Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Book Review: The Greatest Works of Kahlil Gibran



ISBN: 81-7224-134-8

GENRE: Philosophy/Parable/Poetry/Novel

PRICE: Rs. 299/- 

(review copy  from the publishers.)


Khalil Gibran (January 6, 1883 – April 10, 1931) was a Lebanese artist, poet, and writer. Born in the town of Bsharri in the north of modern Lebanon, as a young man he immigrated with his family to the United States, where he studied art and began his literary career, writing in both English and Arabic. 

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. 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, after Shakespeare and Laozi.

What you might have not known about the author: Due to a mistake at a school in the United States, he was registered as Kahlil Gibran, the spelling he used thenceforth.


The Greatest works of  Kahlil Gibran by Jaico Books is an omnibus collection of 12 books including The Prophet, The Wanderer, Sand and Foam, The Madman, The Forerunner, The Earth Gods, Nymphs of the Valley, Tears and Laughter, Between Night & Morn, Secrets of the Heart, Spirits Rebellious, and The Broken Wings.

The Prophet is a book of 26 prose poetry philosophical essays. The prophet, Almustafa, has lived in the foreign city of Orphalese for 12 years and is about to board a ship which will carry him home. He is stopped by a group of people, with whom he discusses topics such as life and the human condition. 

The book is divided into chapters dealing with love, marriage, children, giving, eating and drinking, work, joy and sorrow, houses, 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 Wanderer, The Forerunner, Tears and Laughter, The Madman, Between Night and Morn, The Secrets of the hearts, are collections of assorted poetry prose parables with philosophic or at times even spiritual undertones.

Sand and Foam is a collection of Poems and Sayings.

The Earth Gods is a beautiful composition from the point of view of three Earth Gods who study what goes on Earth and keep discussing their observations and issues. One of them wants to get rid of his immortality.

Nymphs of the valley, Spirits Rebellious, and The Broken Wings are a collection of fictional short story parables.


"We wanderers, ever seeking the lonelier way, begin no day where we have ended another day; and no sunrise finds us where sunset left us. Even while the earth sleeps we travel. We are the seeds of the tenacious plant, and it is in our ripeness and our fullness of heart that we are given to the wind and are scattered." ~ The Prophet

"Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so that the other half may reach you." ~ Sand and Foam

"The bad omen of one is the good omen of another." ~ The Lion's Daughter, The Forerunner

"Substantial things deaden a without suffering; love awakens him with enlivening pains." ~ A Poet's Voice: Part 1, Tears and Laughter

"Alas! Sleeplessness has weakened me! But I am a lover, and the truth of love is strong. I may be weary, but I shall never die." ~ Song of a Wave, Tears and Laughter

"I am sweeter than a violet's sigh; I am more violent than a raging tempest." ~ Song of Love, Tears and Laughter

"Yea, in your own soul your Redeemer lies asleep, And in sleep sees what your waking eye does not see." ~ The Earth Gods

"This tide of ever remembering and forgetting; This ever sowing destinies and reaping but hopes; This changeless lifting of self from dust to mist, Only to long for dust, and to fall down with longing unto dust, And still with greater longing to seek the mist again." The Earth Gods

Favorite lines: "My daughter, we ourselves are the infinately small and the infinately great; and we are the path between the two." ~ The Path, The Wanderer

Interesting Fact: The opening lines of "The Prophet" plays heavily on the "immortal" quatrains (Century IV, Q30-Q31) of the largely discredited works of French "seer" Nostradamus. Interestingly, Gibran's full name is Gibran Khalil Gibran and to which the "number of the beast" 666 of the Book of Revelation (which is itself regarded by Biblical scholars as a dubious work) could easily have been ascribed by Gibran as referring to himself. These unfortunate coincidences most likely inspired Gibran's opening lines of "The Prophet".


The first thing that one notices when one first begins reading this book is a sense of familiarity. This sense of deja vu might be due to certain commonalities between Gibran's philosophy and our own spiritual experiences. Since he believed in the unity of all religion and even had strong connections with the Bahai'i faith, people of most religions would enjoy his writings. 

"The  Prophet" for example is an impressive compendium of different aspects of life. Often quite practical, often the metaphysical; there is no doubt that Gibran's words manage to transport you to a different magical realm and ultimately makes up to be an interesting read. Unlike Aesop the Gibran parable is hardly moralistic. It leans more on bleak irony and naturalism. Though they both rely heavily on personification. 

I'll cite a few examples here:-

Themes like: "A rich man locked inside his iron safe, perishing from hunger amid heaps of gold."
Imagery like: "Look at the Darkness, giving birth to the Sun."

The comparison between the materialistic and the sincere (which is considered Godlike) is central to Gibran's writings.

The thing I liked the most about the poems and sayings collected under "Sand and Foam", was the artwork between the lines. Not to mention, the author's very own illustrations that have been used in this edition. The cover page artwork is also up to the mark.

The only issue that I had with this copy is that the page numbers were not in proper sync with a master "contents" table. The books were mentioned in an index but they had their own separate "page numbers" independent of a common "table of contents".

All in all, this is surely a collector's item. It is also the kind of volume that everyone should have at their homes. Happy reading!

(Reviewed by Suryea for Dreams and Drama)


  1. Very well done, Suryea! I hope you're doing fine :)

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Scylla. You have a very interesting pseudonym (it isn't your official name I guess..pardon me if it is). :) Any reason why you chose being called Scylla?

    2. Hey, I've a deep interest in Greek mythology and the story of "Scylla" is quite fascinating, hence, I chose this pseudonym. :)

  2. Thank you so much for such an articulate review, Suryea! We hope you'll contribute to Dreams and Drama again sometime in the future. It's wonderful to have you here. :)

    @S Scylla: Thanks for leaving a comment. :) Hope you have a great day ahead.

  3. wowow.. now that is a lovely review.. I so want to go and buy this book for sure


    1. I cannot agree more, Bikram. Suryea is indeed amazing at reviews. Go get the book and let us know your thoughts!! ^_^

  4. Yet to read a Khalil Gibran book.

    1. Never too late to start I suppose :D Pick one and let us know what you thought?

  5. Nice review...I loved his 'The prophet' although I feel it was very similar (in its basic philosophy) to Bhagwat Gita

    1. Thanks for dropping by, Ankita. Yes, The Prophet's philosophy and approach is indeed very similar to the Bhagwat Gita :)


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