For someone who’s Jewish, your music often seems obsessed with Catholicism. Why?
I grew up in a Catholic city, and all through Quebec the church is very strong. And I had an Irish-Catholic nanny; because my father was sick and my mother was usually at the hospital taking care of him, I was brought up part Catholic in a certain way. The figure of Christ touched me very early in my life. My radical Catholic friends were very angry at me for this Christological infatuation. Because they had really been oppressed by the church. To me it was romance. And there were many georeligious ideas I could speculate on. For one thing, I could see Christianity as the great missionary arm of Judaism. So I felt a certain patronizing interest in this version of the thing. I didn’t have to believe it. But I was talking today to a friend of mine, and it came to me that Christ’s image is just the perfect symbol for our civilization. It’s a perfect event for us – you have to die to survive. Because the personality is crucified in our society. That’s why so many people collapse, why the mental hospitals are full. Nobody can survive with the personality that they want, which is the hero of their own drama. That hero dies, it’s massacred, and the self that is reborn remembers that crucifixion. And we’re doing that every day. This Christian myth at the center of our society is very good. It’s workable.
Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988. Photo of statue of Christ taken in Montreal by rik-shaw (look 4 light)