An unprecedented glimpse into the formation of the legendary talent of Leonard Cohen.
Before the celebrated late-career world tours, before the Grammy awards, before the chart-topping albums, before ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘So Long, Marianne’ and ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’, the young Leonard Cohen wrote poetry and fiction and yearned for literary stardom. In A Ballet of Lepers, readers will discover that the magic that animated Cohen’s unforgettable body of work was present from the very beginning.
Written between 1956 in Montreal, just as Cohen was publishing his first poetry collection, and 1961, when he’d settled on Greece’s Hydra island, the pieces in this collection offer startling insight into Cohen’s imagination and creative process, and explore themes that would permeate his later work, from shame and unworthiness to sexual desire to longing, whether for love, family, freedom or transcendence.
The titular novel, A Ballet of Lepers – one he later remarked was ‘probably a better novel’ than his celebrated book The Favourite Game – is a haunting examination of these elements, while the fifteen stories, as well as the playscript, probe the inner demons of his characters, many of whom could function as stand-ins for the author himself.
Meditative, surprising, playful and provocative, A Ballet of Lepers is vivid in its detail, unsparing in its gaze, and reveals the great artist and visceral genius like never before.
“The writing captures all the gorgeous poeticism that we have come to love about his music, as well as a youthful naivete and a playfulness, a rawness that I wouldn’t have predicted. There’s something so fun in seeing where this all began”
cnn, Best Books Of 2022
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“A fascinating collection of Leonard Cohen’s early fiction foreshadows motifs and concerns that the performer later mined across decades”
“Cohen’s lyrical flair and talent with words is apparent throughout”
“A posthumous treat from the late Leonard Cohen … A cut above what most rock stars could dream of writing”
“A curious and compulsive examination of the boundaries of honesty and cruelty … Poetically astute and quite psychologically unhinged”
Leonard Cohen’s artistic career began in 1956 with the publication of his first book of poetry, Let Us Compare Mythologies. He published two novels, The Favourite Game and Beautiful Losers, and ten previous books of poetry, including Stranger Music: Selected Poems and Songs and Book of Longing. Cohen released fourteen studio albums between 1967 and 2016, the last being You Want It Darker, the title track of which posthumously won him the Grammy for Best Rock Performance. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2008, received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2010, and was awarded the Prince of Asturias Award for Literature and the Glenn Gould Prize in 2011. He died on November 7, 2016.