Captivating love letter written by Leonard Cohen to his muse Marianne Ihlen are to be sold at auction at Christie’s in New York.
Some of the letters, almost 60 years old, have never seen before. The letters, being sold under the title ‘Write Me and Tell Me Your Heart: Leonard Cohen’s Letters to Marianne’, have been postmarked Hydra, Montreal, New York, Tel Aviv and Havana.
Ihlen, born in Larkollen, Norway, was Cohen’s muse for the majority of the 1960s after meeting on the Greek Island of Hydra. In the 1967 track ‘So Long, Marianne’ Cohen sang that she “held on to me like I was a crucifix as we went kneeling through the dark”. Their relationship flowed between Norway and Hydra, Greece where they both lived for a number of years. In later life, she would go on to marry Jan Stang in 1979 and settle in Oslo.
Speaking of the sale, auction house Christies said that: “these poetic letters brim with both biographical detail and raw emotion”, before adding that the letters are “documenting one of the most captivating love affairs of its time as well as the transformation of a young man into a great artist.”
A focal point of the auction, which is expected to run online between 5-13 June, is a letter from Cohen penned in Tel Aviv in 1960, he writes: “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.” The auction has predicted a guide sale price of $9,000 for that letter alone.
While away from Hydra, Cohen wrote to Ihlen after performing his first major performance in New York, saying: “Every singer you’ve ever heard of was there performing. Judy Collins introduced me to the audience, over 3,000 people, and they seemed to know who I was, mostly because of [his song] Suzanne.”
In what has been described as one of the greatest love stories, Cohen’s letters detail his feelings for Ihlen and, in one letter, he describes how he is “always thinking” of her: “What can I say?” he writes. “You have gone deep inside of me. I want to sing when I remember all our work of love.”
Having been diagnosed with leukemia in late July 2016, Ihlen’s close friend Jan Christian Mollestad contacted Cohen to tell him Ihlen was dying. Cohen, who was also suffering from illness, penned the following letter to his muse:
“Well Marianne it’s come to this time when we are really so old and our bodies are falling apart and I think I will follow you very soon. Know that I am so close behind you that if you stretch out your hand, I think you can reach mine. And you know that I’ve always loved you for your beauty and your wisdom, but I don’t need to say anything more about that because you know all about that. But now, I just want to wish you a very good journey. Goodbye old friend. Endless love, see you down the road.”
The letter would become a particularly poignant moment as Cohen himself would died just four months after Ihlen.