As a poet, Kahlil Gibran made his greatest impact on Arabic literature. His Arabic publications broke new ground in poetic form and in the stridency of their exhortations. Barbara Young asserts in This Man from Lebanon (1945) that the West knows a soft Gibran, while the East knows a Gibran who encased “steel in velvet.”
While Time (January 22, 1945), in reviewing This Man from Lebanon, would only concede that Gibran’s “poetry in Arabic was apparently more striking,” Joseph Sheban in Mirrors of the Soul (1965) is more enthusiastic. Sheban claims that Gibran “created a new era in style, influenced by Western thought, and a revolution in the minds of the younger generation of his country.” Annie Salem Otto concurs in The Parables of Kahlil Gibran (1981), saying that Broken Wings “was greeted by the Arab world as an innovation in that it was the first work” to break away “from the imitation of the old classics.”
Gibran’s writing in English is more prose than poetry. Gibran found his second language exceedingly inadequate for creating poetry and he frequently voiced his frustration to friends. Young claims that Gibran knew fifty Arabic words for the English word “love” and this was only one example of the way in which he felt inhibited when he attempted to render into English that which he conceived in Arabic. The fact is, as Sheban states, that Gibran actually has “very little poetry” among his voluminous works in English.
Nor have translations of Gibran’s Arabic works done them justice. Sheban calls them “often inadequate,” and Young attributes his “soft” image in America partly to the translation problem. What reads as angry and original poetry in Arabic tends to translate...
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Was Kahlil Gibran more a man of Lebanon or of the United States?
Gibran’s influence as a writer has been immense. Of his recognized literary virtues, which best explain the popularity of The Prophet?
If Almustafa in The Prophet is Gibran, how does the author avoid a display of egoism?
Discuss Gibran’s capacity for perceiving and adapting insights that are more characteristically feminine.
Characterize Gibran’s god.
Bushrui, Suheil B., and Joe Jenkins. Kahlil Gibran, Man and Poet. Boston: Oneworld, 1998. A biography of the poet and philosopher with a critical study of his writings. Bushrui, an authority on Gibran, and Jenkins, a research fellow at the University of Maryland, rely on sources gathered during a ten-year study to capture Gibran’s life. Includes bibliographical references and index.
Daoudi, M. S. The Meaning of Kahlil Gibran. Secaucus, N.J.: Citadel Press, 1982. This study is divided into three parts: The first contains biographical information, the second provides critical commentary on Gibran’s works, and the third discusses his politics. An appreciative look at Gibran, noting that he was a prodigious author, not just the author of a single work as commonly supposed, and a philosopher of substance. The book concludes with an interesting essay, “Gibran and Arab Nationalism.” Includes a useful select bibliography.
Naimy, Mikhail. Kahlil Gibran: His Life and Works. Beirut: Philosophical Naufal, 1974. An intimate biography by Gibran’s close friend and associate. Naimy dispels much of the myth that surrounded Gibran during his last years and reveals instead the human being who struggled and pulsated with life. Includes some hitherto unpublished writings and sayings by Gibran as well as his last will and testament. An important...
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