The year was 1988, the place was Thessaloniki, and I was only eighteen.
One night a friend invited me at his place to listen to a record that had just been released: LEONARD COHEN “I’M YOUR MAN”.
I had never heard that name before but when a deep voice started singing the first lines of the first song: “They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom/ for trying to change the system from within…” one thing became clear to me: This man was going to take, if not Manhattan, at least a part of my heart.
But who was he? My friend couldn’t tell me more than he was a Canadian -Jew, a poet, a writer and a troubadour. A poet who sings his lines, a writer who composes music? He must be a “phenomenon” then!
The next day I got all the albums he had released until then. But it wasn’t so easy to find any of his books, in English I mean, there was no question about finding any of his books translated into Greek
“Maybe I should try one day to translate them” was my thought then - which turned into a strong wish when later I learned that the man had lived in Greece. He even owned a house on Hydra! But then why wasn’t he as known as he should be in my country?
Many years later I found myself in Canada.
I was breathing the same air now and could pic-ture better lines like these: “It’s dark and it’s snowing / I’ve got to be going / St.Lawerence River is starting to freeze”
But where was Leonard? Nobody seemed to know. Then, one evening, while searching for Cohen-related stuff in Toronto’s Public Library, I found a site: “The Leonard Cohen Files” main-tained by a guy, Jarkko Arjatsalo was his name, somewhere in Finland.
At last! All I was looking for about the man and his work was there, before my eyes. Even Leonard himself!
Yes, Mr.Cohen, who in the meantime had re-treated to a Zen monastery, was blackening pages in the brave new world of Internet from his Mt.Baldy cabin!
And what’s more, there was a whole community of people who liked his work gathered around that superb site. Heavens! I wasn’t the only one in the world looking for him!
I could never imagine that evening in the library that one day I would get to meet those people on Hydra!
Since then my life took many turns. Back to Greece, in various hotels, with a woman and the- with Matisse’s paintings book - “Dance me to the end of Love” lying on the bed - a smell of tobacco and cognac filling up the room and Leonard’s voice in the background.
Now the year is 2002, the place Kozani and I am already 32. The woman and the book “are de-parted or gone”. I don’t ever listen to that song now. Times have changed. Even Leonard’s voice has gone deeper - but it is always there in the room. His books are still not translated into Greek.
I still want to translate them one day.
I love Leonard Cohen’s poetry and I forgot what I started telling you. Goodbye.