Matti FriedmanAug 30, 2022
Who by Fire
Leonard Cohen in the Sinai
Spiegel & Grau 2022
In October 1973, the poet and singer Leonard Cohen—thirty-nine years old, famous, unhappy, and at a creative dead end—traveled from his home on the Greek island of Hydra to the chaos and bloodshed of the Sinai desert when Egypt attacked Israel on the Jewish high holiday of Yom Kippur. Moving around the front with a guitar and a group of local musicians, Cohen met hundreds of young soldiers, men and women at the worst moment of their lives. Those who survived never forgot the experience. And the war transformed Cohen. He had announced that he was abandoning his music career, but he instead returned to Hydra and to his family, had a second child, and released one of the best albums of his career.
In Who by Fire: Leonard Cohen in the Sinai (Spiegel & Grau, 2022), journalist Matti Friedman gives us a riveting account of those weeks in the Sinai, drawing on Cohen’s previously unpublished writing and original reporting to create a kaleidoscopic depiction of a harrowing, formative moment for both a young country at war and a singer at a crossroads.
Matti Friedman is an award-winning journalist and author. Born in Toronto and based in Jerusalem, his work has appeared regularly in the New York Times, The Atlantic, Tablet, and elsewhere. Friedman's last book, Spies of No Country: Secret Lives at the Birth of Israel, won the 2019 Natan Prize and the Canadian Jewish Book Award for history. Pumpkinflowers: A Soldier's Story of a Forgotten War was chosen in 2016 as a New York Times Notable Book and one of Amazon's 10 best books of the year. His first book, The Aleppo Codex, won the 2014 Sami Rohr Prize and the ALA's Sophie Brody Medal.
Matti Friedman on Twitter.
Bradley Morgan is a media arts professional in Chicago and author of U2's The Joshua Tree: Planting Roots in Mythic America. He manages partnerships on behalf of CHIRP Radio 107.1 FM, serves as a co-chair of the associate board at the Gene Siskel Film Center of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, and volunteers in the music archive at the Old Town School of Folk Music. Bradley Morgan on Twitter.