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The Pen League: Kahlil Gibran & Mikhail Naimy’s literary spark

posted on: Apr 28, 2016

BY ALI KESSERWANI
STEPFEED

Kahlil Gibran and Mikhail Naimy are two of the most prominent Lebanese authors history has seen. Besides their marvelous works, what most people don’t know is that they founded the first New York-based Arab-American literary society: The Pen League.

Originally organized in 1915 by Nassib Arida and Abdul Massih Haddad, two fellow Lebanese authors who later joined the reformed league, The Pen League was aimed at reviving Arabic literature, as well as to groom a group of up and coming Arab authors, who could in turn play pivotal roles in building foundations for their Arab nations.

Also known as “The Mahjar School,” Gibran led the league as President. Its purpose was best described by Naimy, the group’s secretary:

“The tendency to keep our language and literature within the narrow bounds of aping the ancients in form and substance is a most pernicious tendency; if left unopposed, it will soon lead to decay and disintegration… To imitate them is a deadly shame… We must be true to ourselves if we would be true to our ancestors”

Image Source: Pinterest

Image Source: Pinterest

Besides the four original founders shown in the photo (left to right: Arida, Gibran, Haddad, Naimy), the league’s members also included: Rashid Ayyoub, Wadih Bahout, William Katsifilis, Nudra Haddad, Elia Abu Madi and Ameen Rihani. All 10 members were responsible for some of the most ingenious literary works of the early 1900s, forming the strongest possible core for the league.

Unfortunately, Gibran’s death in 1931 and Naimy’s return to Lebanon in 1932 dissolved the league, leaving behind pavement for potentially the brightest future of Arab literature.