“I had no conscious desire to have offspring. I didn’t really want to have children. Their mother, Suzanne, wanted children, I obliged.” Leonard Cohen

Did you want to leave something behind you, a descendant?

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Oh no, not at all. I had no conscious desire to have offspring. I didn’t really want to have children. Their mother, Suzanne, wanted children, I obliged.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

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

Note: Although he hadn’t wanted children, they became a focus of his life: see Lessons From Leonard Cohen: Your Children Are Your First Priority.

“Only when you have children are you forced to surrender thinking exclusively of yourself and worry about someone else. If you attempt to respond to a child, you can never think of yourself in the same way.” Leonard Cohen On The Impact Of Having Children

gorupdebesanez1

 

Your children, Adam and Lorca, were born then. What was your reaction?

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Only when you have children are you forced to surrender thinking exclusively of yourself and worry about someone else. If you attempt to respond to a child, you can never think of yourself in the same way. You stop being the center of your drama, which becomes secondary in the light of your children’s demands, of their urgency. I immediately understood that the trap had slammed shut. [Laughs] There are many wonderful aspects, of course, the beauty is indisputable. But the destruction of the image you have of yourself is inevitable. There are many things I did not like about myself. I was very selfish, I only thought about myself. I did not accept the fact that other beings had a legitimate claim to my attention.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate. Photo by GorupdebesanezOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Q: What do you remember [about your childhood]? Leonard Cohen: “My mother crying. My father dying. My childhood was very ordinary.”

 

What do you remember [about your childhood]?

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My mother crying. My father dying. My childhood was very ordinary. I always seemed to be living exactly the same childhood as all my friends. There were never any special stresses. Nothing extraordinary about it. I can’t even say that it’s extraordinary now. One’s own life is mysterious. The predicaments one finds oneself in at particular moments are the result of a web of inextricable circumstances which I certainly can’t penetrate. As you get older, you begin to accept the circumstances.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Having Lunch With Leonard Cohen by Jon Wilde, Sabotage Times. Dec 3, 2015 (the quote itself is taken from a 1988 interview). Photo courtesy of Maarten Massa.

“What I liked about [my family] was that they were decent, honest, friendly; I liked the way they went about their business, their life…They brought honor to the world” Leonard Cohen

Under what conditions did your family come to Canada?

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Around 1860. My father’s family came from the part of Poland that is now Russia. My mother came from Lithuania in the 20s. 10 years after the revolution. She was 18 or 19. Their ancestors were very different even though they were both from the same branch of Judaism. My mother married my father in 1927. She never spoke of Lithuania. In her circle, it was very important to be Canadian and to make references to the past disappear. There were no feelings of nostalgia. Even though she spoke with a slight accent, I never felt that for my mother something had been lost forever, abandoned. It is surprising but I never think of my family. I never think of it anymore. My mother’s presence is very strong in my heart, particularly since she died. One thing that I owe to my family is that it exposed me to a form of culture and thought but always in moderation. There were none of the fanatical elements that I see in many other similar families. I am grateful to my family. I don’t feel that it was oppressive, or that I missed something. There was always fresh air. I thought the people in my family were good people. What I liked about them was that they were decent, honest, friendly; I liked the way they went about their business, their life. I’m not talking about their personal relationships with their wives and children. Those were as disastrous as in any family. But they were honest people. They brought honor to the world.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Throat Culture magazine, 1992). Thanks to Maarten Massa for the photo of a very young Leonard Cohen playing catch with his father, Nathan, at the family’s vacation home while his mother watches. Note: Originally posted Dec 23, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric