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...
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