The acclaimed New York Times bestselling author of Smash Cut, Flannery, and City Poet delivers the first popular biography of Rumi, the thirteenth-century Persian poet revered by contemporary Western readers.
Ecstatic love poems of Rumi, a Persian poet and Sufi mystic born over eight centuries ago, are beloved by millions of readers in America as well as around the world. He has been compared to Shakespeare for his outpouring of creativity and to Saint Francis of Assisi for his spiritual wisdom. Yet his life has long remained the stuff of legend rather than intimate knowledge.
In this breakthrough biography, Brad Gooch brilliantly brings to life the man and puts a face to the name Rumi, vividly coloring in his time and place—a world as rife with conflict as our own. The map of Rumi’s life stretched over 2,500 miles. Gooch traces this epic journey from Central Asia, where Rumi was born in 1207, traveling with his family, displaced by Mongol terror, to settle in Konya, Turkey. Pivotal was the disruptive appearance of Shams of Tabriz, who taught him to whirl and transformed him from a respectable Muslim preacher into a poet and mystic. Their vital connection as teacher and pupil, friend and beloved, is one of the world’s greatest spiritual love stories. When Shams disappeared, Rumi coped with the pain of separation by composing joyous poems of reunion, both human and divine.
Ambitious, bold, and beautifully written, Rumi’s Secret reveals the unfolding of Rumi’s devotion to a "religion of love," remarkable in his own time and made even more relevant for the twenty-first century by this compelling account.
In sometimes poetic, though sometimes prosaic and workmanlike, prose, Gooch (Smash Cut) provides an in-depth biography of Rumi, the great Sufi poet. He begins the book as he is retracing Rumi's footsteps in Aleppo in 2011, just before the outbreak of civil war, and is told by a resident that, "like your American poet Whitman," Rumi was a great poet because he never revealed his secret. Drawing deeply on Rumi's own writing, Gooch clearly recreates the life and times of this 13th-century mystic. Born on September 30, 1207, in present-day Tajikistan, Rumi soon showed his life would not be an ordinary one: when he was just five years old he reported seeing angels. His family set out on the road when he was still young, and Rumi met a pivotal influence, the poet Attar. As he grew in poetic stature, Rumi encountered the mystic Shams of Tabriz, who became a venerated teacher and taught Rumi the religion of the heart that became his own hallmark. In a close reading of Rumi's poetry, Gooch quotes two lines to reveal the titular secret: "explanations make many things clear/but only love is clear in silence." Gooch's biography can be plodding, but the story it tells is fascinating enough to compel readers to pick up Rumi's poetry and discover his secret for themselves.