Glossary entry for
The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931), was a true '60s bestseller. According to
composite figures at the end of the decade, it continued to rank in sales
popularity between Catch-22 and The Catcher in the Rye.
Philip D. Beidler, in his book Scriptures for a Generation: What we were reading
in the '60s Beidler sees The Prophet as:
The ultimate '60s curio, the archetype of counterculture kitsch. People
seduced each other by it. People got married to it. [...] The outside of the
volume is slim, spare, well-crafted. Inside it beckons from the outset as
dense with meanings. The table of contents is portentous, beginning with
"The Coming of the Ship", moving through a twenty-six other pregnant chapter
headings (On Love, On Marriage, On Children, On Self-Knowledge, On Pleasure,
On Beauty, On Religion, On Death), and ending in "The Farewell" (Beidler,
In mode or genre, it is a vague and deliberately obscure allegory.
Published first by the author, a Lebanese Christian mystic, in 1924, it
is literally about a prophet, a young visionary named "Almustafa, the
chosen and beloved", come to speak to the people of a mystical city
before his departure on a waiting ship for a voyage of going and return.
Contributed by Bent Sorensen
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