“I can’t buy the bullshit of who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t care who wins the war.” Leonard Cohen

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You think it’s a good idea that blacks and whites should live together [in Los Angeles], but that’s not going to get you through the crisis that you are going to face daily going downtown. You’ve got to come up with a new position. If you’re going to heal this thing between blacks and whites, leaders must experience themselves as neither black nor white. If we are going to heal what is going down between men and women, we are going to have to produce spokesmen that are neither man nor woman, then come back to being a man or woman. It’s a question of how wide is your embrace. I can’t deal with the shackles of loneliness any longer. And it’s only when I break something, when I flee from something, when I locate something that is wilder, freer, deeper and crazier, can I survive from one moment to the next. I just can’t buy the bullshit. I can’t buy the bullshit of who’s right and who’s wrong. I don’t care who wins the war.

Remember what I say: ‘Duck!’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993.

“There’s been… a number of extremely boring artistic creations dealing with saving the forest. That creates a kind of totalitarian situation. You can’t live in those songs.” Leonard Cohen

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You know, nobody wants to destroy all the forests. There’s been a million — well, not a million, but a number of extremely boring artistic creations dealing with saving the forest. That creates a kind of totalitarian situation. You can’t live in those songs. You can’t really make love in those songs, or if you do there’s going to be something that is dangerously absent. If you want to write about the forest, say what I said: ‘Take the only tree that’s left and stuff it up the hole in your culture,’ That’s a good line about saving the forest. I haven’t read a better line than that.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993. Photo by Gerrit Terstiege.

“Democracy doesn’t come through legislation. It doesn’t come from above: we are creating it.” Leonard Cohen

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Democracy doesn’t come through legislation. It doesn’t come from above: we are creating it. [Democracy] is something to do with, as Ginsberg said, ‘The secret love that whites have for blacks and blacks have for whites.’
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Leonard Cohen

 

Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993.

“What chance has a decent fun-loving literary parasite got in this world? Anyways, your cheque will keep me in hashish yet a little longer…” Leonard Cohen On Drug Use On Hydra In The 1960s

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In October 1961 he [Leonard Cohen] provided this analysis of [Hydra’s] political situation to his sister [Esther]:

Everywhere is going Communist and cleaning up corruption and poverty and charm. And the West is too expensive, rigid, and hysterical. What chance has a decent fun-loving literary parasite got in this world? Anyways, your cheque will keep me in hashish yet a little longer…

The most popular drug [on Hydra] was hashish, but acid and marijuana were also readily available. Initially, the pharmacist supplied opiates and other drugs, but soon other sources were needed. To a French-Canadian friend he wrote,

I’ve smoked quite a lot of hash and eaten a fair amount of opium. None of it’s any good really, and the O is quite dangerous. Work is better than both—and work is hell.

He later relied on a speed-like drug, Maxiton, which could be bought over the counter. He became known to his close friends as Captain Mandrax, Mandrax being an English brand name for quaaludes. By 1964 he found that hashish and amphetamines assisted him greatly in completing Beautiful Losers, in a marathon writing session.

A passage from an unpublished essay of 1965 clarifies the nature of drug use on the island.  Cohen writes:

In this part of the planet men have smoked and cooked hashish for many centuries, and as countless American and European homosexuals can testify, without sacrificing any of the vigourous qualities we would associate with a people so crucial to history, a continuous seminal history including not only the classical and Byzantine periods, but also, and perhaps most important, our own time. We who are here today believe that these lands of the Eastern Mediterranean are still the glistening alembic in which the happiest and purest synthesis of the West and Orient must occur. Islanders brew a tea from the wild narcotic poppies which is served to restless children and rebellious mules… We smoke the occasional common cigarette into which we have introduced a few crumbs of hashish. We cannot rely on this crude device to secure us the visions and insights we hunger for, but it has its use as an agent of relaxation and receptivity. On the recreational side I might say that erotic and musical experience is enhanced under its influence. My wife would not listen to Bach without it, nor I to the cicadas at sundown… The lyrics of many bazouki tunes celebrate the aromatic generosity of the leaf as it turns to ash.

From Various Positions: A Life of Leonard Cohen by Ira Nadel. Photo by Eija and Jarkko Arjatsalo

“I alone among people saw [the collapse of the Berlin Wall] as a sinister event.” Leonard Cohen

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I alone among people saw [the collapse of the Berlin Wall] as a sinister event. I thought: ‘This is going to bring a lot of suffering with it.’ It’s just my gloomy and grim nature coming through.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Rebirth of a Ladies’ Man By Brendan Kelly. The Financial Post: December 12, 1992.
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“I felt that the things I wrote were beautiful, and that beauty was the passport for all minds.” Leonard Cohen On Publishing His First Book: Let Us Compare Mythologies

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How did you publish your first book, Let Us Compare Mythologies?

We advertised it in the university’s journal, the McGill newspaper, to launch it as a subscription series to collect the money for printing.

What were the reactions to the book?

Very favorable. In the three magazines of the country where it was criticized, the papers were very favorable. In general, it was very well received. We were starting to reach a few people outside our circle, from small groups in Toronto to Vancouver to Edmonton.

Has anyone been shocked by your mix of the sacred and sexuality?

Anyone who could have been upset by the book would not even have known about it. Maybe two hundred people read it, I don’t remember, but those people were already converted. They may not have liked it, but they have at least touched it with an open heart. There could be no resistance, it was not examined in the departments of literature or theology or in the newspapers.

So you did not think in terms of provocation?

Of course you have to insist if you want to be noticed. That’s what anyone who is published wants. There were those among the poets who wanted to provoke, to attack the bourgeoisie, to engage in a conflict. This state of mind existed among us. My texts were not written from this point of view, making enemies did not interest me. I felt that the things I wrote were beautiful, and that beauty was the passport for all minds. I believed that the objective and discerning reader would understand that this juxtaposition of sexuality and spirituality was entirely justified, that it was not a challenge or a provocation. I thought it was this juxtaposition that created that particular beauty, that kind of lyricism. I thought that the work was designed to overcome something was lower in nature. There was no need to establish a conflict.

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Book cover contributed by Dominique BOILE

“The great leader is the one – the great culture is the one – that affirms all cultures. The great nation is the one that affirms all nations, and the great leader is the leader that affirms all aspirations.” Leonard Cohen 1993

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You can battle for what is right. You can be a worker in the vineyards of the Lord. Nevertheless, you cannot define the spirit with a dogmatic position. The great leader is the one — the great culture is the one — that affirms all cultures. The great nation is the one that affirms all nations, and the great leader is the leader that affirms all aspirations. It is genius for the political right to come up with the term ‘political correctness,’ but a lot of the people who’ve gotten the short end of the stick in the past are really shoving it up your asshole now. That’s not very pleasant, either.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993.

“In the early days, with the various substances that were available, I thought I was quite flipped out – you know, since about ’82 or ’83, I have understood I am deeply flipped out.” Leonard Cohen

Maverick Spirit: Leonard Cohen by Jim O’Brien. B-Side Magazine: August/September 1993. Photo by Alberto Manzano.