'The best books, reviewed with insight and charm, but without compromise.'
- author Jackie French

Thursday 18 November 2010

Review: Kahlil Gibran: An Illustrated Anthology

There is no human way that I can read through ‘On Children’ without having a meltdown. It’s impossible. I love this piece from Gibran's The Prophet so much, I know it by heart… and I can’t even repeat it in my own head without losing it - most embarrassingly.

I don’t think anyone born has more eloquently expressed the beauty and purpose of children, nor the role parents play in their lives. It’s unbelievably beautiful, and if you haven’t read through this small part of Gibran’s exquisite work, you really must do so immediately.
But this illustrated anthology is more than just a small poem entitled ‘On Children’. According to the book’s 'curator', El-Desouky, it was Gibran’s artwork that suffered the most from lack of recognition.

When Gibran moved to New York in 1912, he was by then considered one of the Arab world’s most respected romantic poets. By the 1960s, his work as a prophet and artist began to be more recognized, thanks to the New Age movement – this is when the extent of his works became more mainstream, in translated English.

In this beautiful anthology, the reader is not only treated to a collection of exquisite writings... they are also in for a visual treat with a fine assortment of artwork – from the well-recognised Face of Almustafa (the frontispiece for The Prophet) to breathtaking and quite surreal watercolour paintings, wash drawings, oil on canvas, pencil, graphic, charcoal and more.

Gibran’s artwork may be diverse, but its central pivots are deeply embedded in the spiritual – in the human psyche – and in higher purpose. His paintings beautifully reflect his written works in their freedom of thought.

For example, though his grandmother was a Maronite priest and mother a devout Christian, Gibran said on religion:

“…Religion? What is it? I only know life… The church is within you. You yourself are your priest…”

A man well ahead of his time, that’s for sure.

Throughout this book, El-Desouky has coupled Gibran’s poems with a brilliant addition – a narrative on each one, adding depth and understanding to each piece. These make fascinating reading and help the reader understand the passion, beauty and heart of this extraordinary man. I utterly devoured these.

Life-changing, life-affirming and meticulously presented by a specialist author intent on revealing the depth of Gibran’s talent to the world, this book is not only a literary must-have, it’s a wonderful tome of lesson-learning and heartfelt works anyone can dip-in into and come away from breathless.

And so I leave you with a little taste of my favourite Gibran piece from ‘On Children’.

You can give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls.
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you can not visit, not even in your dreams...

Nobody does it better. Buy this book as a gift. Then give it to yourself.

Title: Kahlil Gibran: An Illustrated Anthology
Author: Ayman A El-Desouky
Illustrators: Kahlil Gibran
Publisher: Octopus, A$39.95RRP
Publication Date: September 2010
Format: Hardcover with dustjacket
ISBN: 9781846013386
For ages: 8+
Type: Anthology/Poetry

This book can be bought online