‘So, Are You Italian?’

Kahlil Gibran, 1913

To Reader: An important note added to the end of this post, 5 pm.

When I’d first seen a photo of the Lebanese poet and artist Kahlil Gibran some months ago, I immediately thought, ‘But why does he look Italian?’

And today I came across an article which told of how Kahlil had expressed his connection with Italy and that people he’d met in Boston when he’d gone there had asked if he was Italian when they’d met him.

The article also considered how his boat from Beirut, Lebanon to Marseille, and then to Boulogne to New York might’ve made a stop in Naples, Italy along the way (the city where my ancestors are from along with Potenza, Italy. They had traveled from these cities in the early 1900s to Ellis Island, New York.)

The Eastern author who I’d mentioned as having been in a long epistolary relationship with Kahlil, May Ziadeh had gone on a trip to Italy as her main last event in life and had also been interested in the culture and had spoken the language.

This is a quote from the article which I will link to at the end of this post:

Gibran’s predilection for Italy can be traced back to his childhood in Lebanon, when he was six and his mother – according to some biographers – gave him some old Leonardo da Vinci prints (including The Head of Saint Anne), which made a considerable impression on the young boy: “His passion for Leonardo possessed him from that hour, so much so, that when his father rebuked him for some childish misdemeanor, the boy flew into a rage and shouted:

‘What have you to do with me? I am an Italian!’”


I know there is a book called Blue Flame which presents Kahlil’s handwritten letters to May Ziadeh; they’d corresponded in love for about twenty years and hadn’t met in person. I don’t want to read it because it doesn’t include May’s letters to him as her family chose to prevent hers from being published, and I don’t know that I’d want a one-sided picture of this.

But I did come across online this quote of Kahlil’s from his letter to May (written in May of 1921). He writes:

“Where is my letter, May? Why have you not sent it to me? I am eager to receive it, and I want all of it, every little bit of it. Do you know how much I desire to receive that letter after having read a brief snatch of it—a divine fragment which arrived to announce the dawning of a new day?”

And I can tease this way because they’re in heaven now and any trace of earthly sensitivities have passed:

My comment, ‘Okay but are you getting on that boat, Kahlil? Are you getting that ring in your hand to her?’


‘Your mother was a seamstress…How about I hem your pants too?’

Note: Dear Kahlil Gibran, I wish to send my apology now and to any readers of Gibran as I say that this has all been a joke, from friend to friend, and not a criticism. I found out just after I teased about hemming your pants (as I myself have been a failed seamstress) that you were 5’3 and had considered your height as maybe something negative but I find it great along with calling your home a ‘hermitage’, from a 5’ friend. 🧚‍♂️

💕From Fleurs de Reve by May Ziadeh:

Your true friend is the one who doesn’t give you anything, but forgives you everything. Your true friend is the one who knows how to hit you when it is necessary, but who does it lovingly. True friendships are rare, as we have already said too often: few people know how to combine firmness with tenderness.

May Ziadeh (1911)


The article I mentioned (I didn’t read it fully): Kahlil Gibran, Italian or Lebanese?

Post of mine referenced at end: A Profession I Am Not Pursuing and A Dream to Match It

One response to “‘So, Are You Italian?’”

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