Chasing Rumi: A Fable about Finding the Heart's True Desire

Chasing Rumi: A Fable about Finding the Heart's True Desire

by Roger Housden

Stirred by the potent poetry of Sufi mystic Rumi, a restless young man embarks on a life altering pilgrimage.

This enchanting story, set in the late 1940s, takes us from the hills and piazzas of Florence to the green-domed mosques of Konya, Turkey. Upon discovering a poem by the Sufi dervish Jelaluddin Rumi, Georgiou, a young Greek icon painter, is

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Stirred by the potent poetry of Sufi mystic Rumi, a restless young man embarks on a life altering pilgrimage.

This enchanting story, set in the late 1940s, takes us from the hills and piazzas of Florence to the green-domed mosques of Konya, Turkey. Upon discovering a poem by the Sufi dervish Jelaluddin Rumi, Georgiou, a young Greek icon painter, is compelled to travel to the land that this poet called home. Inspired by Rumi's magical words, Georgiou leaves his father and their small business in Italy to recapture the power of an early childhood vision. Having experienced a divine connection with a painting as a boy, he seeks to reconnect with the essence of that first transcendent feeling.

Through encounters with Christian and Islamic mystics, Georgiou learns to hear his own voice calling and understand what we all eventually learn - that life is a mystery. The closer he gets to Konya, the keener his perceptions become. But it is not until his arrival that he understands "that earthly and spiritual love, when they are total and without reserve, become one and the same", and Georigiou's life is changed forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publishers Weekly
Housden (Ten Poems to Change Your Life) adds a mystical twist to a young man's search for love in this spare, allegorical tale of a Greek icon painter living in 1950s Italy who makes a pilgrimage to the tomb of 13th-century Sufi poet Jelaluddin Rumi. Aesthete Georgiou loves art and beauty, but is frustrated by his inability to find a worthy love in his native Florence. Dazzled by a book of Rumi's poems, Georgiou hopes that a journey to the poet's tomb at Konya, Turkey, will teach him something about love. His meandering trip takes him to a monastery in Meteora, Greece; to the shrine of Delphi, where he has a vision of the Virgin Mary, who poses a riddle that holds the key to his quest; and to other sites in Greece and Turkey, where he meets Orthodox priests, mystics, sheikhs and dervishes who teach him that romance between a man and a woman is not the only kind of love there is, and that accumulating knowledge doesn't necessarily help one to experience or understand love. Housden is a graceful storyteller and he offers an offbeat look at the relationship between divine love and earthly romantic love. Unfortunately, he tends to slip into treacly, bland affirmations ("All is already well. Listen to what your heart tells you, and you cannot stray far"), and the tidy, happily-ever-after ending belies some of the complicated questions about spirituality and self-knowledge that are raised through Georgiou's quest. (Oct.) Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
New Age fable by first-novelist Housden (Sacred America, 1999, etc.) about the peregrinations of a young Greek icon painter who wanders from Florence to Istanbul in search of enlightenment. To Greek Orthodox believers, icons are far more than works of religious art: they are holy objects in themselves, as worthy of veneration as the relics of a saint or the words of Holy Scripture. Those who create such works are invariably deeply religious, although they aren�t necessarily monks or nuns. The Greco-Italian icon painter Georgiou was born into the trade, so to speak: His father Stefanou had been an icon painter, and he had trained Georgiou in the craft. As a young man growing up in Florence in the 1950s, Georgiou was surrounded by magnificent art--Fra Angelico being his favorite--but he was a restless soul, always eager to travel and discover new worlds. His friend Andros, although nearly as old as Georgiou�s father, understands his wanderlust and provides Georgiou with letters of introduction to a monk of the Greek monastery at Mount Athos and to a Sufi dervish in Turkey. With his father�s blessing, Georgiou sets out to meet these men, who he hopes can offer him the spiritual enlightenment he craves. On Mount Athos, the monastic republic where no woman has set foot in more than a thousand years, Georgiou immerses himself in the study of the Virgin Mother, who he learns is a descendent of the ancient pagan earth goddesses. In Turkey, he is schooled in Sufi mysticism by a dervish and undergoes a series of mystical episodes that confirm him in his vocation as a painter. At last he returns to Florence, falls in love, marries, and lives happily ever after. An amusing but shallow diversion whoseGurdjieff-like dialogue ("Can you describe this love you are seeking?") can be either annoying or hilarious depending on your frame of mind--as can the entire story. Author tour

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HarperCollins Publishers
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4.87(w) x 8.37(h) x 0.65(d)

Read an Excerpt

Chasing Rumi

A Fable About Finding the Heart's True Desire
By Roger Housden

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Roger Housden
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060084456

Chapter One

Georgiou ran lightly, two steps at a time, up the worn marble stairs that lead to the Museo San Marco in Florence. It was an afternoon of steady light in the summer of his eighteenth year. At the top of the stairs he paused for a moment, aware suddenly of that museum flavor--the high, arched ceilings, the faint odor of polish from a dark wooden floor, the cool touch of the handrail, a brass one, that accompanied the stairs. The museum had once been a monastery, and in the fifteenth century Fra Angelico, the great Renaissance painter, had been a monk there. One of his duties had been to adorn each of the monks" cells with a fresco.

When Georgiou turned to face the entrance to the monks" dormitory, his eyes met the glow of a delicate radiance. Through the open archway, like an apparition, The Annunciation, Fra Angelico"s masterpiece, shone down on him from a large stone wall. In seconds, his natural exuberance gave way to a mood more sober and thoughtful. Something in the flowing grace of the angel Gabriel"s robe--or perhaps it was the reverence the angel and the Virgin showed in inclining toward each other--checked his youthful step and drew his attention inward.

A few moments there at the top of the stairs, and he started along the corridor, moving slowly now. He peered round the first couple of arched doors into the small, whitewashed rooms, pausing briefly to take in the frescoes that the master had painted for the monks" contemplation. When he came to the next door, he stepped inside the cell.

There, painted directly onto the dry surface of the wall, was the fresco depicting the Sermon on the Mount. The disciples were gathered in contemplation round Jesus. He was sitting a little above them on a stylized rock washed in a soft yellow that glowed on the wall of the cell. Christ"s right arm was raised, his forefinger pointing to heaven.

Georgiou stood in front of the painting entranced--by the luminous tones, lavender and green, of the disciples" robes, the remarkable simplicity of the drawing, but above all by the look on the faces of the disciples. They were filled with a rapture he had never known existed; a tangible sweetness of love, which was both of this world and not of it at the same time. Their expression seemed to show a love for Jesus, the man, and also for something else that could never be put into words. His legs began to tremble, his back turned cold.

The thoughts in Georgiou"s mind ebbed away. Unable to take his eyes from those beautiful faces, he fell into a deep silence. His strength failed him, and he sank slowly to the floor. How long he sat there, lost in the masterpiece, he had no idea. When he finally got to his feet he knew, though not with his ordinary mind, that he had been filled with the love that makes the world.


Excerpted from Chasing Rumi by Roger Housden Copyright © 2005 by Roger Housden. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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