Length: 126 pages
Genre: Poetry, Spirituality, Philosophy, Classics
Publisher: Fingerprint Classics
Date of Publication: 2017; First published in 1927
Rating: 3.5/5 stars
I received this book as a giveaway win from @reader_viddh. Everybody has been raving about the book and it seemed interesting to find an insight into another religion so I was very interested in reading it. I am not a big fan of poetry but I found that the book was beautifully written and I could handle it quite well.
“A book of twenty-six poetic essays written in English, Khalil Gibran’s The Prophet is full of religious inspirations.
With the twelve illustrations drawn by the author himself, the book took more than eleven years to be formulated and perfected and is Gibran’s best-known work. It represents the height of his literary career as he came to be noted as ‘the Bard of Washington Street’.
The Prophet has chapters covering such sprawling topics as love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, housing, clothes, buying and selling, crime and punishment, laws, freedom, reason and passion, pain, self-knowledge, teaching, friendship, talking, time, good and evil, prayer, pleasure, beauty, religion, and death.“
The book begins with the prophet lamenting about having to leave the place that he has come to love even though he is actually going back home. It describes a pain that all of us have felt when we have been used to living in a place that is home away from home. I found the first half of the book relatable but as the book progressed it seemed to incline more towards a fanatical approach towards life than practical. But seeing that the book was written a century ago, I think it was way ahead of its time.
In the first chapter ‘Coming of the Ship’, the author says “love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation”. I found this to hold true even for non-romantic love. It is only when we lose something that we seem to realise its importance. Later in the chapter titled ‘Marriage’, he says “we shall be together […] but let there be spaces in our togetherness.” It amazed me to see that a book written in 1927 could place so much importance on individuality and space in a relationship. Compared to the relationship advice that we saw in the latter half of that century, I was sad that such thinking existed but we did not carry it forward.
About ‘Giving’, the author says “is not dread of thirst when your well is full, the thirst that is unquenchable?”. He later gives more examples to show that greed is what consumes most people. This resonated with me because we now see countries that have an excess of resources being stingy and ‘saving up’ for a later date while in fact they would be more at peace and happier if they would just let people make use of everything that they have to offer. When asked about ‘Talking’, the author says “when you talk you cease to be at peace with your thoughts. And when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound is a diversion and a pastime.” I remember someone saying “when you talk you stop listening”. As an introvert who has trouble finding things to talk about in social situations, this made a lot of sense. I often find that people talk for the sake of talking and it does nothing to help the knowledge base of the talker nor the listener. This chapter validated a lot of thoughts that I had about talking and listening.
When asked about ‘Pleasure’, the author said: “your body is the harp of your soul and it is yours to bring forth sweet music from it or confused sounds”. Again, I was surprised by the amount of freedom that the author gives to the individual. Rather than telling the woman that she exists for the pleasure of the males, he tells her that she is in control of her body and her mind. Later in the last chapter, ‘Farewell’ the author says […] you are as weak as your strongest link. This is half the truth. You are as strong as your strongest link. To measure you by your smallest deed is to reckon the power of ocean by the frailty of its foam”. This is great advice even in the present day. We see so many interviewers asking the interviewee what his weakest skill is and instead of helping to work on it or on his strengths, he is not even given a job. Concentrating on the weakest link is a very negative approach to a situation and I believe that solving an issue using everybody’s strengths will be quicker than eliminating people based on their weaknesses.
The book is a quick read but has life lessons in every paragraph. It makes you think. As a person who does not read much of poetry, I must say that it managed to keep my attention throughout. I don’t read religious books so I was a bit apprehensive about what I would find in this book but I was pleasantly surprised that it did not allude to any religion even in a roundabout way. Although I did not agree with some of the chapters, I would recommend the book to everyone at least as a means of having a philosophical discussion if not a spiritual or a religious one.
Khalil Gibran was a Lebanese-American artist, poet, and writer.
Born in the town of Bsharri in modern-day Lebanon (then part of Ottoman Mount Lebanon), as a young man he emigrated with his family to the United States where he studied art and began his literary career. In the Arab world, Gibran is regarded as a literary and political rebel. His romantic style was at the heart of a renaissance in modern Arabic literature, especially prose poetry, breaking away from the classical school. In Lebanon, he is still celebrated as a literary hero.
He is chiefly known in the English-speaking world for his 1923 book The Prophet, an early example of inspirational fiction including a series of philosophical essays written in poetic English prose. The book sold well despite a cool critical reception, gaining popularity in the 1930s and again especially in the 1960s counterculture.
Gibran is the third best-selling poet of all time, behind Shakespeare and Lao-Tzu.
TL;DR: A book written a century ago that still has lessons for us in the present day.
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