Hallelujah: as The Guardian reported today, a previously unpublished book by Leonard Cohen—rejected by two publishers and then set aside—will be published this fall by Grove Press. The novel, A Ballet of Lepers, will be published in October alongside fifteen short stories and a radio play script from Cohen’s archives, assembled by Cohen scholar Alexandra Pleshoyano.
A Ballet of Lepers, written in 1956, explores “toxic relationships and the lengths one will go to maintain them.” The story follows a 35-year-old sales clerk who takes in his elderly grandfather in a small boarding house; as Ira B. Nadel, Cohen’s biographer, put it, “The grandfather is given to fits of violence, and the narrator (who remains unnamed) finds an awakening violence within himself.” According to Nadel, the novel shows “a growing sense of Jewish history and tragedy,” which would be further excavated in Cohen’s poetry.
The publication of A Ballet of Lepers: A Novel and Stories fits with Cohen’s wishes. When alive, Cohen said A Ballet of Lepers was “probably a better novel” than his 1963 novel The Favorite Game, which was received favorably. And: “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,” Robert Kory, trustee of the Leonard Cohen family trust, wrote in a statmeent. “I’m pleased that, with this book, his readers and listeners can begin that rich journey.”
“I and others at Grove Atlantic were highly impressed by these lost works of Leonard Cohen’s oeuvre, including the title novel A Ballet of Lepers, which has a Kerouacian intensity and darkly atmospheric setting,” said Peter Blackstock, deputy publisher of Grove Atlantic. “A Ballet of Lepers is an extraordinary book from a singular artist, and we are sure that this volume will appeal both to Cohen fans and readers new to his written work.”