Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet Reread through its Twelve Illustrations

in La rivista di Arablit, a. X, n. 19, giugno 2020, pp. 29-54.

Famous Lebanese-American poet Kahlil Gibran was also a very talented painter. Like many of his other books in Arabic and in English, The Prophet includes some of his most charming and inspiring paintings and drawings. This article, far from being an art essay in a technical sense, aims to point out the connections between the Author’s literary and figurative poetics in the light of his intercultural and interreligious vision through an accurate analysis of each one of the twelve plates that illustrate his celebrated chef-d’œuvre.

Introduction: An Artist of the Invisible

Released in English in 1923 in New York for the publisher Knopf and translated into more than a hundred languages, The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran (Ǧubrān Ḫalīl Ǧubrān, 1883-1931) continues to earn resounding, unbridled international success among ordinary readers, despite its seemingly simple words, which in fact conceal complex mystical-religious meanings which only few scholars have attempted to explore further. The original edition of the acclaimed long seller is also accompanied by twelve evocative illustrations (the originals are all on display at the Gibran Museum in Bcharré or Bsherri [Bišarrī], the author’s home town, situated near the “Sacred Valley” [Wādī Qādīšā] which is about eighty kilometres north of Beirut) executed in charcoal, tempera or watercolour by the Lebanese-American poet – who was also an accomplished painter – with the purpose of highlighting or even to integrate the book’s messages, as confirmed by Mikhail Naimy (Mīḫā’īl Yūsuf Nu‘aymah, 1889-1988), Gibran’s fellow countryman, colleague and confidante. […]

This is an Article from La Rivista di Arablit - Anno X, numero 19, giugno 2020

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Francesco Medici |