Biography of Prophet Author Kahlil Gibran Part 3

About the famous author of The Prophet Kahlil Gibran, biography and history of the Lebanese mystic.


Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

After Mary Haskell's marriage in 1926, Gibran acquired another devotee, or "deathless admirer." Barbara Young was an English teacher who aspired to become a poetess. She was soon content to sit at Gibran's feet and take dictation, for she regarded him as a manifestation of the "Mighty Unnameable Power." After his death she devoted the rest of her life to lecturing and writing about him. Young's biography of Gibran, This Man from Lebanon, appeared in 1945.

There was also an affair, carried on by correspondence, between Gibran and May Ziadeh, an expatriate living in Egypt. After an argument over extramarital sex, which Gibran had condoned, May received an envelope containing only a drawing of a burning heart pierced by a dagger.

Gibran died at 48 of cirrhosis of the liver and incipient tuberculosis. According to his will, his "mortal remains"--as well as all future royalties from his books--were to be sent to his native village of Bsherri (population 4,000). His white marble coffin received a hero's welcome in the port of Beirut, and a 50-mi.-long funeral procession wound its way up to the abandoned mountain monastery of Mar Sarkis near Bsherri.Carved into a cliff by monks seeking a safe refuge, inaccessible except by rope or ladder, the monastery was later provided with a path, plastic flowers, and souvenirs for future generations of literary pilgrims.

Over the years Gibran's books enjoyed a continuing vogue, although literary critics often found fault with them. French sculptor Auguste Rodin had declared that Gibran was "the William Blake of the 20th century," but one Time magazine critic complained, "Of all the limp, mucid hooey now being sold without a prescription, The Prophet is the most blatant and outrageous." Yet young people found in him an expression of their frustrated spirituality, particularly suicide victims, who often left strict instructions to have passages from The Prophet read at their funeral. The elderly turned to him for comfort upon bereavement. John F. Kennedy immortalized Gibran's injunction "Ask not what your country can do for you," while hippie weddings were celebrated to the refrains of the prophet Almustafa's advice to "let there be spaces in your togetherness."

In the 50 years after its publication, The Prophet sold 4 million copies in English-language editions alone (plain, illustrated, and deluxe), and there were translations in 20 other languages as well. In 1947 Gibran's sister Mariana, by then an old woman, went to court seeking a share of her brother's earnings, but her suit was unsuccessful. And during the 1970s the impoverished villagers of Bsherri were beset by intrigue, embezzlement, even murder, over the division of hundreds of thousands of dollars in annual royalties. The Lebanese government finally intervened, and it now administers this annual windfall from America.

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