Khalil Gibran Khalil
Khalil Gibran (1883-1831), was born in Bsharri in the present-day Lebanon. He was an American-Lebanese artist, poet, philosopher, and writer, all rolled into one. He came from a humble background and therefore he could not timely afford formal education. However, he attended a single-classroom school where they were taught Arabic and Syriac languages, Arithmetic, as well as about the Bible. His father was employed by an administrator appointed by the Ottoman empire but his tax evasion habit and his gambling addiction led him deep into the mire of gambling debts. Eventually, when complaints about his behavior reached the administrator, he was not only fired but also jailed. Also, his family’s possession was seized by the administrators.
Following those events, Gibran, his step-brother, Brutos, two sisters, Marianna and Sultana, and mother emigrated to Chinatown in Boston, U.S in 1894. While Brutos started a small shop, their mother was a mobile seamstress who carried her wares door-to-door and it was a source of income for the family. Gibran was enrolled in a school in the neighborhood in 1895 to learn basic English. Then, his name was Gibran Kahlil Gibran but an error at the school saw him registered as Khalil Gibran. Due to his passion for and excellence at drawing and painting at the school, his teachers introduced him to a Bostonian artist and photographer, Fred H. Day, who encouraged Gibran is his creative pursuit. Perhaps due to the fact that Day sometimes photographed Gibran nude, his mother sent him to Lebanon in 1897 to know about his heritage instead of the American life. In Lebanon, Beirut, he attended al-Hikma high school. His study emphasized on Arabic and French languages and literature.
In 1902, Gibran went back to Boston, U.S., and fell in love with Josephine Peabody, a poet. Then, in the same year, he accompanied an American family that was touring Europe and Part of Middle East as a translator. Also, in that year, his step-brother, Brutos, and Sultana died of TB. These two deaths, coupled with that of their mother’s who died of cancer, mete out a mighty blow to the family. Marianna found a job a dressmaking shop and become the breadwinner.
Gibran had an influential career as a publisher author. In 1905 his essays were published at the al-Muhajir Press and the director encouraged him and soon his collection of poems among them A Tear and a Smile and Storms were published. Subsequent works are Spirit Brides, published in Arabic (1905); short stories Spirits Rebellious, published in Arabic (1908); in 1910, he joined a group of Arab-American writers and scholars called “Golden Links Society” and in the same year, published a collection of poems, Beyond the Imagination, in Cairo. He started working on his The Madman manuscript in 1911 and published in 1918; his novel, Broken Wings (1912), addressing love, greed, convention and male chauvinism themes was published in Arabic, as most of his works, in New York.
In 1912, he had a meeting with Abdul-Baha, who was then the leader of the Habahi faith and he drew his portrait. However, his views contrasted with those of Abdul-Baha, who emphasized on peace, opining that there couldn’t be peace in his home country when it was ruled by the Ottoman Empire. An year later, he met and made a portrait of Carl Jung and the Jungian philosophy was introduced to him. In 1914, Nasib Arida published his collection of prose poems, A Tear and a Smile, in New York. In the same year, Gibran made an exhibition of his drawings at Montross Galleryn and it was a rare feat as his drawings were turned down on the reason that they were extremely nude and avant-grade. In 1916, he was one of the activists of relief for the hunger-stricken Levant. He befriended James Oppenheim, a Jungian, and through him, a few of his English prose poems were published in the Seven Arts, a literary journal.
The year 1918 was a turning point in his literary endeavors when his work, The Madman, was published in English in New York and it was a publication of aphorisms and parables. More works followed; there was his classical Arabic ode, The Procession, published in 1919 which was a dialogue of two voices whereby one was a man who was spiritually liberated while the other voice of a man was in bondage (Jean & Khalil, 1992). In 1920, he published The Forerunner. In 1923, there was the publication of The Prophet, also, Storms, a second edition of prose poems published in Cairo. In 1927, there was the publication of Kingdom of the Imagination in Cairo and it was a book of aphorisms. Jesus, Son of Man (1928) followed) and the last to close the long list of his publications was The Earth Gods (1931). That last publication was appeared merely a month before he died at a hospital in New York. Prior to his death, he had been ill and to make it worse, a heavy drunkard. Despite his death, the warm reception of his publications and those published posthumously, both in Arabic and English and which addressed nature, love, death, and homesickness themes are good examples that his legacy lives on.
Gibran, J. & Gibran, K. (1992). Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World. Edinburgh: Canongate.