Kahlil Gibran Biography


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Gibran Kahlil Gibran was born to Kamila Gibran and Khalil Gibran in Besharri, Lebanon. He had a half-brother, Peter, from his mother’s previous marriage and two younger sisters, Marianna and Sultana. The Gibrans were moderately poor, and eventually Kamila and her children emigrated to the United States when economic conditions in Lebanon worsened and it became more difficult to live with the reputedly indigent Khalil Gibran.

Tutored at home by his mother and befriended by Father Yusef in his early years, Gibran learned Arabic, French, and English along with songs, folklore, and legends. He expressed a love for ancient villages and sacred grounds and an interest in God, angels, and another world. He demonstrated artistic talent early, sculpting in snow and building small stone cathedrals. He also wrote poetry and painted, though he destroyed these early efforts.

After arriving in Boston in June, 1894, the eleven-year-old Gibran entered an American school and was recognized by his teacher as possessing special talents and qualities. In 1896, Gibran returned to Lebanon, so that, according to Young, he could study Arabic literature; according to Andrew Dib Sherfan, however, Kamila wanted to get him out of the clutches of an older woman who was influencing him in ways of which she disapproved. In Lebanon, he attended Madrasat Al-Hikma, School of Wisdom, where he was compelled to attend church twice a day. Otto indicates that he studied “medicine, international law, the history of religion and music” besides “classical Arabic literature.” During this time, he first conceived of The Prophet in Arabic and edited a literary and philosophical magazine called Al-Hakitat (the truth).

In 1901, at the age of eighteen, he graduated with high honors and, according to Otto, traveled through Greece, Italy, and Spain to Paris, where he studied art. Virginia Hilu, editor of Beloved Prophet: The Love Letters of Kahlil Gibran and Mary Haskell and Her Private Journal (1972), contradicts Otto’s account, stating that Gibran went back to Boston in 1899 and remained there. In 1903, all biographers agree, Gibran was in Boston, where his mother, Peter, and Sultana were dying of tuberculosis. He stayed with them through their ordeal and then, in 1904, held his first art show at the...

(The entire section is 952 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Kahlil Gibran (juh-BRON) was born in Besharri, Lebanon, on January 6, 1883, the son of Khalil and Kamila Gibran. He had a stepbrother, Peter, and two sisters, Marianna and Sultana. Family life was marked by economic insecurity and frequent parental arguments. As an escape from such conditions, Gibran spent much time in the nearby countryside. In particular, he liked the region called the Cedars of Lebanon, which was filled with mountains, gorges, rivers, and waterfalls. The beauty of the area fueled his romantic dreaming. His writings and drawings often drew upon these childhood images and experiences.

The family had few material possessions, so Gibran often made his own toys—objects like kite-flying vehicles and waterwheels. The attention and praise he received when he shared his creations led him to equate creative work with love. This idea remained with him throughout his life. As for education, Gibran did not have even what little schooling was available for boys of his day: learning Arabic and basic mathematical calculations. While biographers disagree as to the education he did receive, it generally is agreed that Kahlil had a tutor who helped and encouraged him. Gibran was eight years old when his father was arrested and charged with embezzlement. When his father was found guilty, all of the family’s possessions were seized, leaving them only the clothes they were wearing. Kamila decided to escape this disgrace by taking her family to America; they sailed on June 25, 1895. Boston became their home.

In Boston, Gibran entered public school and became acquainted with the world of theater, libraries, and museums. He met people who took an interest in him and his artistic talents. One such person was Fred Holland Day, a publisher and photographer...

(The entire section is 726 words.)


(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

For Kahlil Gibran, the desire for a perfect world was muted by the realities of life. Good and bad, joy and sorrow, ignorance and knowledge existed side by side. This dichotomy was reflected in his writings. On one hand, he used his Arabic writings to denounce the conditions in his homeland and to urge his countrymen to rebel. On the other hand, he promoted peace and contentment in his English works. Simple and ordinary words combined in metaphors, similes, wise sayings, parables, poems, and stories expose his belief in the power of love, God, nature, reason, understanding, honesty, and the authority of the great mind.