My Thoughts on the Novel – The Forty Rules of Love

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This novel is like a wine!

I have never tasted wine but from what I have heard about it, the more you drink it, the more you crave for it. As I read more and more pages of the novel, The Forty Rules of Love,  I get eager to read more of it, trying to finish it in one night. After so long, after so many years, there’s something I am doing because I want to do and not because I have to do.

This is my second novel from Elif Shafak after her much acclaimed novel, Honor that I read last year. It was quiet interesting to learn Turkish culture, traditions and beliefs. It was surprising to learn that the concept of honor killings also exist in contemporary civilization greatly influenced by the West.

I think that you like a story when you can relate to it. This novel has got me into tears and lost. In so many ways I found it related to me. I found myself in the characters of this novel. I found Ella so much like me. Somewhere in my life, I feel as if I have known someone similar David as well. I find a bit of me in that beggar who was struck by leprosy, in that brothel girl who was trying to break free in search of God and mostly I found broken bits and pieces of me in Shams of Tabriz.

Initially, the novel was exciting. I could relate with the character, Ella with which the novel began. And I even chuckled at points where she was introduced as a control-freak, meek and predictable person because it seemed to be the exact introduction of me. Although not a married woman with kids, I am a young unmarried woman, I could still relate to her feelings of being heartbroken and submissive with unknown fears who feels so helpless in trying to save her loved ones from ruining their own lives.  It felt I was reading a description of my own self.

But since last night, as I read further and learned more about Shams of Tabriz, I started to feel alienated and lost. Totally blanked out. I started to feel captivated by some feeling I don’t find words to explain. It’s mixed feelings of amazement, thrill, sadness, solitude and bewilderment.

Perhaps, it is because I have started to realize that I wasn’t alone in my unknown yearnings. I could relate with almost everything that Shams said.

The seven stages of purifying nafs that he has explained.

I am surprised to learn that I am already struggling somewhere amidst these stages. Although I didn’t know that it is already known as something in literature as introduced by Shams.

However, I think that of the seven stages, the last stage where human being reaches perfection, Shams didn’t reach that level. As a person who claimed to believe in love, he couldn’t open himself to the love from his own wife. He claimed to spread love but he couldn’t surrender himself to the rightful love and dismissed it. In that, he was also fearful as opposed to what he claimed he was not.

But as the core meaning of the novel says, we should not judge others in any way.

Anyway, I feel satisfied when I find that I am not alone in the way I feel and what I yearn for. So in excitement when I try to tell about the amazing novel to my friends, they say I am mad. Sadly enough, I have realized like Shams, that not everyone can understand what you have to say and that it is no less than a miracle to have a companion who thinks like you.

Now as I approach the end of the novel, I wish that I stay captivated in the words of Shams even after I finish reading the book. This feeling has secluded me away from people around me into my own world where I am in solitude and feeling liberated and in peace. I just wish that the outer world doesn’t succeed to pull me out of it too soon.

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