Lebanon/US (1883 - 1931) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Poems by Kahlil Gibran
Books - Links
His father, also named Kahlil, had drinking problems and gambling debts. This led the senior Gibran to leave his job as an assistant pharmacist, taking work instead as an enforcer for the local Ottoman administrator. He eventually ended up in jail.
This difficult situation left the family in poverty. As a result, Gibran did not receive a formal education as a young boy, but a local priest taught him to read Arabic and Syriac, as well as stories from the Bible, filling him with an early awareness of the mystical dimensions of Christianity.
When Gibran was eight, his mother moved the family, including his older half-brother and his two younger sisters, to Boston. Although shy, Gibran quickly learned English and, thanks to a scholarship, started to receive more of a formal education.
The boy became fascinated by Boston's world of art and music, visiting galleries and performances. At age 13, his artistic gifts came to the attention of cultural circles in Boston, where he was further introduced to artistic trends.
Despite this early success, Gibran was sent back to Lebanon to complete his education, where he excelled in poetry.
He returned to the United States in 1902 in the midst of a family crisis. His mother had cancer, and his older brother and his fourteen-year-old sister had tuberculosis. His sister soon died. The brother, who had been supporting the family with a small hardware store, moved to Cuba to try to recover his health, leaving the young Gibran in the difficult position of having to take over the hardware business. A year later, his brother returned from Cuba, but died soon thereafter. The same year, his mother also died.
In the aftermath of so much death, Gibran sold the family business and threw all of his energy into art and writing and perfecting his English. He also reconnected with the Boston cultural benefactors he had known as a child.
He began to write columns for an Arabic-language newspaper and later collected these writings into his first published books.
In 1909, Gibran went to Paris for two years to broaden his artistic training, and he was particularly influenced by the artistic Symbolist movement, with its open embrace of mysticism.
Returning to America, he began to publish his first Arabic prose-poetry collections through a publisher in Egypt. He became active with Arab intellectual and artistic organizations, promoting the rich culture of the Arab-speaking world, while attempting to address its many problems under Western imperial rule.
In 1911, Gibran moved to New York. There he met and was influenced Abdul Baha, the leader of the Bahai Faith movement. He also met Carl Jung and was asked to paint the famous psychologist's portrait, at which time Gibran became intrigued by Jungian philosophy.
Gibran began to write in his adopted language of English, writing The Madman, though it would be rejected by several publishing houses until a small publisher named Alfred Knopf would take a chance on the work.
When World War I broke out, he worked to free Syria from Ottoman rule, but was frustrated by the messy realities of war and power games of international politics.
In the years following publication of his best known work, The Prophet, Gibran would gain international notoriety.
Poems by Kahlil Gibran
Gibran Kahlil Gibran - Biography & Works
A brief timeline of the life of Kahlil Gibran.
Kahlil Gibran Online
An extensive site with an excellent biography and all of Gibran's published works online, examples of his artwork, and photos.