Edited By Kathie Birat and Brigitte Zaugg
“I’m the little Jew who wrote the Bible.” A Reconfiguration of the Devotional Poet for the Age of the Mass Media: Leonard Cohen’s Holy Hoaxes: Christophe Lebold
Christophe LEBOLDUniversity of Strasbourg, France
I think that’s the real deep entertainment. Religion. Real, profound and voluptuous and delicious entertainment. The real feast that is available to us is within this activity. Nothing touches it. Except if you’re courting…
Leonard Cohen, 1998 (qtd. in Iyer)
Rather than a declaration of faith, spiritual literature is a declaration of hunger, of an appetite for depth and transcendence that singer and poet Leonard Cohen has always affirmed. A Zen monk, the author of a book of psalms and the grandson of a rabbi, Cohen has developed a highly personal spiritual vision over forty years of songwriting and religious practice. With the authority imparted by his name1 and the gravity of his voice, he has kept asserting the depths of the human heart which, as he is wont to say, “cooks and sizzles like shish-kebab in the breast” (2001b). The singer was even brought to found, partly as a spiritual hoax, a semi-fictional spiritual fraternity, the “Order of the Unified Heart,” which, he explains, “has no meetings, no by-laws, and no dues” (Wieseltier 44). But here is a devotional poet with a tiny difference: he is also a rock star with an international cult following, a contract with Sony Music and female ← 133 | 134 → backing singers that may well have made George Herbert hide under his altar.
Placing himself under the joint patronage of King David and country-singer Hank Williams (“Tower of Song,” Cohen 1988), Cohen...
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