The Kahlil Gibran Collective

The Artist The Poet The Man

The Prophet, translated.

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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

04/09/2018 UPDATE: Four new translations discovered for more info click here: 

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!

 

sassadassassadas

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 
Title Publisher Place of
Publication
Editor Copyright
Date
Edition Translator(s) Cover
Type
Pages Notes
1 Afrikaans Die profeet J.L. Van Schaik Pretoria   1955 1st Louis Fourie   104  
2 Albanian Profeti Botimet Toena Tirana   2003 1st Maksim Rakipaj   71  
3 Alsatian De Prophet Atelier de Promotion de l'Alsacien Zinswiller (France) Fouad Alzouheir 2013 1st APECM   130  
4 Amharic YeTibeb Meniged (Nebiyu) Commercial Publishing Enterprise Addis Ababa (Ethiopia)   2011 1st Demelash Tiulahun, Tesfahun Mitiku, Habitamu Tesfaye   192  
5 Arabic (Egypt) al-Nabī al-Maṭbaʻah al-Raḥmānīyah bi-Miṣr Cairo Antūniyūs Bashīr 1926 1st Antūniyūs Bashīr   120  
6 Arabic (England) al-Nabī Elan Publications[?] London   2016 1st Jamīl al-ʿĀbid   115  
7 Arabic (Lebanon) al-Nabī Mu'assasat Nawfal Beirut Mikhail Naimy 1956 1st Mikhail Naimy   108  
8 Armenian (Eastern) Margarēn Lebanese Embassy of Armenia Yerevan   2008 1st Hovik Yordekian   70  
9 Armenian (Western) Margarēn Tparan Kat̕oġikosowt̕ean Hayoc̕ Meçi Tann Kilikioy Antelias (Lebanon) Vahe-Vahian (Sarkis Abdalian) 1983 1st Vahe-Vahian (Sarkis Abdalian)   103  
10 Assamese Propheṭa Natuna Asama Guwahati (India)   1994 1st Jyotiprasād Śaikīẏā   71  
11 Azerbaijani Peyğəmbər Qanun Baku   2014 1st S. Bulut   104  
12 Bahsa Aceh [Acehnese] ???         1st        
13 Bangla The Prophet Ahmed Mahmudul Haque of Mowla Brothers Dhaka, Bangladesh   2009 1st Chowdury Mushtaq Ahmed   112  
14 Basque Profeta Arantzazu Arantzazu (Basque Country)   2008 1st Patxi Ezkiaga      
15 Bengali Dya prapheṭa Amr̥taloka Sāhitya Parishada Midnapore, India   1993 1st Ajita Miśra   84  
16 Berber Amusnaw L'Harmattan Paris Youcef Allioui 2014 1st Youcef Allioui   122  
17 Bikol An Profeta Ina Nin Bikol Foundation Naga City Bernie Faustine D. Brijueg 2013 1st Fr. Wilmer Joseph S. Tria      
18 Bulgarian Prorokŭt Kibea Sofia   1997 1st Maya Tzenova      
19 Cebuan Ang Propeta Sun Star Pub. Cebu City (Philippines)   2009 1st Jesus "Sonny" Garcia, Jr.   138  
20 Croatian Prorok GZH Zagreb   1985 1st Marko Grcic Paperback    
21 Croatian Prorok GZH Zagreb   1985 1st Marko Grcic Paperback    
22 Czech Prorok Prota: Ludvík Souček [distributor] Prague   1932 1st Oldřich Hlaváč      
23 Danish Profeten Lindhardt og Ringhof Copenhagen   1987 1st Per Thorrell      
24 Dutch (Belgium) De profeet De Nederlandsche Boekhandel Kapellen   1977 1st Carolus Verhulst   120  
25 Dutch (Netherlands) De profeet ? The Hague   1927 1st Liesbeth Valckenier-Suringar   98  
26 English (Braille) The Prophet Division for the Blind and Physically Handicapped Washington, D.C. (USA)   1951 1st        
27 Esperanto (artificial language) La Profeto Eldonejo Stafeto - Juan Régulo Pérez [San Cristóbal de] La Laguna, Tenerife, Canary Islands (Spain) Elías F. Shamon 1962 1st Roan Orloff-Stone   127  
28 Estonian Prohvet Huma Tallinn   1997 1st Doris Kareva   94  
29 Faroese Profeturin Marna Tórshavn, Faroe Islands (Denmark)   1986 1st Hans J. Glerfoss   110  
30 Filipino Ang Propeta Vertex Manila   1975 1st Felicidad Sagalongos-San Luis      
31 Finnish Profeetta Karisto Hämeenlinna   1968 1st Annikki Setälä      
32 French - Multilanguage (Andorra) Le Prophète AnimaViva Multilingüe Andorra la Vella    2016 1st ?      
33 French (Belgium) Le Prophète Edition universelle Bruxelles Marcel Lobet 1943 1st Marcel Lobet   89  
34 French (Canada) Le prophète Éditions de Mortagne Boucherville [Québec]   1983 1st Paul Kinnet   108  
35 French (France) Le Prophète Éd. du Sagittaire Paris   1926 1st Madeline Mason-Manheim   125  
36 French (Switzerland) Le prophète Idegraf Switzerland   1985 1st Michael La Chance   91 Cette édition hors commerce a été réservée aux souscripteurs
37 German (Austria) Der Prophet Buchgemeinschaft Donauland Vienna   1987 1st Karin Graf   128  
38 German (Germany) Der Prophet Hyperion Munich   1925 1st Georg-Eduard Freiherr von Stietencron      
39 German (Switzerland) Der Prophet Walter Olten   1984 1st Ursula Assaf-Nowak   72  
40 Greek O Profetes C. Stavrakakis Athens   1960 1st Giannis Papadakis   109  
41 Gujarati Viday Velakhe Navjivan Prakashan Mandir Ahmedabad (Gujarat, India)   2013 1st Kishore Mashruwala   105  
42 Hebrew ha-Navi Hotsaʼat Tamuz Tel Aviv   1975 1st Noʻah Zalud   83  
43 Hindi Paigambar Hind Pocket Books New Delhi   2009 1st Nilima Singh   129  
44 Hungarian A próféta Édesvíz Budapest    1992 1st Révbíró Tamás Paperback     
45 Icelandic Spámaðurinn Almenna bókafélagið Reykjavík   1958 1st Gunnar Dal   103  
46 Indonesian  An Nabi Pembangunan Opbouw Jakarta I. Annaury 1949 1st Bahrum Rangkuti Paperback 100  
47 Isi Xhosa (Xhosa) Umprofethi Pooka Plettenberg Bay (South Africa) Z. Mtumane 2007 1st Koliswa Moropa   133  
48 Italian Il profeta Gino Carabba Lanciano (Chieti) Augusto Mancini 1936 1st Eirene Niosi-Risos   123  
49 Japanese Purofeeto (Yogensha) Goma Shobo Tokyo   1972 1st Kobayashi Kaoru      
50 Kabyle Nnbi Laphomic Algiers   1991 1st Farid Abac   75  
51 Kannada Pravādi Ānanda Granthamālā Hubli, India   1953 1st Dēsāyi Dattamūrti   99  
52 Korean Sŏnjija Han'guk Kidokkyo Munhwawŏn Seoul   1978 1st Han Il-san   217  
53 Kotava (artificial language) Katcilik Kotavaxak dem Suterot ?   2015 1st Staren Fetcey   70  
54 Kurdish Peyamber Helwest Stockholm   2001 1st Husein Muhammed      
55 Latvian Pravietis Greenwood Printers Toronto   1975 1st Ingridas Vīksnas   89  
56 Lithuanian Pranašas Asveja Vilnius   1998 1st Zigmas Ardickas      
57 Lombard (Italian Dialect) El Profeta Menaresta Monza   2015 1st Marc Tamburell (Marco Tamburelli)      
58 Macedonian Prorokot Kultura Skopje K. Fidanovski 1993 1st G. Petreski      
59 Malay Sang Nabi Pustaka Jaya Jakarta   1981 1st Iwan Nurdaya Djafar?   132  
60 Malayalam Pravācakan Janatā Buksṭāl Kochi (India)   1983 1st Je. Akkanatt   102  
61 Maltese Il-profeta Klabb Kotba Maltin Sta Venera [Malta]   2008 1st Victor Fenech      
62 Marathi da prophet (Paigambar) Saket Aurangabad, India   2009 1st J. K. Jadhav   100  
63 Nepali Guru Ṭrānsa Riprinṭa Kathmandu   [2005-2009?] 1st Netra Ācārya; Pushpa Ācārya   119  
64 Northern Sotho Moprofeta Ad Donker Johannesburg   1983 1st Maje S Serudu   122  
65 Norwegian Profeten Gyldendal Oslo   1967 1st Helge Hagerup      
66 Norwegian (Bokmål) Profeten Gyldendal Oslo   1967 1st Helge Hagerup      
67 Norwegian (Nynorsk) Profeten Kolofon Oslo   2017 1st Sondre Bratland      
68 Occitan (Provençal dialect) Alora una frema… Publié dans Oc, No 51 France [?]   1999 1st Joan-Glaudi Babois; Reinat Toscano   31 Extrait of "The prophet"
69 Papiamento E Profeta University Press of Maryland Bethesda (Maryland, USA) Suheil Bushrui 2013 1st Hilda de Windt-Ayoubi   113  
70 Pashto Haghạh wuwel (He said) Da Paṣhto Ṭolane da Kābul Mujille liʼkhwā Kabul, Afghanistan   1957 (1336) 1st ʻAzīz al-Raḥmān Sayfī   101  
71 Persian Payāmbar Taban Tehran   1962 (1341) 1st Mostafa Alam   106  
72 Polish Prorok Cedr i Orzel Beirut   1954 1st Wandy Dynowskiej   98  
73 Portuguese (Brazil) O Profeta Biblioteca Universal Popular Rio de Janeiro   1963 1st Mansour Yousef Challita   116  
74 Portuguese (Portugal) O profeta Editorial A.O. Braga   1978 1st Manuel Simões      
75 Punjabi Paighambar Panjabi University Patiala   1999 1st Guninder Singh      
76 Romani A próféta / O platniko (in "Vesho műfordítások") Budapesti Montessori Társaság Budapest   2000 1st Zoltán Vesho-Farkas   257  
77 Romanian Profetul Orion Bucarest   1991 1st Radu Cârneci      
78 Russian Prorok Raduga Moscow I. Zotikova 1989 1st Igor Alekseyevich Zotikov      
79 Serbian Prorok D. Andrić Belgrade   1995 1st Dragoslav Andric   117  
80 Sesotho (Southern Sotho) Moprofeta Pooka Plettenberg Bay (South Africa) N.B. Sekere 2007 1st Moruti W. Tšiu      
81 Setswana (Tswana) Moporofeti Pooka Plettenberg Bay (South Africa) M.R. Malope 2007 1st Phaladi M. Sebate      
82 Sinhala Divasiya Godage Colombo   2004 1st Wimalasena Vithanapathirana      
83 Slovak Prorok Tatran Bratislava   1971 1st Eduard V. Tvarozek      
84 Slovenian Prerok Župnijski urad sv. Magdalene Ljubljana [i. e.] Maribor [Slovenia]   1978 1st Lojze Bratina      
85 Spanish (Argentina) El Profeta L.J. Rosso Buenos Aires  José E. Guraieb 1933 1st José E. Guraieb   123  
86 Spanish (Chile) El profeta Nascimento Santiago, Chile Moises Mussa B. 1932 1st Moises Mussa B.   174  
87 Spanish (Colombia) El profeta Editorial Tolima Ibagué   195-? 1st Antonio Chalita Sfair   135  
88 Spanish (Mexico) El Profeta Imprenta Mundial Mexico City Leonardo Shafik Kaim 1934 1st Leonardo Shafik Kaim   150  
89 Spanish (Peru) El profeta Tall. Gráf. P.L. Villanueva Lima Max Silva Tuesta 1967 1st Carlos Alberto Seguín   116  
90 Spanish (Spain) El profeta Altés Barcelona   1974 1st Maria de Quadras   91  
91 Spanish (Uruguay) El profeta Colicheuque Montevideo   1990 1st ?   78  
92 Swahili Mtume Tanzania Pub. House Dar es Salaam, Tanzania   1971 1st Joseph R. Kotta   58  
93 Swedish Profeten Natur o. kultur Stockholm   1933 1st Olga Bergmann   101  
94 Syriac (Iraq) Enwīyā Al-Mashriq Printing Baghdad   1998 1st Youarish Haido; Robin Bet Shmuel    96  
95 Syriac (Sweden) Nbíyā Ashurbanibal Bok-förlag Jönköping (Sweden)   2002 1st ʻAbd Mšíḥā Naʻmaʼn Qarahbaš   88  
96 Tagalog Ang pantas C & E Publishing Quezon City, Philippines   2011 1st Ruth Elynia Mabanglo   134  
97 Tamil Tīrkkatarici Cantiyā Patippakam Chennai (Madras, India)   2011 1st Ca. Irācamāṇikkam   103  
98 Telugu Jeevana Geetha Yuva Bharathi Secunderabad (India)   1968 1st Kaloji Naryana Rao      
99 Thai Pratchayā chīwit Phiseux kar phimph Bangkok   1968 1st Ravi Vila Wilai   97  
100 Tigrinya The Prophet Mesfin Gebremedhin Peterborough, England?   2015 1st Mesfin Gebremedhin   98  
101 Turkish Peygamber Marmara Kitabevi Istanbul   1945 1st Orhan Ercem   70  
102 Ukranian Prorok Zhurnal «Vsesvit», nr. 1 Kiev   1995 1st Pavlo Nasada   88  
103 Urdu Paigham-bar Ma'arifat Pakistan?   1961 (1340) 1st Salih Zada      
104 Uyghur Danishmăn: năsriy sheirlar Qăshqăr Uighur Năshriyati Kashgar, China   2001 1st ?   173  
105 Vietnamese Nhà tiên tri Nxb Hội nhà văn Vietnam?  Châu Diên 1994 1st Châu Diên   162  
106 Xitsonga (Tsonga) Muprofeta Pooka Plettenberg Bay (South Africa) P.H. Nkuna 2007 1st Ximbani E. Mabaso   141  
107 Yiddish Der Novi Yatshkovski's Biblyotek Warsaw - New York   1929 1st Isaac Horowitz   96  
108 Zulu Umpholofithi Ad Donker Johannesburg   1983 1st DBZ Ntuli   122  

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