Biography of Kahlil Gibran

Gibran - Chronology of his Life

1883 Gibran is born in Besharri, a town in what is now northern Lebanon that is surrounded by the famed "Cedars of Lebanon," near what is called the "Holy Valley." His family is of modest circumstances. His father, Khalil, clerked in his uncle's apothecary shop before becoming so indebted from gambling that he was reduced to becoming a strong man for Raji Bey, a local Ottoman-appointed administrator. Kahlil's mother Kamila had a child, Butrus or Peter, from her first marriage. Gibran and his mother have a close, understanding relationship that nourishes his artistic tendencies. These are discouraged by his father, however. The family grows with the birth of two sisters: Mariana and Sultana.
1895 Gibran's father, a rough man with a bad temper, alienates his wife and children. When his patron, Raji Bey, is dismissed because of extensive complaints by angry subjects, the elder Gibran is investigated and jailed on graft charges. While the father remains in jail in Besharri, Kamila and her four children emigrate to Boston in hopes of escaping misery. Industrious and devoted, Butrus/Peter assures the family its livelihood and allows Gibran to study. Kahlil shows talent at drawing and, at age 12, begins to learn English.
1896 Gibran discovers Denison House, an establishment in Boston that encourages artistic creativity among the slum children and immigrants. Late in that year he first meets avant-garde Boston photographer Fred Holland Day, who befriends young Kahlil and has a significant artistic and intellectual impact on him.
1897 Moved by a desire to complete his Arabic-language education, Gibran returns to Lebanon and attends al-Hikmah high school in Beirut, where he pursues a reformist Arabic curriculum. He also studies religion and ethics.
1902 Gibran returns to Boston, now aged 19. Develops a friendship, then romantic feelings for a young Bostonian woman, Josephine Peabody, a poet and intellectual. In the same year, he loses to tuberculosis his sister Sultana, his half-brother Peter, and his mother Kamila. Gibran finds consolation and encouragement with his sister Mariana and his friend Josephine.
1904 Meets Mary Haskell, an American school headmistress in Boston who supported promising young orphans. Marks the beginning of a lifelong friendship that sometimes veered toward romance. It is owing to Mary that he will be able to devote himself to his painting. .
1905 Gibran publishes a slight collection of essays at the al-Muhajir Press, on "Music." Encouraged by the director of the al-Muhajir newspaper, Gibran begins publishing the prose poems that will later be collected into Arabic books such as A Tear and a Smile and Storms, and which have recently been translated into English as The Vision, The Storm, and The Beloved
1906 Gibran publishes Spirit Brides (`Ará'is al-Murúj) in New York in Arabic. Its realist approach to social problems such as oppression of women and religious hypocrisy creates a stir among the expatriate Arab intellectuals. In wake of Josephine Peabody's departure from his life, has affair with pianist Gertrude Barrie.
1908 Gibran publishes a second book of short stories in Arabic, Spirits Rebellious. At 25 years of age, Gibran begins his two-year stay in Paris, paid for by Mary Haskell, where he studies painting and is influenced by the reigning school of Symbolism. He spends much time in ateliers and museums. It is probably not true that he met Rodin at this time, but he was certainly immersed in the same Symbolist artistic currents within which the latter worked.
1910 Back to Boston. Romance deepens with Mary Haskell, but then she pulls back, apparently in part because she fears to cross the then race barrier and risk her place in society. Gibran joins "Golden Links Society" of Arab-American writers and intellectuals. Publishes in Cairo a collection of prose poems, Beyond the Imagination
1911 Begins work on his first English-language manuscript, "The Madman." Meets and draws Yeats. Is deeply impressed but criticizes him for his hyper-nationalism.
1912 Broken Wings, his only novel, a story of love thwarted by greed and convention and male chauvinism, is published in New York in Arabic. Begins correspondence with Syrian-Egyptian intellectual and writer, May Ziadeh. Gibran moves to New York for good. Meets and draws `Abdu'l-Baha (1844-1921), then leader of the Baha'i faith. Is impressed but objects to latter's emphasis on peace. He argues that there are restless young nations like his own, wishing to get free of the Ottoman yoke, and that youth is a time for a few good such fights.
1913 Meets and draws Carl Jung, is introduced to Jungian philosophy.
1914 Arabic anthology of his newspaper prose poems, "A Tear and a Smile," is published in New York by Nasib Arida. Exhibits paintings at Montross Gallery on Fifth Avenue--a rare success, since most galleries resisted Gibran's work on grounds of its excessive nudity and modernism.
1916 At age 33, Gibran's feelings of Syrian nationalism and resentment of Ottoman rule grow, as famine ravages the Levant. He becomes active in raising relief funds in the U.S. for the starving. Through his friendship with Jungian James Oppenheim, he becomes associated with the new literary journal, Seven Arts, and publishes several prose poems in English there. This journal also published Eugene O'Neill, D.H. Lawrence, Sherwood Anderson, Theodore Dreiser, John Dos Passos and H.L. Mencken.
1917 Gibran exhibition by M. Knoedler & Co. on Fifth Avenue.
1918 Publication of The Madman in English, which inaugurates a new literary career.
1919 Publication of his long ode in classical Arabic, al-Mawakib (The Procession) by Mir'at al-Gharb. Knopf brings out his Twenty Drawings.
1920 Creation of the literary circle al-Rabitah al-Qalamiyyah or "Pen League," which groups Arab writers in New York dedicated to modernism such as Amin Rihani, Mikhail Naimy and Gibran. Gibran publishes The Forerunner. Meets with Rabindranath Tagore, and defends American technology to him. His humorous anecdotes about famous writers appear in book form in Alexandria, Egypt.
1923 Appearance of The Prophet. Its lyricism and simple style make it an immediate and considerable success. Continues correspondence with May Ziadeh of Cairo. Mary Haskell moves to Savannah Georgia and virtually goes out of Gibran's life, leaving him bereft of her close friendship and editorial collaboration. She marries Col. Jacob Minis. Second edition of Storms, a collection of prose poems, appears in Cairo.
1924 Gibran's work on Arabic canons of eloquence appears in Cairo.
1925 Becomes associated with New Orient Magazine at invitation of Syud Hossain. Gibran embroiled in a real estate deal that goes bad, sapping his energy for a year.
1927 His collection of aphorisms, Kingdom of the Imagination appears in Cairo.
1928 Publication of Jesus, Son of Man. Friendship begins with Barbara Young. He pursues his painting and writing. In ill health and pain, Gibran drinks heavily, despite the Prohibition.
1931 The Earth Gods is published in March. April 10 Gibran dies in a New York hospital. The New York Sun announces in its obituary, "A Prophet is Dead." His body is shipped back to Lebanon, and an immense procession follows his coffin from Beirut to Besharri. In following years thousands of visitors will tread the narrow path that leads to the convent of Mar Sarkis, where he rests in the shadow of a boulder, very close to the Holy Valley.

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