A Vietnamese Essay On The Political Context Of Leonard Cohen’s Version Of “The Partisan”

The  topic of the essay under consideration is the evolution of “The Partisan,” long a standard in Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre, from its origin as “La Complainte Du Partisan,” an inspirational song by Anna Marly  invoking the spirit of the French Resistance, through its adaptations by Cohen, including the change in the translated lyrics from “German soldiers” to “enemy” and the bilingual aspect of his performances of the song. Also noted is the especially warm reception Cohen’s  renditions of “The Partisan” receive in France.

The quality of the article is such that even internet-powered translations cannot camouflage its merits. That is a necessary but not sufficient reason for posting about it.

It’s the  context of the article itself intertwined with its content that makes it unique. The Partisan: Ca khúc song ngữ Anh-Pháp bất hủ của Leonard Cohen by Trọng Nghĩa is a Vietnamese language offering by RFI, “a public service radio station for people around the world. It provides French and foreign-language broadcasts through its offices in Paris and abroad.”

So, this is an essay about a song  originally written to venerate the spirit of the stalwart French Resistance fighting against foreign oppressors that has been published on the Vietnamese satellite of a  French-based radio network. In the 1950s, of course, the Vietnamese mounted their own heroic resistance against foreign oppressors – oppressors who happened to have been French.

Finally, reading this  from my own perspective as an American, who was a medical school deferment away from being part of another foreign army fighting for power in Vietnam, without the language skills necessary to discern if the author of the original essay tacitly or overtly acknowledges the historical implications or if, indeed, those complex connections are the central point of the piece, further intensifies the postmodern  sense of being thrust within wheels within wheels.

A thoughtful reading of this essay –  even in  a suboptimal translation – offers intellectual insight and, more significantly, a fascinating experience of being immersed in multiple reflections and refractions of self-referential significance reminiscent of a Italo Calvino novel.

At the link, one finds the audio broadcast of the essay in Vietnamese, the transcript (also in Vietnamese), and MP3s (available for download) of Ana Marly’s 1963 rendition of La Complainte du partisan and Leonard Cohen’s 1969 and 2008 versions of “The Partisan”

Note: Originally posted Oct 23, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Highly Recommended: Liel Leibovitz On The Jewish Poetry Of Leonard Cohen

Hear, Download Podcast

Liel Leibovitz, author of A Broken Hallelujah: The Life of Leonard Cohen, talks about Leonard’s Jewish and family background, the biblical tradition that informs Story Of Isaac, Leonard’s perspective on and relationship with God, the significance of Hallelujah, and more. Highly recommended.

The June 23, 2018 Tikvah podcast can be heard and downloaded at Liel Leibovitz on the Jewish Poetry of Leonard Cohen

Also see Q&A With Liel Leibovitz, Author Of A Broken Hallelujah. All posts featuring Liel Leibovitz are collected at

Hear Ron Sexsmith Talk About Leonard Cohen’s Songwriting, Guitar Playing, & Influence

Ron Sexsmith also talks about his 2006 Toronto performance with Leonard. See

The section about Leonard Cohen begins at 1:08:25

Thanks to Harold Lepidus. who alerted me to this podcast.

“Let’s sing for nothing” Leonard Cohen’s Visitation Of Poetry – Previously Unlisted 1967 U Of Manitoba Appearance Reviewed

Published in the Winnipeg Free Press, January 14, 1967, A Visitation Of Poetry by Chester Duncan (Dept of English; University of Manitoba) – which reviews a Leonard Cohen 1967 U Of Manitoba appearance not listed in any Cohen database – begins on an auspicious note:

When Leonard Cohen appeared at the University of Manitoba recently to read and sing his poems, I felt that it was an occasion of great importance and significance.

He compares that appearance with one by Cohen three years earlier,1 describing Cohen, in the 1964 performance.

… charm[ing] and teas[ing] and whip[ping] a very large audience into a frenzy of approval and merriment

while the audience at the more recent appearance was

… fascinated like a snake before the concentration and dedication of his melancholy.

As the author concludes,

The poet has the  benefit of a life frequently distinguished by instincts completely non-utilitarian. And if even Love can make nothing happen, he must still “sing for nothing.”

The reference is to this Leonard Cohen poem from Parasites Of Heaven

Ah, what were the names I gave you
before I learned all names go the do-do way?
Darlin, Golden, Meadowheart

I’ve been walking in the far green
I’ve lost what all the leaves are called
Elm, Chestnut, Silver

O come here you, thou
Bring all thy, bring all thine
Far into the splinter let’s sing for nothing

Note: Originally posted July 12, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. A poetry reading at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada – (University of Manitoba) dated only by month and year (Feb 1964) at CohenLive, which lists no Cohen appearances in Winnipeg in 1966 or 1967 []

Best Of 2008-2010 Leonard Cohen World Tour: Who By Fire – Fredericton 2008

Fredericton Playhouse – Fredericton, New Brunswick

In The Beginning Was Fredericton

On May 11, 2008, Leonard Cohen inaugurated his 2008-2010 World Tour (although no one knew it would be a three year tour then) at The Playhouse in Fredericton, NB, a venue which, according to Wikipedia, had a capacity of 709 (469 orchestra seats and 240 balcony seats).

I urge viewers to read the best of the Fredericton concert reviews, Leonard Cohen wows Fredericton by Wilifred Langmaid  (Daily Gleaner, May 13, 2008), which can be found at LeonardCohenForum. My own comments on this piece, originally posted at the DrHGuy.com site on May 13, 2008, follow:

Wilifred Langmaid  provides a comprehensive, interesting review of Cohen’s performance at the Fredericton Playhouse. Other than some forgivable hometown self-congratulation, the piece is thoughtful, knowledgeable, and includes details not listed elsewhere. A must-read for hard core Cohen fans.

Leonard Cohen – Who By Fire
Fredericton – May 11, 2008


Credit Due Department: Photo by Rbcb – Own work, CC by 3.0. via Wikipedia. Originally posted July 29, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen: Singer-Songwriter, Poet, Accessory Before The Fact?

Leonard Cohen Songs & Poems –
So Sexy They May Be Illegal

To protect himself from charges of complicity, Leonard Cohen may want to start pasting the DrHGuy-
designed warning label displayed atop this post on his albums and books.

It turns out that the the involvement of Leonard Cohen’s “Book Of Longing” in a suit charging  sexual harassment and discrimination brought against the venture firm of Kleiner Perkins1 is not the first time sexually charged verses by Leonard Cohen have led to legal problems.

This story of Crime, Cohen, and Punishment, as reported by the Associated Press and published in the September 25, 1996 edition of The Titusville Herald (Titusville, Pennsylvania), follows:

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — There might not be a cure for love, but a Danish court hopes a $173 fine will stop the symptoms. The fine was levied after a man asked Danish national radio to dedicate “Ain’t No Cure for Love” by Leonard Cohen to his former girlfriend, even though he was under court order not to contact her, the Berlingske Tidende newspaper reported Monday. The lovers, who were not identified, broke up in 1991 after a six-year relationship, the newspaper said. In 1993, police issued a restraining order forbidding him to contact her in any way. When the radio broadcast his dedication of the song in April 1994 it was unaware of the restraining order, the newspaper said.

This episode certainly gives a new twist to the chorus of Cohen’s “Different Sides:”

Both of us say there are laws to obey
Yeah, but frankly I don’t like your tone
You want to change the way I make love
(But) I want to leave it alone

The Message

Until this kind of warning is available to prevent, oh say a senior partner in a venture firm from giving a potentially inappropriate gift to a female junior partner,

… it’s up to each individual to be aware of the dangers of Leonard Cohen’s work:

Music & Poetry By Leonard Cohen
Use At Own Risk

Note: Originally posted July 31, 2012 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

  1. A male senior partner of Kleiner Perkins gave Cohen’s Book Of Longing to a female junior partner in the same firm.  The legal issue is whether this gift was a sexually provocative act (because, as the plaintiff’s motion points out, the book contains “many sexual drawings and poems with strong sexual content”) or, as the defendant’s response maintains, a misunderstood holiday present of “a book of poetry written by Leonard Cohen during Cohen’s five-year stay at a Zen monastery” from “a practicing Buddhist [the senior partner]” to the junior partner, who had given “him [the senior partner] a book and a Buddha statue as holiday gifts following discussions the two had about Buddhism. See Sexual Harassment Suit Reveals (Gasp) Eroticism In Leonard Cohen’s Book Of Longing for a discussion of this point. []