Leonard Cohen’s last book, finished ‘days before his death’, due out next year

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The Flame collects unpublished poetry, as well as notebook entries and song lyrics, and offers an intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist

A book of Leonard Cohens final poems, completed in the months before his death and tackling the flame and how our culture threatened its extinction, according to his manager, will be published next year.

Describing the collection, The Flame, as an enormously powerful final chapter in Cohens storied literary career, publisher Canongate said that the Canadian singer-songwriter had chosen and ordered the poems in the months before his death in November 2016. The overwhelming majority of the book, which will be published next October, will be new material, it added.

Cohen, who died at the age of 82, originally focused his career on poetry, publishing the collections Let Us Compare Mythologies in 1956, The Spice-Box of Earth in 1961, and Flowers for Hitler in 1964. By the late 60s, he was concentrating more on music, releasing his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, in 1967.

Cohens manager and trustee of his estate Robert Kory said that pulling The Flame together had been a key ambition for the singer-songwriter at the end of his life. During the final months of his life, Leonard had a singular focus completing this book, taken largely from his unpublished poems and selections from his notebooks. The flame and how our culture threatened its extinction was a central concern, said Kory.

Though in declining health, Leonard died unexpectedly. Those of us who had the rare privilege of spending time with him during this period recognised that the flame burned bright within him to the very end. This book, finished only days before his death, reveals to all the intensity of his inner fire.

In an interview with the New Yorker last October, Cohen spoke of how my natural thrust is to finish things that Ive begun, and of how he was getting up well before dawn to write.

I dont dare attach myself to a spiritual strategy. I dont dare do that. Ive got some work to do. Take care of business. I am ready to die. I hope its not too uncomfortable. Thats about it for me, he told the magazines editor David Remnick.

In a certain sense, this particular predicament is filled with many fewer distractions than other times in my life and actually enables me to work with a little more concentration and continuity than when I had duties of making a living, being a husband, being a father. Those distractions are radically diminished at this point. The only thing that mitigates against full production is just the condition of my body At a certain point, if you still have your marbles and are not faced with serious financial challenges, you have a chance to put your house in order.

The Flame will also include an extensive selection from Cohens notebooks, which Canongate said he kept in poetic form throughout his life, and which it promised would offer an unprecedentedly intimate look inside the life and mind of a singular artist and thinker. The full lyrics of his final three albums, along with those he wrote for the album Blue Alert by his collaborator Anjani, will also be included, along with prose pieces and Cohens own illustrations.

Canongates Francis Bickmore, who acquired UK and Commonwealth rights, called it a towering final book, hulking with morbid wit and lit up with insight This substantial parting work, from a great artist now gone, will speak to anyone who has been moved by Cohens unique voice.

The Flame will be published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux in the US, and McClelland & Stewart in Canada.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2017/oct/06/leonard-cohens-last-book-finished-days-before-his-death-due-out-next-year-the-flame

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