was killed by bandits in Mali.
I arrived in Casablanca at the Hotel Des Rives on the Cornish, which is by the sea. From my balcony, the long expanse of the Casablanca beach stretched out to the south. I held up Desert and Mountains to the last rays of the sun, which set behind pregnant cumulus clouds. I took a picture of the book cover in my hands, suspended above the beach, a picture I sent to Yilmaz.
Richard Horowitz is internationally known composer, producer, arranger, and musician. He is best known for his work on The Sheltering Sky, directed by Bernardo Bertolucci, which was awarded the 1990 Golden Globe and LA Film Critics Music Awards; Any Given Sunday, directed by Oliver Stone, which was awarded the 2000 BMI Music Award. --Richard Horowitz
"A Story of Alienation, Seeking Love and Redemption"
In Deserts and Mountains, Yilmaz Alimoglu leads us through the life experience of Ali, a character symbol of the conflict between twodifferent cultures. Ali, after his departure from Turkey, hishomeland, and his moving to Canada, seems to enjoy the new world, andthe choice to marry a Western woman, endowed with a secular point ofview on different aspects of life, seems to be a proof of this. At thesame time, even when Ali tries to not neglect his Muslim roots even insuch an atmosphere, he seems to be lost in a spiritual limbo and, evenwhen he enjoys a high degree of professional success, he feels deeplydissatisfied with his life without love.
When his marriage is about to dissolve, Ali starts reflecting on hisown life. He feels oppressed and takes a painful decision. Ali leavehis family and starts a journey in order to understand his own pastand the choices which lead him in his present spiritual emptiness.
Ali goes back to his homeland, meets his parents, finds love again,but all these experiences don't seem to be enough to cure his sicksoul. Soon he discovers that in Turkey the bright face of Islam isdisfigured by ignorance and hypocrisy. After the woman, he startsloving deeply, got killed by her former husband, Ali leaves Turkey andstarts travelling again.
His uneasiness is latent. His brief stay in Al-Hambra, the symbol ofa glorious phase of the Islamic history, seems to have increased hissense of alienation. Soon Ali understands that he cannot start a newlife without justifying the past one. He goes on with his journey. Hevisits Germany, where he collapses and is hospitalized; he then leavesfor Africa with his uncle and finds himself at the end of the travelsin the Sahara desert.
The desert is the place of purification, receives every repentance andfrees someone from the superfluous richness of his life. Ali actuallyneeds to stay in the desert in order to free himself from his ownspiritual wilderness.
Later he will come back to his family in Canada. However, when someonetravels to uncover one's own self, the place of return is only asymbol, a station and a stage towards another journey, with full ofquestions. How would Ali answer? --Sabrina Lei, Ph.D., Italian author and researcher, Rome, Italy
Rather, this is a love that comes from the courage to open the heart to all that one encounters in life.
The book is a great resource both for social understanding of different thinkers as well as the complexity of todays' Western and Eastern worlds.
The amazing thing about the novel is that it moves so smoothly between personal stories and exposition of many of the concepts of Sufism.
I took much away from this story. Thank you Yilmaz for writing such an thoughtful story. I'm very glad I met you and that you recommended me to read your book. BaldwinPublished 13 months ago by Baldwin Berges
Deserts and Mountains is a gripping story, not only of a man on a spiritual quest during his midlife, but a universal journey of witness within the context of family and culture. Read morePublished on August 16, 2011 by TK
"Deserts and Mountains" provides insights into many pertinent issues of our current days. These being: Religion, Politics, Philosophy and more to the ground issues like family,... Read morePublished on March 17, 2011 by Serge
If there is one thing which I love about this new cultural landscape of the internet we seem to inhabit more and more, it is the ability of cultural creatives, artists, musicians,... Read morePublished on January 20, 2011 by darren logan
I must introduce you to a friend of mine, Yilmaz Alimoglu. He has written a novel called Deserts and Mountains. Read morePublished on December 8, 2010 by Adam C. Smith
Deserts and Mountains is a compelling story of one man's search for his identity in a world of divided loyalties. Like the author, Ali is a Turkish expatriate living in Canada. Read morePublished on November 15, 2010 by Rick Staggenborg, MD
More than just being Yilmaz Alimoglu's debut novel, I have come to see Deserts and Mountains as a personal invitation to explore the depth of the human experience in our modern... Read morePublished on November 10, 2010 by David Paquiot
I have just finished reading "Deserts and Mountains" by Yilmaz Alimoglu. It is so full of surprises and sparks of wisdom, it beckons one to turn another page and read more. Read morePublished on October 23, 2010 by Terry A. Cook
I really enjoyed it. I love the style of writing and choice of words. Interesting story... Moving from away from one's country and family, exposed to different cultures and... Read morePublished on October 19, 2010 by Pat Adams