This excellent photo Leonard Cohen’s room in his home in Hydra. was taken by Jarkko Arjatsalo and originally posted at LeonardCohenFiles,
Originally posted March 7, 2012 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
What made you stay there [on Hydra]?
For one thing, economic reasons: I had little money. Renting the house cost me $14 a month. As for the climate, I had never been in a warm place, I did not know what the Mediterranean climate looked like, it was a delightful surprise. In England, everything is very humid, the beds are wet at night, that’s why women are so strong! (Laughs). The first night Mrs. Pullman gave me a kettle. Why? Undo your bed and you’ll know why (laughs)? With Hydra, it was love at first sight. The people, the architecture,the sky, the mules, the smell, the life. Everything you looked at was beautiful, every corner, every lamp, everything you touched, everything you used was in its proper place. The relationship with the water: there was no running water, you had to catch the water drop by drop, so you knew every drop. You knew everything you used, every time you lit the lamp, you knew that you would have to fill it and clean it the next day. The things you used were rich. It was a very nice feeling. It was more animated than any city, much more cosmopolitan. There were Germans, Scandinavians, Australians, Americans, Dutch who you would run into in very intimate settings like the back of grocery stores.
From Comme Un Guerrier by Christian Fevret (Les Inrocks: Aug 21, 1991). Via Google Translate.
After the April 21, 1967 Greek coup d’éta which signaled the start of the oppressive Regime of the Colonels, many foreigners, especially foreigners who were celebrities, who lived in or even visited Greece were criticized for implicitly supporting the military junta. Leonard Cohen was among those denounced because of his ownership of a home in Hydra.
A lot of people criticized me, although I moved out of my house at the time of the coup in Greece and I stopped living there then–I can’t acquire any virtue or merit from this act, because it wasn’t political. There was something in the country that changed, and in myself, and I rarely went to Greece after that. But it had nothing to do with politics; I think the Greek people are in a sense above their own politics–that’s a supercilious thing to say, but… The average guy there, he’ll turn the picture over to the next leader, go down and wave his flag for the next governor, with a sense of, I think, profound contempt and sophistication about the whole process… I got there with the very first wave of foreigners, when there were only five or six of us, and we were a novelty, we were their entertainment, you know, our goings on with drinking and girls, we were their theater. They gave us credit and they were very nice to us, very helpful… Because they’re very much in touch with their own existence.
From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic In A Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975). Photo by Lennard Torbijn.
Were the novels written during that period [in Greece]?
Yeah, most of the work was written there; and even now, though the new songs were at least three or four or even five years in the making, it was in Greece last summer that those ten or twelve golden days came when I was able to see the end of the songs, see them to completion. My house in Greece, which I still have–I’ve heard it described in the European press as a ‘villa,’ which always amuses me, this little house up on a hill–it’s always been a good place to work in.
From Leonard Cohen: The Romantic In A Ragpicker’s Trade by Paul Williams (Crawdaddy, March 1975).
While not as well known as his poem, “Days of Kindness,” Leonard Cohen’s “Much Later” from Book Of Longing also evocatively describes his days with Marianne, in this case, listening to Ray Charles in sun-drenched Hydra.
From Book Of Longing by Leonard Cohen
Ray Charles singing You Win Again
in the sunlight
twenty years ago
Ray Charles the singer I would never be
and my young wife
‘the wife of my youth’
smiling at me from an upstairs room
in the old house
Ray Charles and Marianne
dear spirits of my Greek life
now in the sunshine of every new summer
Marianne coming down the steps
‘the woman of the house’
Ray Charles speaking fiercely
for our virgin humanity
Twenty years ago
and again in this Hollywood summer
still companions of the heart
as I measure myself once more
against the high sweet standards
of my youth
– Los Angeles 1978
There are many things about Greece; the most important is the climate. I came from Montreal, I had never been warm before. I remember laying on a rock after I’d been there two months and feeling some interior sliver of ice melt from inside my bones. I thought, God…the universe is benign. I was drawn mostly by the sun.
“Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough” by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988