“When I started the thing, I didn’t realize I had taken my first step on a walk to China.” Leonard Cohen On His Traumatic Translation Of Federico Garcia Lorca’s Pequeno Vals Vienés Into Take This Waltz

‘Take This Waltz’ was written deep into the nervous breakdown. It took me 150 hours to do the translation of the poem [Pequeno Vals Vienés by Federico Garcia Lorca]. It was hard to adapt so you could sing it in 3/4. The official translation – well you couldn’t sing that. So I had to get permission from the [Lorca] estate to do my own translation. And I was sorry that they gave it to me because when I started the thing, I didn’t realize I had taken my first step on a walk to China. [Interviewer: You must read Spanish pretty well.] No, I don’t. I met a Costa Rican girl who helped me with it, and I had other translations that people had done, but they weren’t rhymed. His poem is rhymed. Then I went to Paris to record it, then I broke down and went to a monastery in New Mexico for two months. I thought, ‘I don’t have to do a record anymore, I’ll be a monk!’ It’s good to have these places to go. When I came out I started the record again.quotedown2


Leonard Cohen


From Leonard Cohen’s Nervous Breakthrough by Mark Rowland, Musician, July 1988.

Cohencentric published several posts about Leonard Cohen’s Take This Waltz being based on his translation of Pequeño Vals Vienès by Federico García Lorca:


I am republishing selected posts from my former Leonard Cohen site, Cohencentric, here on AllanShowalter.com (these posts can be found at Leonard Cohen). This entry was originally posted Feb 26, 2018.

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