Glossary entry for
Gibran, Kahlil

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, p. 76)

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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