Saturday, May 12, 2012

Kahlil Gibran's "The Prophet" Examined Anew.

When I was a young man it was said that The Prophet must only be received as  a gift, not purchased; that it was a sign of love and friendship - neither of which could be bought or sold. I am not boasting when I say that at one point (from the 60s - early 70s) I was gifted with 4 copies; all personally inscribed and treasured until they disappeared when my previous life disintegrated. I was able to salvage only a single copy.

This is an interesting piece and since the book has never been out of print, I thought it was worth sharing.  Whatever your thoughts or feelings may be about the work, many verses have been comforting in times of pain or fear, and used by songwriters in the LGBT community for years and I am sure will continue to be so in years to come as each generation finds something new in the text. From the BBC:
Kahlil Gibran is said to be one of the world's bestselling poets, and his life has inspired a play touring the UK and the Middle East. But many critics have been lukewarm about his merits. Why, then, has his seminal work, The Prophet, struck such a chord with generations of readers?
Since it was published in 1923, The Prophet has never been out of print. The perennial classic has been translated into more than 50 languages and is a staple on international best-seller lists. It is thought to have sold tens of millions of copies.
Although practically ignored by the literary establishment in the West, lines from the book have inspired song lyrics, political speeches and have been read out at weddings and funerals all around the world.
"It serves various occasions or big moments in one's life so it tends to be a book that is often gifted to a lover, or for a birth, or death. That is why it has spread so widely, and by word of mouth," says Dr Mohamed Salah Omri, lecturer in Modern Arabic literature at Oxford University.
The Beatles, John F Kennedy and Indira Gandhi are among those who have been influenced by its words.
"This book has a way of speaking to people at different stages in their lives. It has this magical quality, the more you read it the more you come to understand the words," says Reverend Laurie Sue, an interfaith minister in New York who has conducted hundreds of weddings with readings from The Prophet.
"But it is not filled with any kind of dogma, it is available to anyone whether they are Jewish or Christian or Muslim."
The book is made up of 26 prose poems, delivered as sermons by a wise man called Al Mustapha. He is about to set sail for his homeland after 12 years in exile on a fictional island when the people of the island ask him to share his wisdom on the big questions of life: love, family, work and death.
Its popularity peaked in the 1930s and again in the 1960s when it became the bible of the counter culture.
"Many people turned away from the establishment of the Church to Gibran," says Professor Juan Cole, historian of the Middle East at the University of Michigan who has translated several of Gibran's works from Arabic.
"He offered a dogma-free universal spiritualism as opposed to orthodox religion, and his vision of the spiritual was not moralistic. In fact, he urged people to be non-judgmental." 
Way ahead of his time for the masses, but timely for those searching for meaning outside of traditional, rigid church dogma.

The rest is HERE.

And so it goes.


  1. I have forgotten about this book.
    Do young people really still read it, or even know about it?

  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

  3. @Ur-spo: Apparently they do, and are aware of the book. Our local independent bookseller has a couple of hard cover copies on the shelf. Perhaps it's no longer printed in paperback form. I mean, being a classic, and all that.


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