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Kahlil Gibran Biography

Education in Lebanon (1898-1902)

In 1898, Gibran arrived in Beirut speaking poor English and even little Arabic; he could speak Arabic fluently, but not read nor write it. To improve his Arabic, Gibran chose to enroll in the school Madrasat-al-Hikmah, a Maronite-founded school which offered a nationalistic curriculum partial to church writings, history and liturgy. Gibranís strong-willed nature refused to abide by the parochial curriculum, demanding an individual curriculum catering to his educational needs and aimed at a college level, a gesture indicative of Gibranís rebellious and individualistic nature; his arrogance bordered on heresy. Nonetheless, the school acquiesced to his request, editing course material to Gibran's liking. He chose to immerse himself in the Arabic-language bible, intrigued by its style and writing, features of which echo in his various works. As a student, Gibran left a great impression on his teachers and fellow students, who were impressed with his outlandish and individualistic behavior, self-confidence, and his unconventional long hair. His Arabic teacher saw in him "a loving but controlled heart, an impetuous soul, a rebellious mind, an eye mocking everything it sees". However, the schoolís strict and disciplined atmosphere was not to Gibranís liking, who flagrantly flouted religious duties, skipped classes and drew sketches on books. At the school, Gibran met Joseph Hawaiik, with whom he started a magazine called al-Manarah (the Beacon), both editing while Gibran illustrated.

Meanwhile, Josephine Peabody, the twenty-four year old Bostonian beauty who caught Gibranís attention during one of Dayís exhibitions, was intrigued by the young Syrian artist who dedicated a sketch to her, and began corresponding with Gibran throughout his stay in Lebanon. Soon, he became romantically involved with Josephine, and they kept exchanging letters until the relationship fell apart, following the rebuffal of Gibranís marriage proposal and Josephineís eventual marriage in 1906.

Gibran finished college in 1902, learning Arabic and French and excelling in his studies, especially poetry. Meanwhile, his relationship with his father became strained over Gibranís advanced erudition, driving him to move in with his cousin and to live an impoverished life he detested and was ashamed of until the rest of his life. The poverty in Lebanon was compounded with news of illness striking his family, with his half-brother's consumption, his sister Sultanaís intestinal trouble and his motherís developing cancer. Upon receiving news of Sultanaís dire illness, Gibran left Lebanon in March of 1902.

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