When It Was “Hello Marianne” By Leonard Cohen
The story of Marianne’s first meeting with Leonard Cohen, reported here in Marianne’s own words from an interview with Kari Hesthamar (Norway, 2005), is simple, touching, and intoxicating.1
… I went home [Norway], had my baby. By then Axel had published a new novel, and couldn’t stay in Norway very long at a time because he would then have to pay taxes to Norway. So I didn’t come down with my baby before … Little Axel was just over 4 months, 4 ½ months. And by then Axel was way over the hills again. In the meantime he had found yet another woman. And in the middle of all this commotion Leonard Cohen shows up.
I was standing in the shop with my basket waiting to pick up bottled water and milk. And he is standing in the door way with the sun behind him. And then you don’t see the face, you just see the contours. And so I hear his voice, saying: ”Would you like to join us, we’re sitting outside?”
And I reply thank you, and I finish my shopping. Then I go outside. And I sit down at this table where there were 3-4 people sitting, who lived in Hydra at the time.
… He was wearing khaki trousers, which were a shade more green. And also he had his beloved… what we in the old days called tennis shoes. And he also always wore shirts with rolled up sleeves. In addition he had a beautiful little sixpence cap.
What I didn’t know when I met him was that he knew everything about what had happened before I returned. Because after all he had been there, and realised what was going on. So I think that already when he saw me he had enormous compassion for me and my child. But I remember well that when my eyes met his eyes I felt it throughout my body. You know what that is. [Drums her fingers.] It is utterly incredible.
So then I was on my way up Kala Pegadia, to my little house. And the last hump is very, very steep, so you are completely drenched in sweat when you reach the house. And the basket was very heavy. And there she was, that sweet little Eveganina, who had been with Axel and played with him. And so she left. And then I was very… I was almost a bit intoxicated. Right away I put on some music, I remember. Danced around a bit, and thought it all of a sudden was such fun to be with my son and… felt it was simple and fine and… And even if he wasn’t put to bed at once it was all right. A lightness had come over me.
Credit Due Department: The transcript of the interview was found at LeonardCohenFiles.
Note: Originally posted Sept 11, 2011 at 1HeckOfAGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
- Note: the photos have been added only as illustrations. They are not directly referenced in the Marianne Ihlen-Kari Hesthamar interview and are from other sources. [↩]
Great photos of the interior of Leonard Cohen’s home on Hydra can be found at
- Photos From The Room (And The House) by Rauli Arjatsalo (LeonardCohenFiles: 2000): Eight shots, including bedroom, kitchen, and terrace.
- DLux Images: Several high quality photos of rooms and furniture.
- Beautiful people, beautiful homes (Happy Turtle: July 31, 2008) From Vogue (Greek Edition: Aug 2008): Photos of interior and Suzanne Elrod, then in solo residence.
- Το νησί που αγάπησε με πάθος! (Ethnos: July 31, 2011): An article about Leonard Cohen’s passion for Hydra (in Greek but readable in English via Google Translate) and a dozen photos of the home. Update: No longer online.
- Leonard Cohen Describes His Home In Hydra
- Video – Leonard Cohen Talks About His Life On Hydra: Why He Came, How He Met Marianne, Writing Books & Songs There …
The video promotions for Adam Cohen’s “We Go Home” and “Like A Man” albums each offer images of his father’s homes in Montreal and on Hydra.
Adam Cohen – We Go Home Promotional Video
Adam Cohen – Like A Man Promotional Video
This is one of those There is a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in things.
When I originally posted the document, I misidentified it. That would be the crack.
I then received the following correction (spoiler alert – this is the light getting in part):
From Marianne Ihlen
This card is his “permit to stay in Greece” we all had this card and I think it lasted for about 3 month at the time. No cars on Hydra as you probably know.
All good things from Marianne (So Long—)
OK, I admit to some ambivalence. While I dislike posting anything in error, receiving a gracious correction from Marianne Ihlen is, I discover, not an altogether unpleasant experience.
Note: Originally posted March 30, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Days Of Kindness
By Leonard Cohen
Greece is a good place
to look at the moon, isn’t it
You can read by moonlight
You can read on the terrace
You can see a face
as you saw it when you were young
There was good light then
oil lamps and candles
and those little flames
that floated on a cork in olive oil
What I loved in my old life
I haven’t forgotten
It lives in my spine
Marianne and the child
The days of kindness
It rises in my spine
and it manifests as tears
I pray that loving memory
exists for them too
the precious ones I overthrew
for an education in the world
The location is the home Leonard Cohen shared with Marianne in Hydra, the typewriter is Leonard Cohen’s Olivetti Lettera 22, the necklace – well, I don’t know much about this particular bit of bling, but we’ll soon see it again, albeit worn over a shirt rather than Leonard’s naked chest.
Note: Originally posted April 12, 2013 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric
Leonard then, what did he look like?
“Oh, he was beautiful!”
MARIANNE: I never felt that I looked like much at all. I didn’t believe it when Leonard said ”you’re the most beautiful woman I’ve ever seen”. And he has continued saying that. But what I mean is that… I think I had too round a face. So I have gone round looking down all my life. But after all I did have… you know the sun bleached my hair, and after all you were … in Greece you were so blonde, so blonde, so blonde, because there they were mostly dark. Skinny. Almost no boobs. laughs To my great regret.
NARRATOR: Leonard then, what did he look like?
MARIANNE: Oh, he was beautiful! Haven’t you seen pictures of Leonard when he was young? Oh yes, you have. He was marvellous. Neither did he think that he looked like much. We both had problems. You have no idea. We often stood in front of the mirror before going out and wondered who we were today and stuff like that. Oh god, how strange we human beings are, you know…
Marianne Ihlen, from an interview with Kari Hesthamar, Norway, 2005. Transcript found at LeonardCohenFiles. Originally posted Dec 13, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric