A Poet of the Invisible World

Written by Michael Golding
Review by Richard Bourgeois

One expects a boy born with an extra set of ears to be able to hear twice as well; one does not necessarily expect him to have so much to say. The boy, Nouri, lives a fabulously improbable journey: first as a ward of Sufi mystics, then as a dervish himself, next as tea boy and poet to a sultan, then a goat-herder living among Christians, for a time a hopeless opium addict, once more a Sufi, and finally – well, perhaps an identity all his own, or none at all.

Early on a teacher instructs him: “You cannot avoid life … you have to move through it – the struggles – the fears – until you can be in it and out of it at the same time.” And Nouri does struggle: with his faith, with the strangeness of his ears, with the sexual attraction he feels for a fellow brother of the order. He walks his path imperfectly, falling to weakness and worldliness more than once. But always in a slow, years-long dervish whirl, closer to Allah and to himself.

As I read, I began to suspect that the conclusion to Nouri’s tale would leave more questions than it answered. I was not wrong. I read the last few chapters more than once, looking for another clue to Nouri’s fate and the meaning of his final message. How disappointing it would have been had I found it there in the text – such a thing is better left between the reader and the Divine. Recommended.