cover image Rumi: The Fire of Love

Rumi: The Fire of Love

Nahal Tajadod, , trans. from the French by Robert Bononno. . Overlook, $26.95 (317pp) ISBN 978-1-59020-080-3

This fictionalized biography of 13-century Turkish Sufi mystic Djalal al-din Mohammad Balkhi, known as Rumi, lingers over the creative relationships that gave rise to his mystical writings and leaves the mystery that surrounds them in place. Rumi’s student, scribe and early biographer Hesam, who narrates, begins his tale with the most infamous of these relationships: the friendship between the serene Rumi and Mohammed Malekdad, aka Shams of Tabriz. The first meeting of Rumi and Shams is explosive: the two immediately retire to a locked room for 40 days. Upon emerging, Rumi rejects bookish religion and initiates the sama , the spiritual dance that lends his sect their nickname of “whirling dervishes.” More conventional Muslims are appalled: they drive Shams away from Konya, but the pining Rumi eventually tracks Shams down in Damascus and has him brought back. The anti-Shams faction conspires to murder him—or does he simply, miraculously, disappear? Rumi later transfers his spiritual affections to Hesam, and together they create Rumi’s poetic magnum opus, the Masnavi-yi Ma’navi . An émigré from Tehran to Paris, Tajadod includes a plethora of parables, miracles, cryptic sayings and mystic poetry throughout. She sensitively illustrates Rumi’s spiritualism and circles carefully around the male relationships at the core of Rumi’s life. (Aug.)