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  French Version

Meeting with Leonard Cohen
Interview by Albert Labbouz
Paris, June 29th 2001
Translation and adaptation:  Marc Gaffié


"An Invincible Defeat"
"Un echec invincible"

Interview of Leonard Cohen by Albert Labbouz
*Blue: words of Leonard and Sharon in English
*Black: Words of Leonard in French, translated to English

Albert Labbouz : Patrice Clos (Webmaster of the French Site) wanted to ask you something about your loving of our country: Joan of Arc, The Partisan, Edith piaf and others artists...
Leonard Cohen : Even more than you can say..My children grew up in France. In Paris, and in the South of France, in the Luberon....

A.L : What do you like more in France ?
L.C : Silence  What I like more about France? That is a difficult question..er…

A.L : Patrice built up this question...and he knows a great deal about you.
L.C : er...a difficult question...maybe Sharon could answer that. She loves Paris. For me, France is not an exotic country, even if my french is bad. It's a long time since I travel your country. There is so many things so familiar about it for me. It is hard to pick up one thing among these familiar things. The simple fact they are familiar to me excludes the processs of choosing....

A.L : Choosing one is forgetting many others…
LC : It's like if you ask me to choose between a big Cream Coffee or a small Cream Coffee....laughs...(He finally chose a small cream coffee).....

A.L : the first tribute album released was the Graeme Allwright one (Graeme Allwright sings Leonard Cohen, France, 1973). You know him well, do you ?.
L.C : Yes.…

A.L : And now in 2001, what is your feeling about his adaptations ?
L.C : Oh, I love all the things Graeme has done.

A.L : He feels very much like phoning you.
L.C : Yeah...I surely have to talk to him...

A.L : Reading the title of your forthcoming album, Ten New Songs, I couldn't help thinking of the Ten Commands....of the Ten New Commands..??
L.C : Hey...yes..! I didn't think of that, but I did think of David's Harp : it had ten strings.

A.L : I guessed there was something special about this number...ten...
L.C : Yeah that's true.

Sharon Robinson enters the room.
A.L. : What do you like more in France, Sharon ?
S.R: I love the language, the culture, the architecture, the lay-out of the city, you know, the city is so very beautifully designed.

A.L Leonard, do you think the websites devoted to you are useful for your fans of-all-times, and for the new generations to discover your work ?
L.C : Yes, I think the websites are decisive. They reveal that things turn over, because there is not much advertising towards me, I stay calm, still, for years, and though it's by the sites that I am able, not only to keep in touch with others, but also hear news and echos from others about my work.

Further in the interview, Leonard will have those words towards Marie Mazur and her Concordance:
" There is even a Concordance !! You can put in a word in a search engine and every time I use the word in any poem or song or book, it will give you the reference, for every single word that I've written "

A.L : Actually, it is these sites that build a chain between you and all those who love you. It's these sites, if I understand what you're saying, that made you understand that Leonard Cohen is a major presence in the lives of many people, all around the world.
L.C : Indeed. That makes an, what you say?.... an echo, a very precise and soft echo for me.

A.L : Whatever, we are very touched, we the French Leonard Cohen site's Team, by the fact you give us these words, your presence today. It's a very warm feeling.
L.C : Thanks, and this "Thanks" is also directed to Patrice.

A.L : Do you have a message for your French fans ?
L.C : For the French-speaking fans, to Patrice and you, I must give you my great expression and gratitude for what you've done because it's not a small thing, it's a great effort.

A.L : Patrice works very hard for this, you know…
L.C : I appreciate that because I know how difficult it is to do anything in this world. To do anything well is already a great thing. But to this concentration, and dedication and devotion, I just feel deeply and I want to make it very very clear that I appreciate it all and I understand what is going on, and I wanna say "Thank You"!

A.L : We thank you. Recently we were able to discover a photograph of Suzanne Verdal (the woman that inspired the character of Suzanne in the song "Suzanne"). And then, this woman, who had no face for million people around the world, suddenly she took a human form. What is your feeling about it? I myself was rather, I wouldn't say shocked, astonished to be able, from a day to another, put a real face on this famous name. I almost say that I wish Suzanne would stay a name forever...
L.C : What photograph ? When was it shot ?

A.L : Very recently.
L.C : Very recently ?

A.L : It's not from the time you knew her.
L.C : Yes, because It's a long time since I saw her for the last time (Suzanne).

A.L : So you didn't see that photograph on the Finnish site?
L.C : For the last two years, I rarely can visit the websites, because we worked very hard.

A.L : I can imagine.
L.C : More than in the monastery.


A.L : Some other kind of retreat.
L.C : laughs…Yes...maybe

A.L : Let's talk about another frenchman, Philippe Djian, do you know him ? Maybe his novel "Betty Blue".
L.C : I heard the name, but I don't know the book.

A.L : He wrote that he learned how to live with a woman by listening to your songs and reading your books.
L.C : I'm very happy that my job could be useful. One always hope his work might be useful for the world, might exist, might help, might touch someone, might......the idea of an artist who is useful...

A.L : Is it for that reason you said once that your songs are as robust as a Volvo ?
L.C : Yes, a Volvo, as they say the Volvos last thirty years....

A.L : I would like to ask you a difficult question; it's about the world as it is, and particularly what's going on up there...in Israel,. Do you think Abraham does not love his children any more ?
L.C : Abraham has two tributes of children.

A.L : I'm a Jew too...…
L.C : Oh…And the Arabs are also the sons of Abraham.

A.L : Although these brothers are fighting theirselves.
L.C : Unfortunately. It's a domestic battle, a battle inside the family. That's the point that makes it so tragic: these people are very close in many ways, even when it comes to ideas, and even the idea of God. All this make this israeli problem a paradox.

A.L : You're touched with this ?
L.C : Yes very much. Even with Sharon we care about what's going on. But now it is an increasing tragedy that makes me silent. I don't know what to say...

A.L : That makes you silent and you don't really know how to react in front of it. You're very touched.…
L.C : Totally and deeply touched, but......I don't even have any idea of a solution...

A.L : And who has got this solution ? When we'll find this idea, maybe we make a little step...
L.C : Basically, it is not in men's hands. There are other powers, other influences that Mankind doesn't govern. And we all have to do by ourself in this situation. Solutions are not in men's hands.

A.L : In God's Hands ?
L.C : Maybe....Surely

A.L : Let's be silent after that.


A.L : In the song " The night comes on ", I suppose that who asks the son to "go back to the world" is the mother...?
L.C : It is, yes..

A.L : What kind of voice did tell you to go back to the world ? Spiritual ? Material ? Sexual ? Sensual ?
L.C : It's probably the real voice of my mother.

A.L : Masha. You remembered and you went back to the world, back with us ?
L.C : The voice of my mother in my life -she died years ago- stands as the wisest one.

A.L : Wisdom ?
L.C : Wisdom ! A wisdom not sublime, nor exalted...

A.L : Something quiet, peaceful..?
L.C : Still and practical, pragmatic...

A.L : Pragmatic is the word...two final questions..?
L.C : Sure !

A.L : In the song "Never Any Good", you said:
"I was never any good at loving you
I was pretty good at taking out the garbage
Pretty good at holding up the wall
Dealing with the fire and the earthquake
But that don't count"

I find there somehow the same theme than in "Last Year's Man". Did you often doubt of yourself ?
LC: It's not bad, I never heard that philosophy....

A.L :You always doubt of yourself, of your deeds, of your talent, as if self-doubting was a second nature. Why ? Why being "Humbled in love" ? And there's also the poem "Better"...Finally, do you think yourself as "never any good" or "better" ?.
L.C : In these heart affairs, there are no masters. No-one is the master of his own heart...

A.L : It's something we cannot govern, we're invaded.
L.C : Precisely.

A.L : In a past interview, you ended it by saying "there are still beautiful losers, I'm one of them". Now, what can you say ? Do you stillfeel yourself as a beautiful loser ?
L.C : I think it's the best position for a human being. I wrote in another song   "A Thousand kisses deep "  << And summoned now 
To deal with your invincible defeat.>> The invisible defeat. Everyone at a certain point is against the invincible defeat and has to do it himself with this fact. The invincible defeat.....

AL : An invincible defeat.....Thanks for answering.....


(c) Albert Labbouz & Patrice Clos, France 2001
Photos (c) Albert Labbouz & Sony Music posted with Leonard Cohen's permission, any other use prohibited
Webmastering: Patrice Clos

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