Lebanon/US (1883 - 1931) Timeline
Secular or Eclectic
Poems by Kahlil Gibran
Books - Links
His father, also named Kahlil Gibran, had drinking problems and accumulated many gambling debts. This led Gibran's father to leave his job as assistant to his uncle who was a pharmacist, taking work as an 'enforcer' for the local Ottoman administrator. He eventually ended up in jail.
Because of the family's poverty, Gibran did not receive a formal education as a young boy, but a local priest taught him Arabic and Syriac, as well as the stories of the Bible and infused in him an awareness of the mystical dimensions of Maronite Christianity.
When Gibran was eight, his mother took him, 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 frustrating position of having to take over the hardware business. A year later, his brother returned from Cuba, but later died. 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 before.
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 mystical artistic Symbolist movement.
Returning to America, he began to publish some of 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 international politics.
In the years following publication of his best known work, The Prophet, Gibran would gain international notoriety.
He died in 1931.
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.