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Deserts and Mountains: A Novel Paperback – April 23, 2010

4.8 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"The truth cannot be found by seeking," says a great sufi, and adds "the ones who find are the ones who seek." Because the truth is not a destination to reach, but is itself the journey. There is no end to truth.

Seeking and finding truth means a long journey, and for some an endless journey. The journey of Ali Doðan passes through the mountains, deserts, cities which bear the traces of ancient civilizations, people who fight or bow to the inevitable, and deep inside a human who seeks humane values, who seeks the way and method to cease a merciless war. Because his sheikh told him "learn to understand the war in your heart."

Multiculturalism stands as a marble pillar, central in the social sciences; it is at once foundation, support, and apex. The foundation, because the social sciences stand on the recognition of the validity of other cultures; support, because all this depends on it; and apex, because the social sciences seek to achieve and facilitate the mutual recognition and appreciation of all cultures and their contributions. However, we are the ones who must live multiculturally. We need balance, not to fall; flex, not to break; strength, not to yield; and passion to warm the heart.

Following Ali's footsteps, we shall be both changed and more human. We each acquired selfhood through different cultural experiences. We continue this integrity by living in our culture, and making it live. Moreover, we have to make all cultures, all our diversity, live together, each contributing to every other by realizing itself.

The main aim of mysticism is to tend this balance in our hearts, with integrity and prosperity of the spirit. There are many forms, shapes, understandings in reaching the truth, and in truth there is unity. Islamic mysticism names this "uniqueness in abundance," a summit displayed in Ýbn Arabi.

This modern dervish, Yýlmaz Alimoðlu depicts such a quest in today's profane world. Deserts and Mountains is a story of a spiritual experience which expresses its dignity with faith, and with a courage that has not exhausted itself in the labyrinths of the modern world, and with an extraordinarily prudent endeavor to gain perception. It is a story of love which approaches with respect each and all the exaltations that makes humanity humane.

- Prof. Dr. Mümtaz'er Türköne

Reminiscent of the journey in Paolo Coelho's, The Alchemist, with a hint of Elizabeth Gilbert's, Eat, Pray, Love, Deserts and Mountains follows the inner and outer journey of Ali Dogan, an expatriate Turk living in Canada. Ali is a father, a husband, an engineer, a Muslim, and most of all, a Sufi. Armed with a journal and a ticket back home to Turkey, Ali Dogan, is instructed by his sheikh to keep a map of his heart. And so, Ali begins his journey, a journey in which he will see his past in Turkey with new eyes. From Turkey he travels to Spain and discovers the beautiful remains of the Muslim tradition. His final destination is North Africa, where he experiences a dichotomy of emotions as he witnesses corruption, destitution, and his own spiritual renewal. Written with a poetic Sufi flair, Yilmaz Alimoglu's words captivated this reader. I journeyed side-by-side with Ali, through the deserts and mountains, and at his side I began to create a map of my own heart. --Book Review by Dr. Irene Blinston, Ph.D.

Two months ago while in LA, I received a Facebook message from Yilmaz Alimoglu, a Sufi and scientist from Istanbul, who currently resides in Canada. He asked me to read his book, Desert and Mountains. I wrote back to say that I was quite busy, but would try and get to it at some point. The book arrived from his editor just before my trip to Morocco and I took it with me to read on the plane.

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

About the Author

Yilmaz Alimoglu grew up in Turkey, but now lives in Mississauga, Canada. He has a background in technology and business and writes op-ed pieces for the Toronto Star. With lifelong interests in philosophy, psychology, and Sufism, Alimoglu travels the world for both his commercial and humanitarian work.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 248 pages
  • Publisher: iUniverse (April 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1450227589
  • ISBN-13: 978-1450227582
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,158,580 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
Before I begin my review, I will confess that I identify with the protagonist Ali. Enough said. Ali is a man searching for answers. The jacket notes tell us he is a student of Sufism, and from this, many of us would infer what we have seen in the movies, the Whirling Dervish. Ali whirls, but he whirls in his heart. There is much in the deserts and mountains of Ali's heart which contradict. He is a technical person, a software engineer who is taught logic, who speaks the language of machines, but he is also Sufi, which means he hears with his heart. The author takes us from Canada to Turkey to Africa and back again. Everywhere along the way, he experiences the different forms of love and tries to put them into perspective. From Ali's learnings, we can make our own. This is a spiritual journey much like those taken by Coelho or Castaneda, without the attempts at high drama. There are unexpected turns of events. Tragedy occurs. Direction changes. Ali finds something. You will too.

The Catholic monk and author Thomas Merton gives us a mantra: God is Love, God is Life, God is Light. Ali Dogan searches for all three. There are lessons to be learned about the way the spirit and the quotidian reality of our jobs and families work together to join us to the whole. Read, learn, and most of all, apply your learning. One of the characters says this: "Poets and philosophers who teach us to love and work are the finest." This is the framework of the message Ali brings us. Find your own way to applying it.
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Deserts and Mountains, the debut novel by Yilmaz Alimoglu, is a lovingly told tale, and an adventure of self-discovery that is also a Sufi journey, all written with warmth and wisdom, tenderness and real affection for the characters.

Ali Dogan is a expatriate Turk living in Canada who in the first chapter has separated from his wife and two children. He is also a new dervish on the Sufi path, and when he asks his Sheikh for advice, he is told (in a truly beautiful, descriptive way) to seek knowledge, so as to understand what his heart is telling him. This sage advice begins his journey, which takes him literally to deserts and mountains in both a physical and spiritual way.

From Canada to Turkey (and his mother and father who still live in the same village), with side trips to the Acropolis in Greece and the Alhambra in Spain, he takes the reader on his journey of knowledge - from the new world to the old, from the freedom of Canada to the repressive state in Turkey, where primitive and cruel customs still prevail, to Greece and the beginnings of real civilization, the "birthplace" of Western knowledge, to the Alhambra, a symbol of the golden age of Islamic knowledge.

Even in Istanbul, that ancient metropolis that is the bridge between East and West, there lingers what he calls the corrupt remains of the Ottoman Empire, and the old and ugly patriarchal ways women are treated like property. He encounter this first hand when he develops a crush on Nour, a brilliant Turkish co-worker who cannot escape the fate of being a divorced woman with a jealous ex-husband.
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The title, "Deserts and Mountains" is both a powerful metaphor, and also a dichotomy of how two vast entities have so much power and influence in light of spiritual awareness and enlightenment. The influence that these natural wonders have is to provide someone like the protagonist with the vigor to both metaphorically climb and ascend to high altitudes, like the Acropolis, and to descend to the lowlands of Africa to in order to gain a deeper awareness of humanity.

Through the protagonist, Ali, I was able to both figuratively and literally experience a spiritual enlightenment through the powerful world that he immerses himself in as he journeys throughout exotic lands. Not only does the reader acquire a global and historical perspective of lands like Africa, Greece, and Turkey, but the reader also acquires a more meaningful and powerful relationship with God and spirituality.

At one point in the journey, the sheikh asserts that "The soul awakens and grows through grief and joy, each in its time. It has always been this way. The prophets show us the way. We move by the current within us. When the river of the spirit moves freely all is well and the soul opens and grows this way." The "growth" that the skeikh speaks of can only be achieved by allowing the spirit to move freely." This is exactly what the protagonist, Ali, does in his quest of human enlightenment and spiritual understanding.

"Deserts and Mountains" is an enlightening journey that contains powerful, moving, and inspirational prose that guides the soul through an unforgettable trek through humanity.
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Before I started to read "deserts and mountains" I was not sure what to expect .I was slightly cynical about expatriates writing story about their country of origin, usually with western market in mind. I was not impressed by melodramatic story lines employed by these types of writers and the cheap sensationalism in their writing.
However, I was so pleasantly surprised by Yilmaz's work. I was impressed by his courage and originality that only a genuine seeker could produce .He almost did not care about the story line or drama within the novel. It was as if the centre of the novel was the growth of Ali's self and it was this evolution that leads the story line. I would say this was rather bold step from a writer and it worked very well in hitting correct buttons within me.

This novel has many layers of knowledge within it .I find the richness of this novel leis in the fact that Yilmaz, through the character Ali attempt to analyze into every aspect of human knowledge, science, philosophy, history ,chemistry (he even mentioned Kekule`s structure), architecture searching for an unifying universal truth. He talks about duality of nature, dream analysis, ultimate love and reality.

I find Yilmaz's choice of language refreshing. It reflects the authenticity of his thoughts which further enhanced by his choice of vocabulary which can be deemed as unusual at times. Where I work as a chemistry lecturer, I have to start our day by reading inspiring words to our students. I am so glad I found a book that is full of wisdom and inspiration, that I can read to my students for many months to come.
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