Marianne Talks About First Meeting Leonard Cohen

When It Was “Hello Marianne” By Leonard Cohen

The story of Marianne’s first meeting with Leonard Cohen, reported here in Marianne’s own words from an interview with  Kari Hesthamar (Norway, 2005), is simple, touching, and intoxicating.1

… I went home [Norway], had my baby. By then Axel had published a new novel, and couldn’t stay in Norway very long at a time because he would then have to pay taxes to Norway. So I didn’t come down with my baby before … Little Axel was just over 4 months, 4 ½ months. And by then Axel was way over the hills again. In the meantime he had found yet another woman. And in the middle of all this commotion Leonard Cohen shows up.

I was standing in the shop with my basket waiting to pick up bottled water and milk. And he is standing in the door way with the sun behind him. And then you don’t see the face, you just see the contours. And so I hear his voice, saying: ”Would you like to join us, we’re sitting outside?”

And I reply thank you, and I finish my shopping. Then I go outside. And I sit down at this table where there were 3-4 people sitting, who lived in Hydra at the time. 

… He was wearing khaki trousers, which were a shade more green. And also he had his beloved… what we in the old days called tennis shoes. And he also always  wore shirts with rolled up sleeves. In addition he had a beautiful little sixpence cap.

What I didn’t know when I met him was that he knew everything about what had happened before I returned. Because after all he had been there, and realised what was going on. So I think that already when he saw me he had enormous compassion for me and my child. But I remember well that when my eyes met his eyes I felt it throughout my body. You know what that is.  [Drums her fingers.]  It is utterly incredible.

So then I was on my way up Kala Pegadia, to my little house. And the last hump is very, very steep, so you are completely drenched in sweat when you reach the house. And the basket was very heavy. And there she was, that sweet little Eveganina, who had been with Axel and played with him. And so she left. And then I was very… I was almost a bit intoxicated. Right away I put on some music, I remember. Danced around a bit, and thought it all of a sudden was such fun to be with my son and… felt it was simple and fine and… And even if he wasn’t put to bed at once it was  all right. A lightness had come over me.

Credit Due Department:  The transcript of  the interview was found at LeonardCohenFiles.

Note: Originally posted Sept 11, 2011 at, a predecessor of Cohencentric


  1. Note: the photos have been added only as illustrations. They are not directly referenced in the Marianne Ihlen-Kari Hesthamar interview and are from other sources. []

5 Replies to “Marianne Talks About First Meeting Leonard Cohen”

  1. Lena Wahlund

    I have got the book and managed to read norweigan. It is so exciting to read about their life in Hydra. I hope the book will be translated in english so many moore can read it.

  2. rike

    It seems that whatever is known about this relationship is infused with beauty and kindness — from both sides. I adore the aptly titled poem “Days of Kindness” written in 1985, when their relationship was long over.
    Thank you for reminding me.