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Leonard Cohen’s Unpublished Fiction Will Be Collected in New Book ‘A Ballet of Lepers’

Collection will include short fiction, a radio play, and the titular novel, which Cohen thought was “probably a better novel” than his 1963 book ‘The Favorite Game’

leonard cohen book a ballet of lepers fictionleonard cohen book a ballet of lepers fiction

Leonard Cohen in 1967.

Jack Robinson/Getty Images

Leonard Cohen’s early, never-before-published fiction will be collected in a new book, A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories, set to arrive Oct. 11 via Grove Press. 

The book includes several pieces of short fiction, a radio play, and the titular novel, A Grove of Lepers. Cohen wrote everything in the book between 1956 — when he was still living in Montreal — and 1961, when he’d moved to Hydra island in Greece. A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories was edited by Cohen scholar Alexandra Pleshoyano, who also provided an afterword for the book.

No plot details about any of the pieces were revealed, but per a press release Cohen himself thought A Grove of Leper was “probably a better novel” than his celebrated 1963 book, The Favorite Game. Grove Atlantic deputy publisher, Peter Blackstock, said in a statement that the novel has “a Kerouacian intensity and darkly atmospheric setting.” 

A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories was pulled from Cohen’s massive archive of unpublished material. As Robert Kory, Trustee of the Leonard Cohen Family Trust, noted: “Leonard said before his death that his life’s true masterwork was his archive, which he kept meticulously for the benefit of fans and scholars one day to discover. I’m pleased that, with this book, his readers and listeners can begin that rich journey.”  

A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories is the second posthumous Cohen book published since his death in 2016, following The Flame — a collection of poetry, notebook excerpts, lyrics, and drawings — which arrived in 2018. The following year, Thanks for the Dance, a posthumous album featuring music Cohen recorded before his death, was released.

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