Book Review: The Prophet

The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran

This is the sort of book that it is all too easy to tear into.  An equally critical but less kind reader than myself, especially one familiar with New Age writing [1], would see in this book the sort of devotion to carnal sensuality and vague platitudes typical of that immensely influential Eastern-influenced way of thinking.  This is especially true in this volume, where the book includes a dozen drawings by the author that invariably end up being male and/or female nudes.  To be sure, there is a sort of beauty in the text, and the author and translator certainly were able to craft beautiful words.  That certainly does put it above many poems, certainly.  Even so, this book is widely considered to be among the best and most important books of poetry ever, and is widely regarded as one of the great books of the 20th century, and when I read this book, and see main character as a false prophet peddling a counterfeit gospel that has been very popular and very pernicious, all I can think about is the fact that this author should have been put to death and that this book is a snake in the grass rather than a great book, something to view as venomous and toxic rather than devoured with pleasure.

As far as a book goes, this one is mercifully short at less than 100 pages, a dozen of which are taken up by the author’s drawings.  The framing of the story is deceptively simple, in which a prophet whose reputation was aided by a mysterious woman involved in some sort of heathen spiritual activities is about to leave and gives some parting words of advice to believers in the city where he lived.  The advice is on such subjects as 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.  After having dispensed his spectacularly ungodly advice, the prophet leaves and promises that another will come after him, like those infernal Mahdis of Shi’ite lore.  It is hard to give justice to just how bad the advice given is in terms of its moral value, here is an example taken entirely at random as I flipped a page:  “And in much of your talking, thinking is half murdered.  For thought is a bird of space, in that a cage of words may indeed unfold its wings but cannot fly (60).”  Profound-sounding nothings like this populate the pages of this book.

Far from a masterpiece, this book is an example of the sort of evil that cultural elites have foisted on the public throughout the last few decades.  The author himself, like many of the false prophets of our contemporary decadence, lived a short life in which he wrote execrable texts, and then died to posthumous fame for having been a herald of our own evil age.  From an area where many faiths mingled before becoming hardened in their present conflict, the author adopts the pious-sounding language of those who weave webs of deceptive words in order to appear profound when they are not.  Such people are far more common in our own times than in his, but he at least has the benefit of being eloquent as opposed to the the considerable drawbacks of being nearly precisely wrong in all of his supposedly sage advice.  There ought to be some sort of award for those who manage to say so little while attempting to say so much.

[1] See, for example:


About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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