Donate to RNS

New book out on Leonard Cohen’s theology: ‘From This Broken Hill I Sing to You’

T&T Clark/Bloomsbury

“God, Sex, and Politics in the Work of Leonard Cohen”

A great deal has been written about the “black romantic” and “elder statesman of the bedroom” Leonard Cohen–every joint smoked, drink imbibed, and woman bedded. On the fifth anniversary of his death, Marcia Pally, in From This Broken Hill, investigates his writing–60 years of song that has gut-wrenched people the world over–for its understanding of the world and what befalls us when we trounce its foundational structure: relationship, covenant.

Taking stock this holiday season, we need Cohen’s soul and soothsaying.

From his first to his last songs, Cohen reckoned with his failure—humanity’s failure–to be constant to God and other persons, to act covenantally. These breached covenants, in our personal and political relationships, are the source of the “divisions of every sort,” as Cohen put it—the loss, abandonment, and pain we cause ourselves and each other. 

Lou Reed said, “If we could all write songs like Leonard Cohen, we would.” 

Cohen’s truths about the world are a guide to surviving “The Future,” as Cohen wrote in 1992, with its “fires on the road” and “blizzards of the world.”

From this Broken Hill I Sing to You is for everyone touched by the music and mystique of Cohen, whose struggles yielded to the song.

Pally, who teaches at NYU and is an annual guest professor in theology at Humboldt University-Berlin, is one of a few women who have dared to breach the boy’s club of Cohen observers, pundits, and biographers.


Marcia Pally
T&T Clark/Bloomsbury
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.