Leonard Cohen Is Only Musician Ever Honored With The Prince Of Asturias Award For Letters

Leonard Cohen’s “Oeuvre Of Immutable Merit” Merits Most Important Spanish Prize For Literature

At its June 1, 2011 meeting in Oviedo, the Jury for the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters voted

… to confer the 2011 Prince of Asturias Award for Letters on the Canadian poet and novelist Leonard Cohen for a body of literary work that has influenced three generations of people worldwide through his creation of emotional imagery in which poetry and music are fused in an oeuvre of immutable merit. The passing of time, sentimental relationships, the mystical traditions of the East and the West and life sung as an unending ballad make up a body of work associated with certain moments of decisive change at the end of the 20th and beginning of the 21st century.1

In response, Leonard Cohen  issued this statement from New York on June 2, 2011:

I am most grateful to be recognized by the countrymen of Machado and Lorca, and my friend Morente, and the incomparable companions of the Spanish guitar.2

The 2011 Prince Of Asturias Award For Letters

It is particularly significant that Leonard Cohen won the 2011 Prince Of Asturias Award in the Literature (Letters) category rather than  in the Arts classification.  It is hardly surprising, however, to find that Cohen is the only musician to win the Prince Of Asturias Award For Letters; one is hard pressed to name a single other singer-songwriter, especially a singer-songwriter  of popular music, that might be considered a viable candidate for the Award.

In winning out over 31 other nominees, including English novelist Ian McEwan (Solar, Black Dogs) and Canadian writer Alice Munro (Runaway, Too Much Happiness), Cohen joins previous prize-winners in the Literature category such as Arthur Miller, Margaret Atwood, Susan Sontag, Günter Grass, Doris Lessing, Amos Oz, and Paul Auster.Winners in other categories include Woody Allen (Arts) , Bob Dylan (Arts), UNICEF (Concord),  JK Rowling (Concord), Umberto Eco  (Communications and Humanities), Google (Communications and Humanities), World Health Organization (International Cooperation), The Tour de France (Sports),  Jane Goodall (Technical and Scientific Research), and David Attenborough (Social Science).

The press release from the The Prince of Asturias Foundation goes on to note

According to the Statutes of the Foundation, the Prince of Asturias Awards aim “to reward the scientific, technical, cultural, social and humanistic work performed at an international level by individuals, institutions or groups of individuals or institutions”. As part of this spirit those “whose creative work or research represents a relevant contribution to universal culture in the fields of Literature or Linguistics” may be nominated for the Prince of Asturias Award for Letters.

This year a total of 32 candidatures from Argentina, Austria, Australia, Bosnia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Cuba, Chile, China, France, Guatemala, Georgia, Iran, Italy, Lebanon, Netherlands, Macedonia, Mexico, Portugal, Rumania, South Africa, United Kingdom, United States and Spain ran for the award.

… Each Prince of Asturias Award, which date back to 1981, comprises a diploma, a Joan Miró sculpture representing and symbolising the Awards, an insignia bearing the Foundation’s coat of arms, and a cash prize of 50,000 Euros.3 The awards will be presented in the autumn in Oviedo at a grand ceremony chaired by H.R.H. the Prince of Asturias.

Update 18 October 2011: See also Now Online: Official Video – Leonard Cohen Prince of Asturias Award for Letters


Editor’s Note On The Timing Of This Post: Yes, Leonard Cohen won this award almost two months ago. Yes, DrHGuy knew about it at the time. But, if Leonard Cohen is going to persist in winning awards – and it appears he is – he should do so at some time other than DrHGuy’s vacation. In any case, by the time DrHGuy returned from his annual Hilton Head Hiatus, this was old news (OK, that’s an argument somewhat attenuated by the recent publication of posts like Leonard Cohen Plays The Bottom Line, 1974 – Judy Collins & Janis Ian Visit  and Leonard Cohen On Touring, Work, Inspiration, & His Right Wing Interior Life – 1980, but you know what he means). In fact, were it not for the perseverance of the Spanish Cohen Brigade and Valerio Fiandra, this acknowledgement of Leonard Cohen being bestowed with The Prince Of Asturias Award For Letters might not have ever taken place, thus placing the official sanctioning of the prize in jeopardy.

Credit Due Department: The image atop this post is adapted from a screen capture of the Prince of Asturias Foundation web site. The four views of the Miro-wrought trophy were found at the Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research web site.

  1. The Prince of Asturias Foundation web site, accessed 28 July 2011 []
  2. Ibid []
  3. (About 71,500 USD []

One response to “Leonard Cohen Is Only Musician Ever Honored With The Prince Of Asturias Award For Letters

  1. Bravo!!!!