So What Are You Reading?

Reviews of Books.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Nymphs of the Valley

Nymphs of the Valley by Kahlil Gibran
Kahlil Gibran is an early 20th Century Lebanese writer who is best known for his 1923 book The Prophet. The dust jacket flap says this small volume of three Arabic stories were found amongst his papers by his translator and made available in English in 1948. The original 1906 Arabic version was published in New York by Al-Mohajer with the title Ara'is al-Muruj. Wikipedia lists it as his 2nd published book. - The World's Poetry Archive's Classic Poetry Series 2008 article on Kahlil Gibran describes these stories as expressive of Gibran's "anti-feudal and anti-clerical convictions." The dust jacket to the British edition describes them as follows.
"The setting of all three is the Lebanon. The first [Martha] tells the story of a poor and innocent village girl who is seduced and stranded in the city. On her deathbed she is consoled by a youth from her native village. The second [Dust of the Ages and The Eternal Fire] is a story of reincarnation; two lovers parted by death in ancient Baal are joined together in life two thousand years afterwards. The third [Yuhanna the Mad] is the portrait of a true Christian in rebellion against the vested interests of the monasteries. And he who has real wisdom is said by the world to be mad."
All three describe a Lebanon that is part of the crumbling Turkish Empire where the powerful and the poor are widely separated. Gibran, like Tolstoy, sees the corrupt church in league with the government and the rich, robbing the poor of what little they have, to maintain their status and wealth. His heart is with the poor villagers and these stories tell a timeless message of love and humanity struggling against wealth and privilege.


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