A bit too short and a bit too flowery in its prose, but still a good insight into Gibran’s verse, as he writes with a mostly poetic style that relies a lot on metaphor and dense descriptions. The book had been lying on my shelf for almost a decade after I surprisingly found it at a roadside seller in my native city in Kerala. I’m not a huge fan of the short story, which probably explains my reluctance to come around to it.
But it is a neat little insight into the trials and tribulations of a sensitive young man who finds and loses his first love and the general society around the time (though this is far from an anachronism, considering marriages in plenty of places are still being enforced on ‘cultural’ and parental norms).
The setting is Beirut, Lebanon and Gibran is a young man who comes across an old friend of his father’s. This friend takes him to his heart and invites him to drop in at his home whenever he pleases. It is here that he meets Selma Karamy, the gentleman’s daughter and they fall into each other’s hearts. The relationship however has little chance of succeeding from the beginning. For Selma is betrothed to the son of a powerful religious man and has not much say in her destiny. Considering the influence of the religious leaders on society of the time, even her father has not much choice if he wants to continue living respectably with his daughter there. After that, it’s pretty much curtains for the young lovebirds and nature takes its course with an inevitably slow burning tragic ending.
It was a good read, but one can’t help but feel a little frustrated at the narrator’s curious lack of decisiveness or fortitude. Even as he was falling into love, it appeared he was set on losing her without the inkling of a fight and took on the role of the depressed poet from then. Of course, this is probably how it was back then and it probably helped serve the primary purpose of some beautifully melancholy prose, but it is a tad disappointing. The love story in itself seems to be based on little but the ‘love at first glance’ construct we see in a lot of contemporary literature, as (in the book at least) there seems very little other exposition of anything else happening between the two. Again, probably expected considering the time and age it is set in.