“And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered. For thought is a bird of space, that in a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly.”

-Khalil Gibran

 

Jubran Khalil Jubran was born on 6 January 1883 to Kamila Jubran and her second husband, Khalil Sa’d Jubran, in the village of Bisharri in what is now northern Lebanon but was then Ottoman Syria. Moving fast forward to the year 1923 while leaving what happened to Gibran and his family all these years. It was September of 1923, when Gibran’s masterpiece, The Prophet, was published.

Gibran worked on it from time to time and had finished much of it by 1919. He seems to have written it in Arabic and then translated it into English. The Prophet received tepid reviews in Poetry and The Bookman, an enthusiastic review in the Chicago Evening Post, and little else. On the other hand, the public reception was intense. It began with a trickle of grateful letters; the first edition sold out in two months; 13,000 copies a year were sold during the Great Depression, 60,000 in 1944, and 1,000,000 by 1957. Many millions of copies were sold in the following decades, making Gibran the best-selling American poet of the twentieth century.

American critics and historian of art and of literature long dismissed Gibran as a popular sentimentalist. However, there are signs that this situation is changing, at least on the literary side, as critics become more sensitive to the characteristics of immigrant writing.