One book that makes me cry uncontrollably EVERY single time I read it is Khalil Gibran’s The Broken Wings. I don’t think I’ve come across another story that is so heartfelt, profound and poetic in its approach to love and pain. It’s a cathartic piece of art that seems to exude something so beautiful and yet terribly painful at the same time. I would not be able to fully capture the beauty of Gibran’s expressions and revelations or his descriptions of his beloved, or of Lebanon. I would not be able to even describe the essence of his writing in this post, but I will try my best.
The story is rather simple – a young man (since it is written in first person, we can assume it is Gibran himself) falls in love with a girl named Selma Karamy but their love is doomed as she is married off to the nephew of an influential bishop. Though Gibran and Selma are very attached, and their love reaches the highest levels of a pure and platonic relationship, both suffer immensely as a result of circumstances and their separation. Selma’s husband is a womaniser and does not care about Selma but has his eyes set on her father’s money. Gibran, unable to alter events lets his love for Selma blossom patiently and silently, but even in this silence, he suffers. Narrating the rest of the story would be unfair to those who have not read it, so I will cut the summary short.
I do not know if in this day and age, publishers would have let Gibran publish something like this. It has nothing controversial, it is not about activism, it is not about drugs and murder and illegal relationships. It dwells so much on a poetic love that most people would probably think it is too bookish and romantic in its definition. However, I think that is exactly the kind of writing we are missing in the present-day. Unfortunately Gibran has been dead for ages now, and this kind of writing has also long died. It is nice to be able to read something as beautiful as Gibran’s writing though, and fill one’s spirit with the sweetness of his poetry.
The Broken Wings is firstly a love story – but is unlike so many we have read before in that it is gutting, soul-shattering, and absolutely heartbreaking. Even if you are not a fan of sad stories, The Broken Wings should just be read for its writing, its poeticism and its philosophy. The story is so affecting that it is purely cathartic.
It was originally written in Arabic and was published in 1912. The version I read was a translation but if you have read Gibran’s The Prophet (which he wrote in English), you would be quite impressed with the translation for The Broken Wings (I am not sure who translated it).
The opening lines read thus:
“I was eighteen years of age when love opened my eyes with its magic rays and touched my spirit for the first time with its fiery fingers, and Selma Karamy was the first woman who awakened my spirit with her beauty and led me into the garden of high affection, where days pass like dreams and nights like weddings.
Selma Karamy was the one who taught me to worship beauty by the example of her own beauty and revealed to me the secret of love by her affection; se was the one who first sang to me the poetry of real life.
Every young man remembers his first love and tries to recapture that strange hour, the memory of which changes his deepest feeling and makes him so happy in spite of all the bitterness of its mystery.”
Apart from his beautiful, poetic writing, Gibran lets us get a glimpse of his birthplace Lebanon. He paints vivid images of Beirut, its seasons, its beauty, and its ancient relics. Without trying to make issues surrounding the story bigger than the story itself, Gibran comments on the conditions of the ‘Oriental woman’, the abuse of power by religious heads, as well as society during the times. He comments on all these, talking about the evils they bring about. However, unlike an omnipresent and omniscient narrator, Gibran simply speaks for himself, and this is what makes the story more real, more human, and possibly more heartbreaking.
If one is aware of Gibran’s talents, one would know that apart from being a writer, he was also a wonderful painter as well as a philospher. Read one line like this and marvel at kind of thoughts this man had.
It is wrong to think that love comes from long companionship and persevering
courtship. Love is the offspring of spiritual affinity and unless that affinity
is created in a moment, it will not be created in years or even generations.
Finding The Broken Wings was a wonderful discovery. Reading it was even more beautiful. There is something so pure in Gibran’s writing that nothing can reach its depth. Gibran mixes humanity, beauty, love, poetry and sadness in such a perfect manner that the entire essence of life is encapsulated in his lines. I think that is what makes him stand apart from any other writer, and though I have my own favourite writers as well, Gibran definitely holds a very special place for some very good reasons.
If you want to read The Broken Wings online, you can open the e-book version that I have linked here.
Happy (and sad) reading!