The Kahlil Gibran Foundation

Artist Poet Man

From the Blog


June 27, 2018     Glen Kalem

The Prophet, translated.

By Glen Kalem [1]

“I have come to say a word...but if death prevents my word the book of eternity will not leave a word unspoken. What I do today in my solitude will be echoed tomorrow by the multitude.”

 -Kahlil Gibran

The Discovery

 

Not long ago I was asked to verify the official number of translations of Kahlil Gibran’s crowning jewel, The Prophet. This was not the first request of its kind, but it came at a serendipitous time, where the right partner (my fellow researcher Francesco Medici), tools and information were aligned in such a way as to provide both the desire and motivation for this undertaking. What we found was no less than awe-inspiring.

 

For years Gibran scholars have either grappled with conducting such an in-depth study or relied on un-scientific figures that were published by Gibran enthusiasts. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, this discrepancy is likely also due to the lack of focused international research and study associated with the author himself. The earlier uncertainty surrounding his work can be traced back all the way to his publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, who ironically once stated of Gibran’s work: “It must be a cult, but I have never met any of its members. I haven’t met five people who ever read Gibran” … I never understood him.” The result is that over the last 95 years, since the publication of the Prophet in 1923, unofficial worldwide numbers of the translation have never been accurately recorded. Current estimates remain at around 40-60 translations [2], not nearly enough to make it onto existing lists of the most translated books of all time [3]

 

This is why a handful of researchers, including myself, have long lobbied for reliable fact-based studies that will finally give some concrete ground to the widely recognised claim today that Gibran is one of the "most read poets in history." And now, upon completion of our initial research, we are pleased to announce our discovery: Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet has been translated over 100 times, making it among the top ten most translated books in history!

 

How Did We Get Here?

 

To put the book and our research into perspective, let’s peel back the remarkable publishing and translation numbers that existed before this study occurred. According to its publisher A. Knopf, The Prophet, first published in 1923, has been reprinted an astounding 188 consecutive times in its 95-year history, making it one of the longest-running of any published works with an estimated worldwide readership of 100 million. I says “estimated” because some countries, for example in parts of Southeast Asia, have not adhered to copyright laws and so readership there may be much more widespread than we think—in fact, these are just some of the regions where I have found that Gibran's readership is growing in large numbers and not showing any sign of slowing down (for example, China alone boasts at least 15 full and part translations of The Prophet). 

 

As this timely study coincides with the end of the publisher’s worldwide copyright privileges, we expect the numbers to keep climbing and wanted to have the current number officially on the record before that happens. After 95 years, publishers Alfred A. Knopf, now owned by Random House Penguin, will no longer have copyright authority over the original works in English by the end of 2018. This means we can expect to see many more iterations of The Prophet and related material around the world, beginning in January 2019--an exciting prospect indeed!

 

Searching for “The Prophet”
Around the World

My colleague and fellow Gibran researcher Francesco Medici and I always knew Gibran's readership was larger than estimated, and so we began our search by tapping into online library archives and our international networks in search of the numbers. What we found has far, far exceeded our expectations and surprised even those who thought they knew all there was to know about Gibran!

 

To our knowledge, no such comprehensive study has been conducted up until now, at least not by an academic or private institution. Furthermore, this study has not analysed each translation in greater detail, and the debate and discussion on the authenticity of each individual text is a whole different study in itself. We have simply tallied and collated to reach a base number of available texts from which we have a solid foundation to build upon.

 

All translations in this study were counted based on first editions only, and we have verified each listed work by citing at least the writer and publisher of the text. We did not, however, have the capacity to review the full contents of each work individually, nor test the accuracy of the poetic message and how that relates back to the virtue of the original. Furthermore, it is difficult to tell if the translators translated the work from the original English form or some other language. In summary, we solely focused on the existence and authenticity of the publication itself.

 

We began at The Kahlil Gibran Museum in Lebanon under the guidance of Mr. Joe Jaja, who sent us a list of 49 translations from the museum’s private collection. Building on this official list, we verified each copy and quickly added a further four translations, therefore bringing the number to 53 translations, which was still within the publicly available range of 40-60.

 

Digging further into the research, Francesco and I would email our shared file back and forth in what became a daily ritual. “The List,” as we came to call it, was growing rapidly; to see The Prophet translated into such obscure languages like Assamese (Indian dialect), Occitan (Provincial France), Uygur (Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region China) and even extinct ones such as Katova or Laghu (Santa Isabel Island -Solomon Islands) was so incredibly astonishing. 

 

As we carried on our research, the questions that kept coming to our mind were, “how many more are there?! And what part of the world are they to be found??” When we broke the 70 translations milestone, we thought it was time to ring the bells of celebration, but the numbers just kept coming, and week after week we found ourselves adding two, three or even five new translations to the list!

 

“List update: 82! 86!” became typical email subject lines, and when we reached 90 confirmed translations we were both astonished; naturally, we wondered, could there be a 100? Or even more? Was it possible we could hit the magic milestone of three digits?

 

We continued edging closer and closer (like finding a braille copy) to the magic number but as we got within reach of our desired target of 100 we reached a lull.  Both of us empty of research currency, and after a couple of weeks of no updates, it finally came--the email we'd hoped for, affirming what no one had thought possible: “102 translations!”

 

Astonished, amazed and just plain bewildered, we both knew we’d discovered something extraordinary; this would usher in a new frontier with regards to Gibran’s chef-d'œuvre. The official total number of translations to date now sits at 104, a number no one could have guessed, not even the most ardent Gibran fan.

 

As the weeks went by and I contemplated this number, I began to wonder where this placed The Prophet in the rankings when it came to the most translated books. The answer? According to existing lists, The Prophet, with 104 translations, amazingly sits at number 10, just behind the book of Mormon. Even more astonishing is that when breaking down the list, The Prophet has yet achieved another milestone: the only book of prose-poetry to hold a top ten position.

 

Moving Forward

This discovery is only the beginning as we have only included first editions of each translation and therefore have reason to believe the overall number could exceed well over 200 translations; for example, we know of 13-15 editions that exist in China alone, another 15-20 in France, and so on.

 

In remembering how profoundly The Prophet influenced my own life and work, it is deeply touching to be able to share the full extent of Gibran’s impact on different generations and cultures around the world. To think that a book which has had little to no promotional support in its 95-year history has reached such a level of readership is remarkable, especially when you measure it against other works with multi-million-dollar marketing campaigns.

 

Finally, as this study remains in progress while we expand past first editions, all updates and further announcements will be accessible at www.kahlilgibran.com

 

[1] Research and study by Glen Kalem and Francesco Medici

[2] https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-17997163

[3] http://ingcointernational.com/the-20-most-translated-texts-in-history/

[4] A previous version of this article appeared in the Lebanese American University’s publication, “Gibran in the 21st Century: Lebanon’s Gift to the World.”

THE LIST 

The Prophet Translation

1st Editions

#Language
/Dialect 
TitlePublisherPlace of
Publication
EditorCopyright
Date
EditionTranslator(s)Cover
Type
PagesNotes
1AfrikaansDie profeetJ.L. Van SchaikPretoria 19551stLouis Fourie 104 
2AlbanianProfetiBotimet ToenaTirana 20031stMaksim Rakipaj 71 
3AlsatianDe ProphetAtelier de Promotion de l'AlsacienZinswiller (France)Fouad Alzouheir20131stAPECM 130 
4AmharicYeTibeb Meniged (Nebiyu)Commercial Publishing EnterpriseAddis Ababa (Ethiopia) 20111stDemelash Tiulahun, Tesfahun Mitiku, Habitamu Tesfaye 192 
5Arabic (Egypt)al-Nabīal-Maṭbaʻah al-Raḥmānīyah bi-MiṣrCairoAntūniyūs Bashīr19261stAntūniyūs Bashīr 120 
6Arabic (England)al-NabīElan Publications[?]London 20161stJamīl al-ʿĀbid 115 
7Arabic (Lebanon)al-NabīMu'assasat NawfalBeirutMikhail Naimy19561stMikhail Naimy 108 
8Armenian (Eastern)MargarēnLebanese Embassy of ArmeniaYerevan 20081stHovik Yordekian 70 
9Armenian (Western)MargarēnTparan Kat̕oġikosowt̕ean Hayoc̕ Meçi Tann KilikioyAntelias (Lebanon)Vahe-Vahian (Sarkis Abdalian)19831stVahe-Vahian (Sarkis Abdalian) 103 
10AssamesePropheṭaNatuna AsamaGuwahati (India) 19941stJyotiprasād Śaikīẏā 71 
11AzerbaijaniPeyğəmbərQanunBaku 20141stS. Bulut 104 
12Bahasa [cf. Malay?]???    1st    
13BanglaThe ProphetAhmed Mahmudul Haque of Mowla BrothersDhaka, Bangladesh 20091stChowdury Mushtaq Ahmed 112 
14Bengali Dya prapheṭaAmr̥taloka Sāhitya ParishadaMidnapore, India 19931stAjita Miśra 84 
15BerberAmusnawL'HarmattanParisYoucef Allioui20141stYoucef Allioui 122 
16BikolAn ProfetaIna Nin Bikol FoundationNaga CityBernie Faustine D. Brijueg20131stFr. Wilmer Joseph S. Tria   
17BulgarianProrokŭtKibeaSofia 19971stMaya Tzenova   
18ChineseXianzhiXinyue ShudianShanghai 19311stXie Bingxin   
19CroatianProrokGZHZagreb 19851stMarko GrcicPaperback  
20CzechProrokProta: Ludvík Souček [distributor]Prague 19321stOldřich Hlaváč   
21DanishProfetenLindhardt og RinghofCopenhagen 19871stPer Thorrell   
22Dutch (Belgium)De profeetDe Nederlandsche BoekhandelKapellen 19771stCarolus Verhulst 120 
23Dutch (Netherlands)De profeet?The Hague 19271stLiesbeth Valckenier-Suringar 98 
24English (Braille)The ProphetDivision for the Blind and Physically HandicappedWashington, D.C. (USA) 19511st    
25Esperanto (artificial language)La ProfetoEldonejo Stafeto - Juan Régulo Pérez[San Cristóbal de] La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain)Elías F. Shamon19621stRoan Orloff-Stone 127 
26EstonianProhvetHumaTallinn 19971stDoris Kareva 94 
27FaroeseProfeturinMarnaTórshavn, Faroe Islands (Denmark) 19861stHans J. Glerfoss 110 
28FilipinoAng PropetaVertexManila 19751stFelicidad Sagalongos-San Luis   
29FinnishProfeettaKaristoHämeenlinna 19681stAnnikki Setälä   
30French - Multilanguage (Andorra)Le ProphèteAnimaViva MultilingüeAndorra la Vella  20161st?   
31French (Belgium)Le ProphèteEdition universelleBruxellesMarcel Lobet19431stMarcel Lobet 89 
32French (Canada)Le prophèteÉditions de MortagneBoucherville [Québec] 19831stPaul Kinnet 108 
33French (France)Le ProphèteÉd. du SagittaireParis 19261stMadeline Mason-Manheim 125 
34French (Switzerland)Le prophèteIdegrafSwitzerland 19851stMichael La Chance 91Cette édition hors commerce a été réservée aux souscripteurs
35German (Austria)Der ProphetBuchgemeinschaft DonaulandVienna 19871stKarin Graf 128 
36German (Germany)Der ProphetHyperionMunich 19251stGeorg-Eduard Freiherr von Stietencron   
37German (Switzerland)Der ProphetWalterOlten 19841stUrsula Assaf-Nowak 72 
38GreekO ProfetesC. StavrakakisAthens 19601stGiannis Papadakis 109 
39GujaratiViday VelakheNavjivan Prakashan MandirAhmedabad (Gujarat, India) 20131stKishore Mashruwala 105 
40Hebrewha-NaviHotsaʼat TamuzTel Aviv 19751stNoʻah Zalud 83 
41HindiPaigambarHind Pocket BooksNew Delhi 20091stNilima Singh 129 
42HungarianA prófétaÉdesvízBudapest  19921stRévbíró TamásPaperback   
43IcelandicSpámaðurinnAlmenna bókafélagiðReykjavík 19581stGunnar Dal 103 
44Indonesian An NabiPembangunan OpbouwJakartaI. Annaury19491stBahrum RangkutiPaperback100 
45Isi Xhosa (Xhosa)UmprofethiPookaPlettenberg Bay (South Africa)Z. Mtumane20071stKoliswa Moropa 133 
46ItalianIl profetaGino CarabbaLanciano (Chieti)Augusto Mancini19361stEirene Niosi-Risos 123 
47JapanesePurofeeto (Yogensha)Goma ShoboTokyo 19721stKobayashi Kaoru   
48KabyleNnbiLaphomicAlgiers 19911stFarid Abac 75 
49KannadaPravādiĀnanda GranthamālāHubli, India 19531stDēsāyi Dattamūrti 99 
50KoreanSŏnjijaHan'guk Kidokkyo MunhwawŏnSeoul 19781stHan Il-san 217 
51Kotava (artificial language)KatcilikKotavaxak dem Suterot? 20151stStaren Fetcey 70 
52KurdishPeyamberHelwestStockholm 20011stHusein Muhammed   
53LatvianPravietisGreenwood PrintersToronto 19751stIngridas Vīksnas 89 
54LithuanianPranašasAsvejaVilnius 19981stZigmas Ardickas   
55Lombard (Italian Dialect)El ProfetaMenarestaMonza 20151stMarc Tamburell (Marco Tamburelli)   
56MacedonianProrokotKulturaSkopjeK. Fidanovski19931stG. Petreski   
57MalaySang NabiPustaka JayaJakarta 19811stIwan Nurdaya Djafar? 132 
58MalayalamPravācakanJanatā BuksṭālKochi (India) 19831stJe. Akkanatt 102 
59MalteseIl-profetaKlabb Kotba MaltinSta Venera [Malta] 20081stVictor Fenech   
60Marathida prophet (Paigambar)SaketAurangabad, India 20091stJ. K. Jadhav 100 
61NepaliGuruṬrānsa RiprinṭaKathmandu [2005-2009?]1stNetra Ācārya; Pushpa Ācārya 119 
62Northern SothoMoprofetaAd DonkerJohannesburg 19831stMaje S Serudu 122 
63NorwegianProfetenGyldendalOslo 19671stHelge Hagerup   
64Occitan (Provençal dialect)Alora una frema…Publié dans Oc, No 51France [?] 19991stJoan-Glaudi Babois; Reinat Toscano 31Extrait of "The prophet"
65PapiamentoE ProfetaUniversity Press of MarylandBethesda (Maryland, USA)Suheil Bushrui20131stHilda de Windt-Ayoubi 113 
66PashtoHaghạh wuwel (He said)Da Paṣhto Ṭolane da Kābul Mujille liʼkhwāKabul, Afghanistan 1957 (1336)1stʻAzīz al-Raḥmān Sayfī 101 
67PersianPayāmbarTabanTehran 1962 (1341)1stMostafa Alam 106 
68PolishProrokCedr i OrzelBeirut 19541stWandy Dynowskiej 98 
69Portuguese (Brazil)O ProfetaBiblioteca Universal PopularRio de Janeiro 19631stMansour Yousef Challita 116 
70Portuguese (Portugal)O profetaEditorial A.O.Braga 19781stManuel Simões   
71PunjabiPaighambarPanjabi UniversityPatiala 19991stGuninder Singh   
72RomaniA próféta / O platniko (in "Vesho műfordítások")Budapesti Montessori TársaságBudapest 20001stZoltán Vesho-Farkas 257 
73RomanianProfetulOrionBucarest 19911stRadu Cârneci   
74RussianProrokRadugaMoscowI. Zotikova19891stIgor Alekseyevich Zotikov   
75SerbianProrokD. AndrićBelgrade 19951stDragoslav Andric 117 
76Sesotho (Southern Sotho)MoprofetaPookaPlettenberg Bay (South Africa)N.B. Sekere20071stMoruti W. Tšiu   
77Setswana (Tswana)MoporofetiPookaPlettenberg Bay (South Africa)M.R. Malope20071stPhaladi M. Sebate   
78SinhalaDivasiyaGodageColombo 20041stWimalasena Vithanapathirana   
79SlovakProrokTatranBratislava 19711stEduard V. Tvarozek   
80SlovenianPrerokŽupnijski urad sv. MagdaleneLjubljana [i. e.] Maribor [Slovenia] 19781stLojze Bratina   
81Spanish (Argentina)El ProfetaL.J. RossoBuenos Aires José E. Guraieb19331stJosé E. Guraieb 123 
82Spanish (Chile)El profetaNascimentoSantiago, ChileMoises Mussa B.19321stMoises Mussa B. 174 
83Spanish (Colombia)El profetaEditorial TolimaIbagué 195-?1stAntonio Chalita Sfair 135 
84Spanish (Mexico)El ProfetaImprenta MundialMexico CityLeonardo Shafik Kaim19341stLeonardo Shafik Kaim 150 
85Spanish (Peru)El profetaTall. Gráf. P.L. VillanuevaLimaMax Silva Tuesta19671stCarlos Alberto Seguín 116 
86Spanish (Spain)El profetaAltésBarcelona 19741stMaria de Quadras 91 
87Spanish (Uruguay)El profetaColicheuqueMontevideo 19901st? 78 
88SwahiliMtumeTanzania Pub. HouseDar es Salaam, Tanzania 19711stJoseph R. Kotta 58 
89SwedishProfetenNatur o. kulturStockholm 19331stOlga Bergmann 101 
90Syriac (Iraq)EnwīyāAl-Mashriq PrintingBaghdad 19981stYouarish Haido; Robin Bet Shmuel  96 
91Syriac (Sweden)NbíyāAshurbanibal Bok-förlagJönköping (Sweden) 20021stʻAbd Mšíḥā Naʻmaʼn Qarahbaš 88 
92TagalogAng pantasC & E PublishingQuezon City, Philippines 20111stRuth Elynia Mabanglo 134 
93TamilTīrkkatariciCantiyā PatippakamChennai (Madras, India) 20111stCa. Irācamāṇikkam 103 
94TeluguJeevana GeethaYuva BharathiSecunderabad (India) 19681stKaloji Naryana Rao   
95ThaiPratchayā chīwitPhiseux kar phimphBangkok 19681stRavi Vila Wilai 97 
96TigrinyaThe ProphetMesfin GebremedhinPeterborough, England? 20151stMesfin Gebremedhin 98 
97TurkishPeygamberMarmara KitabeviIstanbul 19451stOrhan Ercem 70 
98UkranianProrokZhurnal «Vsesvit», nr. 1Kiev 19951stPavlo Nasada 88 
99UrduPaigham-barMa'arifatPakistan? 1961 (1340)1stSalih Zada   
100UyghurDanishmăn: năsriy sheirlarQăshqăr Uighur NăshriyatiKashgar, China 20011st? 173 
101VietnameseNhà tiên triNxb Hội nhà vănVietnam? Châu Diên19941stChâu Diên 162 
102Xitsonga (Tsonga)MuprofetaPookaPlettenberg Bay (South Africa)P.H. Nkuna20071stXimbani E. Mabaso 141 
103YiddishDer NoviYatshkovski's BiblyotekWarsaw - New York 19291stIsaac Horowitz 96 
104ZuluUmpholofithiAd DonkerJohannesburg 19831stDBZ Ntuli 122 

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