El Montreal de Leonard Cohen

por Juan Pablo Anaya

«Leonard Cohen (b. 1934), the poet and singer, spends perhaps half of each year in his home town. He once lived on Hydra, an island in the Aegean, and he has been known to take refuge in a monastery in California. At the time of the publication of The Spice-Box of Earth (1961), he told an interviewer: “But I have to keep coming back to Montreal to renew my neurotic affiliations.” The Montreal he returns to is not that of the family home on Belmont Avenue Road in Upper Westmount. He lives by choice in a renovated, second-storey flat on rue Saint-Dominic in the low-rental east end. Around the corner, on rue Marie-Anne, in a small renovated house, lives his celebrated Suzanne. “I choose the rooms I live in with care, / There’s only one table and only one chair,” he claimed in “Tonight Will Be Fine” from his album Songs from a Room. Cohens “downward mobility” from Upper West-mount to the east end, Irving Layton once observed, is the reverse of his own “upward mobility” from the east end to Notre-Dame-de-Grace, if not Westmount. There is no shortage of references to Montreal in Cohen’s poems and novels. Indeed, The Favourite Game (1963) hops about the city like the knight in chess. Beautiful Losers (1966) celebrates the Mohawk saint Kateri Tekakwitha of the nearby Caughnawaga Indian Reserve. In 1981, he told an interviewer: ‘I’ve been suggesting Montreal separate from Quebec and Canada. Montreal is a special kind of city-state. We shouldn’t tie our destinies to either Quebec or Canada. It’s not like either of them. The Free State of Montreal»