Charles Corm

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Charles Corm
CharlesCorm.jpg
Born (1894-03-04)March 4, 1894
Beirut, Lebanon
Died 1963 (aged 69)
Beirut, Lebanon
Occupation Writer, industrialist and philanthropist
Nationality Lebanese
Notable works The Sacred Mountain
Notable awards Edgar Allan Poe International Prize of Poetry 1934
Spouse Samia Baroody
Children David, Hiram, Virginie and Madeleine

Charles Corm (1894-1963) was a Lebanese writer, billionaire industrialist and philanthropist.[1][2] He is considered to be the leader of the Phoenicianism movement in Lebanon which ignited a surge of nationalism that led to Lebanon's independence.[3][4][5] In a country torn by sectarian conflicts, Corm's intention was to find a common root shared by all Lebanese beyond their religious beliefs (the Phoenicians were pagans). Nowhere is this message of unity more clearly stated than in Corm's literary masterpiece, The Sacred Mountain: "It is because back in their Times, long before we had become Muslims and Christians, we were a single nation united in the same glorious past that Today, having grown in what we have become, we owe it to ourselves to love one another in the same way we did when we were still splendid humanist pagans."[6]

Over the course of his life, Corm received more than 100 international literary and non-literary honors and awards, including the Edgar Allan Poe International Poetry Prize 1934, Citizen of Honor of New York City (USA),[7][8] Grand Commander of the American International Academy (USA), Commander of the Order of Human Merit (Switzerland), Grand Officer of the Italian Academic Order (Italy), Grand Officer of the National Order of the Cedar (Lebanon), Grand Officer of the French Poets' Society (France), Fellow of the Royal Society (England) and the Medal of Honor of the Académie Française 1950 (France).[9]

Writer[edit]

Although most Lebanese authors at the time wrote in Arabic, Corm mostly wrote in French. One of his main intellectual contributions is La Revue Phénicienne, a publication he founded in July 1919 in which many writers such as Khalil Gibran, Michel Chiha and Said Akl took part and which inspired Lebanon's independence.[1][3][10][11] Rushdy Maalouf, the father of Académie Française member and Francophone novelist Amin Maalouf wrote: "Charles was the first one to show us how to love Lebanon, how to chant and rhapsodize Lebanon, how to vaunt and defend Lebanon, and how to become master-builders of this Lebanon."[12]

Corm is considered one of the most influential and awarded modern Middle Eastern writers due to his advocacy of Lebanese identity and nationalism.[1] Among his close friends were French artist Marc Chagall, German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, French poet Paul Valery and American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.[6]

His La Montagne Inspirée ("The Sacred Mountain" in English), earned him the Edgar Allan Poe International Prize of Poetry in 1934. Additionally, Corm, whose father Daoud Corm was a teacher and mentor to the young Khalil Gibran, was the French translator of Gibran's English masterpiece The Prophet.[6]

Industrialist[edit]

Upon graduation, at the age of 18, Corm travelled to New York City where he rented a small office on Wall Street to conduct an import/export business. His partner in this endeavor noted: “Everything in the young Charles was beauty and charm. His hair was black, his eyes were wide, his look was sharp. He was slim, dashing and elegant. Women would gaze at him while he walked down the street. Once he started speaking, there was no escaping the charisma.”[6]

Soon after, Charles Corm obtained a meeting with business tycoon Henry Ford, the richest man in the world at the time.[1][13] Subsequent to the meeting, Corm secured the Ford Motor Company dealership, as well as several leading American brands for the entire Greater Middle East region, at a time when Ford Motor Company was the only car maker in the world.[1] At its height, Corm's business empire, all folded into Charles Corm and Co., was the first and largest multinational in the Middle East, employing thousands of men and women from Turkey to Iran.[6] His enterprises became the livelihood of thousands of families and contributed to developing the infrastructure and networks of roads, railways and bridges in countries that had not yet even come into being.[6]

In 1928 he designed[14] Ford Motor Company's Middle East Headquarters, later to be named The Corm Building and Gardens, with no formal architectural training. The building was erected in 1929 in Beirut,[13] later becoming the Corm family home.[14] It was the Middle East's first skyscraper and highest standing structure in Lebanon until 1967. It is reported that, running under the building, is a huge complex of storage areas containing over 250,000 books (the largest private library in the Middle East) as well a reinforced “bunker” containing an immense collection of artistic, cultural and religious artifacts amassed by Corm during his entire life and often referred to as "the Corm family's hidden treasure".[6] Reflecting Charles Corm's ecologist instincts, long before that term had come to carry its modern social and ideological "activist" connotations, the building’s 14,000 m2 gardens (the largest private gardens in Beirut) contain a variety of artistic and archaeological relics, exotic trees, and rare plants. [6] The gardens are likewise home to ten imposing 6,000-year old engraved columns arranged in a circle, coined by some "the Stonehenge of the Middle East".[15][6]

His wealth made, the man who had been referred to as "the reluctant tycoon"[13] decided to devote his life to literature and philanthropy on the occasion of his 40th birthday.[1]

Philanthropist[edit]

Corm helped finance several Lebanese state buildings and entities including the Lebanese Parliament, the National Museum, the National Library and other state and cultural landmarks [6] [1] at a time when the nascent Lebanese state lacked funds, freshly independent from its French mandate status. He also personally financed the Lebanese pavilion at the 1939 World Fair in New York City,[6] [1] for which Mayor LaGuardia made him Citizen of Honor of New York City, the highest distinction given out by the city.[7][2] [6]

Corm's close friend Said Akl noted: "Charles not only was the guiding force behind Lebanon’s independence, helped lay Lebanon’s constitutional foundations but also spent his own money building the political, social and cultural landmarks needed to support our vision of Lebanon. During those years, it seemed very clear to me that despite his colossal wealth, Corm did not care much about money. Rather, a deep sense of commitment to what he loved, later in his life brilliantly displayed throughout his literary and artistic endeavors, had seemingly rewarded him with what was undoubtedly the greatest fortune in the region at the time."[6]

Personal life[edit]

Corm was born in 1894 in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of the famous Lebanese painter Daoud Corm (sometimes Anglicised as "David Corm").[16] He graduated from the Oriental Faculty at Saint Joseph University with high honors. In 1934, at age 40, he left business for a life of literature and philanthropy. Due to his exceptional success in business and later on acclaimed literary endeavors, Corm enjoyed a contact network ranging from the global business elite to the most famous international artists. According to Rushdy Maalouf, “Charles had the amazing faculty to befriend and seduce business tycoons, royals, famous artists, established scientists and Hollywood stars with the same ease. At times, it seemed there was nobody he did not know. This granted him tremendous clout in business, literature and politics not only in the region but worldwide. Whether through business or art, Charles spent his life building powerful bridges between Lebanon, often referred to at the time as the Paris of the Middle East, and the West.”[6]

Back in Beirut’s golden years, Rushdy Maalouf also noted that it was not unusual for artists, intellectuals and business, political and cultural figures visiting Lebanon for the first time to have Charles Corm and his home, which hosted grandiose parties practically every week, on their itinerary of people and places to see: “they visited Lebanon seeking Charles Corm the same way some of us may visit France to see Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa or the way we may visit Athens to see the Acropolis. This is the veneration that many, Lebanese and foreigners alike, held for Charles Corm and is so present in his mystique.”[6]

An uncommitted bachelor for most of his life, Charles Corm finally married Samia Baroody in 1935. Samia Baroody had been Miss Lebanon and took second place in the 1934 Miss Universe pageant in New York City.[1] Charles Corm and his wife Samia went on to have four children: David, Hiram, Virginie and Madeleine.[1]

In addition to his prolific literary legacy that can now be found in most libraries and universities around the world, Charles Corm left one of the most substantial fortunes in the region, now globally diversified and managed by his descendants.[1][17]

Works[edit]

  • La Revue Phénicienne
  • La Montagne Inspirée, Edgar Allan Poe International Poetry Prize 1934 (translated into English under the title "The Sacred Mountain")
  • 6000 ans de Génie Pacifique au Service de l'Humanité (translated into English under the title "6000 Years of Peaceful Contributions to Mankind")
  • Contes Erotiques (translated into English under the title "Erotic Tales")
  • Les Cahiers de l'Enfant
  • Sonnets Adolescents
  • La Montagne Parfumée
  • L'Eternel Féminin
  • Médaillons en Musique de l'Ame Libanaise
  • Petite Cosmogonie Sentimentale
  • La Planète Exaltée
  • Le Mystère de l'Amour
  • La Symphonie de la Lumière

Honors and awards (partial list)[edit]

  • Edgar Allan Poe International Prize of Poetry 1934.
  • Citizen of Honor of New York City, USA.
  • Medal of Honor of the Académie Française 1950, France.
  • Fellow of the Royal Society, England.
  • Grand Commander of the American International Academy, USA.
  • Grand Commander of the Order of Saint Gregory, Vatican City.
  • Grand Commander of the Sovereign Order of the Crown of Thorns, Italy.
  • Commander of the Order of Human Merit, Switzerland.
  • Commander of the Humanitarian Society of Belgium.
  • Commander of the Saint Stephen Society of Human Rights, USA.
  • Commander of the Casa Humberto de Campos, Brazil.
  • Commander of the Academia dei Templari, Italy.
  • Grand Officer of the National Order of the Cedar, Lebanon.
  • Grand Officer of the French Poets' Society.
  • Grand Officer of the Académie Ronsard, France.
  • Grand Officer of the Jerusalem Temple Order, Italy.
  • Grand Officer of the Order of Saint Brigite, Sweden.
  • Grand Officer of the Italian Academic Order, Italy.
  • Grand Officer of the Order Of Vera Cruz, Brazil.
  • Grand Officer of the Instituto Panamericana de Culture, Argentina.
  • Grand Officer of the Grupo Americanista de Intelectuales y Artistas, Uruguay.
  • Grand Officer of the Academia National de Ciencias y Letras, Bolivia.
  • Grand Officer of the Comision Interamericana de la Bandera, Cuba.
  • Grand Officer of the Academia de Bella Aries, Spain.
  • Grand Officer of the Sociedade Brasileira de Civismo, Brazil.
  • Grand Officer of the Casa Americana, Peru.
  • Gold Medal of New York City for Distinguished Services, USA.
  • Gold Medal of Newark City, New Jersey, USA.
  • Gold Medal of the Latin Order, France.
  • Gold Medal of the Saint Andrew Imperial Order, Russia.
  • Gold Medal of the Instituto Napoletano di Cultura, Italy.
  • Gold Medal of the Order of San Bernardo, Brazil.
  • Gold Medal of the Academia de Ballas Artes de San Carlos, Spain.
  • Gold Medal of the National College of Ontario, Canada.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Carla Henoud (24 September 2009) "Charles Corm, le visionaire", L'Orient-Le Jour. [1]
  2. ^ a b https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0739184016 Franck Salameh, Charles Corm: An Intellectual Biography
  3. ^ a b Kaufman, Asher. 2004. Reviving Phoenicia: The Search for Identity in Lebanon. London: I.B. Tauris.
  4. ^ https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0520256689 Samir Kassir, Beirut
  5. ^ https://www.academia.edu/5561748/Pheonicianism_the_Formation_of_an_Identity_in_Lebanon_of_1920 The Formation Of An Identity In Lebanon
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0739184016 Frank Salameh, Charles Corm: An Intellectual Biography
  7. ^ a b They Went To The Fair, Saudi Aramco World July/August 1973
  8. ^ Lebanon Participation - Charles Corm (Commissioner General) speaking, New York Public Library Digital Collection
  9. ^ http://www.academie-francaise.fr/charles-corm Académie Française
  10. ^ http://www.ndj.edu.lb/old/centre/lorient-20060408-corm.htm
  11. ^ http://www.espacefrancais.com/charles-corm Charles Corm, Espace Français
  12. ^ https://books.google.com/books?isbn=0739184016 Franck Salameh, Charles Corm: An Intellectual Biography
  13. ^ a b c "A forgotten legacy", Now (Mercury Media Inc.), April 17, 2008. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Modern Beirut - Charles Corm", Time Out Beirut, March 21, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  15. ^ http://www.bespoke-magazine.com/112/Article/Built-to-Inspire Bespoke Magazine
  16. ^ http://www.ndj.edu.lb/old/centre/lorient-20060408-corm.htm Notre Dame de Jamhour
  17. ^ http://www.oxfordreference.com/view/10.1093/oi/authority.20110803095639454 Oxford Reference