博客网 >



Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)


The author of The Prophet--the underground bible quoted at both counterculture weddings and John F. Kennedy's inauguration--was a Lebanese mystic who lived off the labor and love of women who worshiped him as the embodiment of the Second Coming.


"I am indebted for all that I call 'I' to women," admitted Gibran. "Had it not been for the woman-mother, the woman-sister, and the woman-friend, I would have been sleeping among those who seek the tranquility of the world with their snoring."


He was born near the proverbial cedar forests of Lebanon, high in the mountains of the Turkish-dominated Middle East. His mother, the daughter of a Maronite Christian priest, had emigrated to Brazil with her first husband but had returned to Lebanon after his death. Her second husband, Kahlil Gibran, is usually described as a shepherd, but he was actually the equivalent of a cattle dealer in a culture that substitutes lamb for beef. The name Khalil, meaning "the chosen one," was later changed by his son to Kahlil, since this spelling was more euphonious. But the mystic never ceased to consider himself favored.


Young Kahlil was a difficult, restless child who loved the drama of storms and brooded over the drawings of Leonardo da Vinci. When he was 11, his mother left her second husband to emigrate to the U.S. with Kahlil, his half brother Peter, and his two younger sisters. Settling near Boston's Chinatown, the family went to work so that Kahlil, the chosen one, might study.


After he had had a few years of American schooling, Kahlil was sent back to Beirut to finish his education, possibly because he had fallen into the traps of a "wicked older woman." Spending his summer vacations with relatives in the Lebanese mountains, he met and fell in love with Hala Daher, whose aristocratic family had already arranged a more appropriate marriage for her. This rejection, which he felt as keenly as if he had been expelled from paradise, inspired in Gibran a lifelong mission to free the "children of God" from slavish adherence to tradition.


Gibran was recalled to Boston in 1903 because of his sister Sultana's death, and the next year his half brother Peter died of tuberculosis. This was followed by the death of his beloved mother. (Mother, he exalted, was "the most beautiful word on the lips of mankind.") There remained only his sister Mariana, who took in needlework to support her brilliant brother while he devoted his time to painting and writing.






At the first exhibition of his mystical paintings, held in Boston in 1904, he acquired a benefactress and a lifelong friend. He was then 21, short and slender, with full lips under his mustache and soulful eyes above it. Mary Haskell, a daughter of impoverished southern gentility, headmistress of her own school in Cambridge, was 31. Gibran described her as "a she-angel who is ushering me toward a splendid future and paving for me the path to intellectual and financial success." Specifically, she offered to support him out of her meager earnings, staking him to two years in Paris and setting him up on his return in a studio in New York's Greenwich Village, where he lived from 1911 until his death. This one-room studio, which he called the Hermitage, became a central gathering place for writers and artists, particularly expatriate Arab literati.


Mary Haskell also served as Gibran's editor, helping crystallize his parables and aphorisms into irreducible "nuggets of wisdom," and as a soul mate for 20 years. Their correspondence, published in Beloved Prophet (1972), alternated between ardent passion and burning self-denial. Gibran proposed marriage, either out of guilt or gratitude, but he was refused. ("He who would understand a woman," according to one of Gibran's startling non sequiturs, "is the very man who would wake from a beautiful dream to sit at a breakfast table.") By 1923 the couple had grown apart, and Mary eventually left New York for Savannah, Ga., and marriage to a southern aristocrat, J. Florance Minis.


It was in his New York studio that Gibran found his stride as an artist and writer. In both fields his style was eclectic. His drawings of yearning nudes and his portraits exuding spirituality were influenced by Da Vinci, mystic William Blake, and sculptor Auguste Rodin. His parables and aphorisms derived from such diverse sources as the Bible, La Fontaine, and Nietzsche.


Gibran's first works, which had been inspired by star-crossed love for Hala Daher, included Spirits Rebellious (1908), banned by the Turkish authorities in the Middle East as "revolutionary and poisonous to youth," and The Broken Wings (1912), an autobiographical novel of frustrated love and a best-seller in the Arabic-speaking world.


During the years in New York, however, Gibran turned to more universal themes, producing a dozen slender volumes about love and other spiritual strivings. In 1918 he published The Madman, a benign, idealistic version of Nietzsche's nihilistic superman. ("Madness in art is creation," Gibran wrote. "Madness in poetry is wisdom.") In 1923 he finished The Prophet, 26 minisermons on love, freedom, pain, and sorrow, which he had been polishing for years. This he followed in 1926 with Sand and Foam, a collection of aphorisms (example: "An exaggeration is a truth that lost its temper.").






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.




<< 《东方冲击波——纪伯伦评传》(伊... / 纪伯伦的侧像 >>




平凡的水果世界,平凡中的不平凡。 今朝看水果是水果 ,看水果还是水果 ,看水果已不是水果。这境界,谁人可比?在不平凡的水果世界里,仁者见仁,智者见智。




表情 验证码:


  • 文章总数0
  • 画报总数0
  • 画报点击数0
  • 文章点击数0