Jean and Kahlil George Gibran chronicle the life of their famous relation in an updated—and greatly expanded—version of their 1974 book, Kahlil Gibran: His Life and World.
The authors’ subject, the Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), is unquestionably interesting, and this new edition of the book features plenty of new research and many more photographs—an important addition given that Gibran was also a visual artist. Gibran was a young boy when his father became involved in a political scandal in their home of Bsharri, Mount Lebanon. His mother took her children to Boston, where they lived in the Syrian section of town. Publisher and art photographer Fred Holland Day initially spotted Gibran’s talent for art, and he helped him learn English, sparking his interest in literature. By the age of 15, Gibran was creating illustrations for Day’s books and submitting to New York publishers. However, around the same time, he was sent back to Lebanon to study; his family feared he was too Americanized. The strong connections the authors have for their subject illustrate the deep ties of the Syrian people to their heritage. They are also excellent at explaining how the artist/writer lived a dual life: two languages, two careers, and both Arabic- and English-speaking colleagues. Gibran was lucky to find good mentors, including Day, fellow writer Josephine Peabody, and Mary Haskell, his patron. Haskell was his lifelong financial savior, but she also helped him translate his work into English while maintaining the feel of his thoughts. Gibran was always involved in groups of writers, Syrians, and politicians, and his strong feelings for his homeland were a vital part of his soul. Auguste Rodin called him the William Blake of the 20th century, and his influence is still felt today, most notably with the continued sales of The Prophet, which was published in 1923 and has never been out of print.
An enjoyable, generously illustrated book that will stimulate readers to reconsider Gibran, his work, and his heritage.