Charles Corm

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Charles Corm
Charles Corm at 18 (1912)
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, industrialist and philanthropist.[1] 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.[2][3][4] 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).

Over the course of his life, Corm received more than 100 international literary and non-literary awards, including the Edgar Allan Poe International Poetry Prize 1934, Citizen of Honor of New York City (USA),[5][6] Grand Officer of the National Order of the Cedar (Lebanon), Officer of the French Poets' Society (France), Commander of the Order of Human Merit (Switzerland), Commander of the American International Academy (USA), Fellow of the Royal Society (England), Grand Officer of the Italian Academic Order (Italy) and Medal of Honor of the Académie Française in 1950 (France).[7]


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][2][8][9] 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."[10]

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 Spanish painter Pablo Picasso, French artist Marc Chagall, German-American architect Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, French poet Paul Valery and American novelist F. Scott Fitzgerald.[11]

His La Montagne Inspirée ("The Sacred Mountain" in English), earned him the Edgar Allan Poe International Prize of Poetry in 1934.

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.[11]


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.”[11]

Soon after, Charles Corm obtained a meeting with business tycoon Henry Ford, the richest man in the world at the time.[1][12] 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.[11] 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.[11]

In 1928 he designed[13] 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,[12] later becoming the Corm family home.[13] It was the Middle East's first skyscraper and highest standing structure in Lebanon until 1967. 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 as an immense collection of artistic, cultural and religious artifacts amassed by Corm during his life and often referred to as "the Corm family's hidden treasure".[11] In the building’s 14,000 m2 gardens (the largest private gardens in Beirut) full of artistic relics, exotic trees and rare plants, are ten imposing 6,000-year old engraved columns arranged in a circle and coined by some as "the Stonehenge of the Middle East".[14][11]

His wealth made, the man who had been referred to as "the reluctant tycoon"[12] decided to devote his life to literature and philanthropy on the occasion of his 40th birthday.[1]


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[1] at a time when the nascent Lebanese state lacked funds, freshly independent from its French mandate status. He also financed the Lebanese pavilion at the 1939 World Fair in New York City,[1] for which he was honored by New York City Mayor LaGuardia with the city's Gold Medal, the highest distinction given out by the city.[5][11]However, Corm always refused that any mention of his donations be made public through even the most discreet nameplate, as is the case with practically all donations of such magnitude.[11]

Personal life[edit]

Corm was born in 1894 in Beirut, Lebanon, the son of the Lebanese artist Daoud Corm (sometimes Anglicised as "David Corm").[15] 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 and established 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.”[16]

A womanizer for most of his life (he is said to have had an on-and-off affair with Swedish actress Greta Garbo for several years),[11] Corm finally married Samia Baroody in 1935. She had been Miss Lebanon and took second place in the Miss Universe pageant in New York City in 1934.[1] They had four children: David, Hiram, Virginie and Madeleine.[1]

In the last years of his life and despite being known as a very sociable person during his entire existence, Corm became more reclusive, sleeping a few hours per night and frenetically writing and corresponding with his large list of friends. A heavy smoker, he died from a heart attack in 1963 at age 69.[2]

In addition to his literary legacy, he left one of the most substantial fortunes in the region, now globally diversified.[1][17]


  • 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


  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 c Kaufman, Asher. 2004. Reviving Phoenicia: The Search for Identity in Lebanon. London: I.B. Tauris.
  3. ^ Samir Kassir, Beirut
  4. ^ The Formation Of An Identity In Lebanon
  5. ^ a b They Went To The Fair, Saudi Aramco World July/August 1973
  6. ^ Lebanon Participation - Charles Corm (Commissioner General) speaking, New York Public Library Digital Collection
  7. ^ Académie Française
  8. ^
  9. ^ Charles Corm, Espace Français
  10. ^ Rushdy Maalouf, "Yabizat Arza"
  11. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Frank Salameh, Charles Corm: An Intellectual Biography
  12. ^ a b c "A forgotten legacy", Now (Mercury Media Inc.), April 17, 2008. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  13. ^ a b "Modern Beirut - Charles Corm", Time Out Beirut, March 21, 2011. Retrieved September 11, 2014.
  14. ^ Bespoke Magazine
  15. ^ Notre Dame de Jamhour
  16. ^ Rushdy Maalouf, "Yabizat Arza"
  17. ^ Oxford Reference