Autograph letter signed (“Cohen”) to Marianne Ihlen ("My dear Marianne"), Tel Aviv, 13 September 1960.

Two pages, 270 x 202mm, pencil on lined paper; with transmittal envelope (torn).

“It’s hard to write you. The surf is too loud. The beach is too crowded, and you’re too much in my heart to put anything down.”

An important early letter written from the beaches of Tel Aviv, marking his first separation from Marianne after meeting her earlier in the year. Fleeing rainy London, Cohen first arrived in Hydra in April 1960. Enamored with simple island life and the bohemian community, he would purchase a house there that September with the proceeds of a small inheritance. Marianne was married to Norwegian novelist Axel Jensen at this time and they had a baby together. But the marriage was troubled and Marianne and Leonard soon came together, though he would later recall that initially they “didn’t think there would be a love story. We thought we would live together” (qtd in Nadel, Various Positions,p. 83).

This letter is more formal and self-conscious than those that follow. Feeling jarred by the city and longing for Hydra, Cohen opens: “My dear Marianne, I just want to write you.” He quotes a Chinese poet whose name he had forgotten: “’What is the use of speaking? / There is no end / to the things of the heart.” He writes of feeling lost in Israel and contemplates spending more time learning Hebrew. On his work he reports: “The novel is finished, but I haven’t gathered strength for the 3rd draft. I miss the whiteness of Hydra and the bare rooms of my house.” As he will do often in the letters that follow, he mentions that he has sent money. He closes: “Well, I’ve got no more gold hair and I’m back to a familiar loneliness which is not too unpleasant, except when I compare it with certain intimacies I’ve known.”

By descent from Marianne Ihlen.
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Write Me and Tell Me Your Heart: Leonard Cohen's Letters to Marianne
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