Today in Literary History – September 21, 1934 – Leonard Cohen is born

Leonard Cohen was born on September 21, 1934, in Montreal to a prosperous Orthodox Jewish family. Cohen died last year at the age of 82. Over the years he had many artistic incarnations as a poet, novelist and singer-songwriter.

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Although he lived in many places over the years — Greece, London, New York, Los Angeles — he always considered Montreal his real home and spent time in the small apartment he kept there. Montreal is where he was buried, next to his parents.

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His literary career pre-dated his musical career by a decade. His first book of poems, Let Us Compare Mythologies, was published in 1956, followed by three more collections in the next ten years plus two novels, The Favourite Game in 1963 and Beautiful Losers in 1966.

In 1967, when he was 33 years old, he turned to songwriting and performing (because the money was better he said) with his first album Songs of Leonard Cohen.

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He continued to write poetry, with strains of spiritual and erotic longing, even as his musical career eclipsed his identity as a serious “man of letters.”

I hate to say this, but as much as I love Bob Dylan’s songs I would by far have preferred it if the inscrutable Nobel Prize judges had honoured Leonard Cohen as their first troubadour laureate instead.

It would have been, to use a word Cohen was fond of, an act of grace.

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