Leonard Cohen on the “gap between… private life and the public expression”


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There’s something in everybody that says. well the public life doesn’t represent me. And the public statements don’t represent me, and my life is not represented on television. My life is not represented in the politician’s plans. My life is not represented in the books and the songs. That there’s something, that there’s a big gap between my private life and the public expression. And I think we’re in one of those times now, that gap opens and closes.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

From How The Heart Approaches What It Yearns – Interview With Leonard Cohen Presented By John McKenna. RTE Ireland, May 9 & 12, 1988. Retrieved from LeonardCohenFiles. Photo “Leonard Cohen, 1988 01” by GorupdebesanezOwn work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons. Originally posted Dec 1, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“This is a quarrel between brothers… That has to be reconciled, in a much more imaginative way that either is approaching it today” Leonard Cohen On The Arab–Israeli Conflict (1988)

Cohen once said, “In any crisis in Israel I would be there.” Is that still true?

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Well, a saying I now have is ‘I can’t stand idly by my brother’s blood.’ It’s not political as such but my feelings about this whole thing, if anybody really has the time or interest in what I think about the thing, is there in Book Of Mercy. And it’s in prayer… ‘Israel, and you who call yourself Israel, and every nation chosen to be a nation, none of these lands is yours, all of you are thieves of holiness, all of you are at war with mercy… has Mercy made you wise? Will Ishmael declare, we are in debt forever? Therefore the lands belong to none of you, the borders do not hold. The law will never serve the lawless…’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

And yet, irrespective of how timeless one hopes prayer or poetry can be, that book was published in 1984. Has Cohen’s perspective been in any way altered by what is happening in Israel today?

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I feel the same. These are brothers. This is Ishmael and Israel. This is a quarrel between brothers, these are two peoples who have legitimate right to the same piece of land. That has to be reconciled, in a much more imaginative way that either is approaching it todayquotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Read Leonard Cohen’s exclusive interview with Hot Press from 1988 by Joe Jackson (Hot Press: 11 Nov 2016)

The Scorpion & The Camel: Leonard Cohen’s Story Of The Middle East

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Well, I’m gonna tell you a little story I just heard. There was this scorpion that was trying to get across the stream. He was too small to get across and he came to a camel and said ‘Will you carry me across the stream?’ The camel said, ‘Of course I’m not going to carry you across the stream. You’re a scorpion and you’re gonna sting me.’ Well, after many hours of persuasion, the camel was finally convinced to take the scorpion across the stream. Midway across the stream, the scorpion stung the camel. They’re both going down. They’re both being swept away and the camel says, ‘Why did you sting me?’ and the scorpion says, ‘Because this is the Middle East.’quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Leonard Cohen – from “Songs and Thoughts of Leonard Cohen” by Robert O’Brian (RockBill, September 1987). Map By TownDown – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikipedia Commons. Originally posted September 20, 2010 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

“[Democracy is] reduced to the real basic, unsplittable atom, which is the individual in whatever condition he is, wheezing, broken, sick, or triumphant, saying ‘Me too. This depends on me.'” Leonard Cohen

From Party Time? Leonard Cohen Gets Caught with a Cockeyed Grin by Charles Taylor (Boston Phoenix: November 27, 1992), Originally posted November 4, 2014 at DrHGuy.com, a predecessor of Cohencentric

Leonard Cohen Elaborates On “These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood” From Gypsy’s Wife

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As I wrote in 1975 or 1976, ‘These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood.’ I had this sense that some thing had happened, and that people were kind of hanging on to their little bits of furniture and bobbing about in the torrent. Therefore, descriptions like ‘conservative,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘pro-abortion’ or ‘anti-abortion,’ these definitions that were current and still define the political life, were entirely irrelevant, considering the catastrophe and the predicament people found themselves in.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

Note: “These are the final days, this is the darkness, this is the flood” is a line from the lyrics of The Gypsy’s Wife, released on Leonard’s 1979 album Recent Songs.

From A Purple Haze To A Purple Patch by Adam Sweeting (The Canberra Times: July 24, 1994)

Leonard Cohen On The French Canadian Separatist Movement, Communism, & America (1974)

What are your feelings now about the French Canadian separatist movement?

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There has clearly been a victory for the French Canadian spirit. Whether it manifests itself exactly in a separate state or in an associate state, or just in a psychic differentiation is quite irrelevant. The fact is that the French Canadian spirit has triumphed in Québec. There’s nobody that seriously contests the idea that this is a French state of some kind. But also, certain of my political opinions in the past have been anti-leftist, anti-communist, which stopped me from really throwing myself in against the Vietnamese war. Because I thought that the communists were using this battle to weaken America and to destroy American youth and to destroy the American army. I still do feel that way. I feel that America suffered a terrible defeat. I do feel the youth has been brainwashed by the communists, and poisoned both spiritually and physically as part of the communist conspiracy. I think we have been defeated in a war, and I think America’s been disarmed. I think it’s very weak, and I think a country without an army is in a very dangerous position. I think there are lots of people waiting to carve America up, psychically or actually.quotedown2

Leonard Cohen

 

From Leonard Cohen Looks at Himself by Danny Fields. Soho Weekly News, Vol. 1, #9. Dec 5, 1974.

Credit Due Department: This outstanding interview was discovered and contributed by Jugurtha Harchaoui.