Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran

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9780312193195: Prophet: The Life and Times of Kahlil Gibran

The definitive biography of a writer whose visions helped shape the philosophy of the New Age, a visionary whose legend lives on in The Prophet, one of the greatest bestsellers of the twentieth century

In this comprehensive biography, Robin Waterfield traces the influences that shaped Kahlil Gibran, author of the inspirational New Age text The Prophet, which has sold millions of copies and remains an enduring work of the twentieth century. He explores Gibran's development from the wounded Romantic and angry young man to his final metamorphosis as the Prophet of New York, following him from the decadence of fin de siecle Boston to the vigor of Greenwich Village in its heyday before the First World War.

Though known outwardly for the peace and optimism that permeates his work, Gibran's life, as Waterfield demonstrates, was littered with personal tragedy and conflicted sexuality. Admired by many as a charismatic, intelligent, and talented aesthete, Gibran could also be abusive, arrogant, narcissistic, and self-indulgent. Tormented by his failure to live up to his own vision of spiritual fulfillment, Gibran ultimately succumbed to the ravages of alcoholism. Tragically, he did not live to see the phenomenal sales, The Prophet achieved. He died in 1931, seven and a half years after the publication of his best-known book.

Tracing Gibran's development as an artist and as a writer--from his revolutionary short Arabic pieces to the confident biblical cadences of his more mature English works--Waterfield offers fresh insights into Gibran's life and loves. Using Gibran's poetry and art, as well as the major social and cultural contexts of Gibran's lifetime, Waterfield completely reappraises all of the remaining primary sources for Gibran's life and character. In so doing, he offers an entirely new portrait of the complex man whose ideals shaped the New Age.

Prophet is a powerful biography that offers both a thorough treatment of Gibran's life and work, as well as extraordinary insight into the character of a man whose writings still continue to influence legions of readers even today.

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Review:

This respectful but frank biography of the author of The Prophet reveals Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931) as a deeply conflicted man. Robin Waterfield, an English translator of ancient Greek philosophical texts, believes that Gibran never felt entirely at ease in America (to which he immigrated from Lebanon in 1895) or in his native culture. His influential Arabic poetry infused a rigidly classical literature with Western-style romanticism and colloquialism. And his English-language books like The Prophet (which has sold millions since its initial publication in 1923), with their emphasis on the individual's quest for enlightenment and inner peace outside of the constraints of organized religious institutions, helped to create New Age spirituality. Yet Gibran was an alcoholic, frequently unhappy in his relationships with women, and in Waterfield's judgment became so enmeshed in his role as poet-prophet that he "could not endure the reality of being a human being." Somewhat pedantically written and argued, this useful work sifts fact from fiction to illuminate Gibran's links with early 20th-century bohemians in Boston and Greenwich Village, his political and literary affiliations with fellow Arab immigrants, and his impact on the culture of his time and our own. --Wendy Smith

From the Publisher:

"For the first time, Waterfield's book establishes Gibran as the founding father of New Age literature....More than just a literary biography, the book contains a wealth of social history, vividly evoking the atmosphere of Gibran's time." --The London Times

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