Can you yourself learn from what you write, I mean, teach yourself?
I find that my work, on a personal level, for me, is prophetic. So that I read it with a very special kind of interest after I’ve written it. After I’ve finished a book I sometimes read it and realise that what I’ve written has not yet come about, the sensibility is about to unfold. For instance when I wrote Beautiful Losers I thought I was completely broken, and on the edge of redemption. I thought I just can’t feel any worse. But the actual fact was, the state of mind laid out in Beautiful Losers, actually came to pass. A year or two later I felt myself in exactly that kind of situation. So I read my own work as personal prophecy. Like my dreams. I think all my dreams have come through. I had a very curious and beautiful dream a month and half ago. It followed one of those times that I was talking about when I had an experience of total freedom. I was sitting at a cafe near The Bitter End in New York. I was sitting with some singers and some people in the music field and suddenly I became, although the feeling had grown by imperceptible degrees, suddenly I became aware that I felt magnificent, triumphant, free, open, warm, affectionate to everyone and everyone around me. Nothing changed, but I could see clearly what everyone was doing without any sort of judgement and loving what everyone was doing. And I almost hugged myself with pleasure, just of breathing and being with friends. And one of the really important things is that I saw what everybody was doing, you know, I saw them; I didn’t think of it as their game, I just saw each person’s style as a revelation of themselves. And I loved it. I loved what I saw. And I excused myself and I walked back to the place where I was staying. I walked back through the Village and it just seemed so beautiful. You know, I could see the Village as just a village on the surface of the earth and the kids walking there and the fruit sellers and the little stores. It all seemed so harmonious, like pieces of a clock and very perfect, it seemed that the world was perfect. And then I went back to a girl’s apartment, and then it was really beautiful, she was a beautiful girl. Probably to make love, but it was like playing games. The vision slowly melted into a dream. I was walking through a village with a group of young children, probably Jewish refugees. There was a row of houses, each one seemed to represent some alternative in my life. But each place turned us down, they didn’t want to take the children. The very last house was a Swedish Red Cross Mission, where there were three beautiful women, and I fell in love with them. To me they represented Woman. And I asked, would they take the children? but they wouldn’t. Even though they refused I wasn’t upset. We left and walked down to the beach which was really bright, beautiful with the huge blue sky and miles of sand. I was standing with the children, and then Stuka bombers appeared on the horizon. And I said to the children: kneel, we are going to say a prayer. And the bombs started to fall, but no one cared.
An Interview with Leonard Cohen by Michael Harris. Duel: Winter 1969.