For self is a sea boundless and measureless. We shall never understand one another until we reduce the language to seven words. —Kahlil Gibran

Among my mother’s books was a copy of The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran. I remember still the cream color of the cover, adorned with a soft-focus drawing of a young man with a thin moustache staring, Svengali-like, into some kind of philosophical infinity. Although—or was it because?—The Prophet was so popular at the time, selling by the million worldwide, I resisted reading it. I suspected that its profundity, or rather its straining after profundity, was bogus, and I was right. It is precisely in its ersatz quality that its popularity resides.

Gibran was an artist as well as a writer, and his drawings, with some of which this Collected Works is interspersed, suffer from a defect that is closely kindred to the defect from which his writing...


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