by Ira B. Nadel

Original 1996 edition

2007 new edition

Title Various Positions - A Life Of Leonard Cohen
Author Ira B. Nadel
Country & Year Canada 1996
Publisher Random House of Canada
Pages 288 + 16 (original edition)
360 (2007 edition with new afterword)
Notes ISBN 0-394-22413-2. Hardbound.
ISBN 0-7475-3267-6. Bloomsbury paperbacks (UK 1997).

New editions (with updated afterword):

ISBN 978-0-679-30884-3. Vintage. (Canada 2006)
ISBN 978-0292717329. University of Texas Press (USA 2007).

Editions in other languages:

ISBN 3-8270-0158-7. German title "Das Leben des Leonard Cohen - Eine Biographie". Berlin Verlag (1997)
Paperback edition in German ISBN 3-5483-5845-4, Ullstein Buchverlage GmbH & Co. KG (1997)

ISBN: 2-02-024587-6. French title "Leonard Cohen L'Homme-paradoxe". Editions du Seuil (1998).

Polish title "Rozne Postawy. Zycie Leonarda Cohena". Proszynski i S-ka S.A. (2000).

ISBN 978-953-178-867-0. Croatian title: "Raznoliki stavovi. Zivot Leonarda Cohena". Translated by Sandra Palihnic. Editing, notes and afterword: Tomislav Sakic. Naklada Ljevak, Zagreb (2007). (Note that this is translation of the updated Canadian edition from 2006, with new afterword by Ira Nadel.)

ISBN 4-86062-033-X: the Japanese edition.

Summary "Beginning with the Montreal years and his mentorship under Louis Dudek, F.R. Scott and Irving Layton, Cohen's life quickly moves to London, the island of Hydra, New York, Nashville and Los Angeles, with stops in Havana, Tel Aviv and Paris. Through it all, we learn the origin of a series of remarkable books and astonishing records; the sources of Cohen's practice of Judaism and Zen; the various sculptures he explored, and the roots of raw emotion and intensity that have always characterized his art." (From the introduction)

Review of the book by Doron Cohen (2008, pdf file)

VARIOUS POSITIONS - A Life of Leonard Cohen is the first time Cohen himself has worked with a biographer. He contributed many of his never-before-seen letters, scholarly papers, poems, song lyrics and photographs.

Ira Nadel is a professor of English at the University of British Columbia. He spent hours and hours of interview time with Cohen, his family, professional colleagues and friends. Cohen has read and approved the manuscript:"In this book there are charming moments I had forgotten".

Nadel tells: "I first met Leonard Cohen in May 1993, backstage at the Royal Albert Hall after one of his sold-out concerts. I promptly forgot to ask him any of the crucial questions I had prepared and only walking back to my London flat did I recall all I wanted to know. This book in many ways records my quest for answers.

We next met in February 1994 at his home in Los Angeles. I came prepared with Montreal smoked meat, BC salmon and a bottle of Chateau La Tour '84 (at 300 USD a bottle, his favourite, Chateau La Tour '82, was out of the question). We ate, talked and discovered lines of connection, solidified by the presence of His Zen master, Joshu Sasaki Roshi.

I left a few days later with a sense how to proceed, which essentially meant visits to his homes and haunts, and interviews with his friends, singers and family.

So I went to the island of Hydra, Montreal, Nashville, New York, Los Angeles and the Mt. Baldy Zen Center in the southern California mountains. At each stop, stories and experiences occurred that involved the biographer and his subject, from finding a lost manuscript of his first novel in a California garage to encountering more than one of his former girlfriends.

Later visits to Cohen in Los Angeles filled in blanks and a memorable Christmas party with basketball playing monks and slot machines only confirmed his joie de vivre. Even at the end of the biographical journey, Leonard Cohen and I shared experiences as we reviewed the manuscript at Mt. Baldy during a two-day reading session interrupted by wine and food.

Midway in writing, when on behalf of the publisher I asked if this could be called an authorized biography, Cohen replied "tolerated", altering his response a moment later to "benignly tolerated". From Leonard Cohen, this is a marvellous signal of cooperation if not approval." (Ira Nadel)

Thanks to Adi Heindl, Hervé Cesard, Miroslawa Mandziuk
and Tom Sakic for information.