Beautiful Losers: Lives of the Saints
For the third time in my life as a girl over the sixties, I am reading Beautiful Losers.
The pyrotechnics of this maniacally acclaimed experimental novel obscures the shocking truths around which it is woven.
A hidden holocaust
MKULTRA mind control
Nazi experiments on humans, particularly children
Cohen peppers the novel with references to this tragic story, but uses these horrors as comic triggers. The reader zigzags between heaven and hell, while the amphetamine-swallowing narrator gropes for a lost moral center in a world that has exploded.
When we read it in the sixties, we were surprised, excited and excited. But, as Bob Dylan says, “things have changed.”
Reading in light of what we now know about events classified at McGill during the years before this strange Roman key was written, it tends to sound tragic.
Perhaps there was even comedy at Auschwitz. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were clowns in the barracks, loved for their ability to make the dying and soon-to-be dead laugh.
Human soap also appears multiple times in Beautiful Losers. It’s one of those standards of holocaust humor, I guess.
Human soap is really the lighter side of Mengele’s experiments. Almost a euphemism for crimes so heinous they are never discussed. Thus, the truth slides into the vast abyss of amnesia, and a whole new generation of mind-controlled patriots is preparing to follow their leaders to Armageddon.
Still, in light of documents found in Washington, and everything that has appeared on the internet and elsewhere in recent years, as child victims regain their memories and voices and begin to publish their stories about the torture of the CIA, funded by our governments. – Beautiful Losers seems strangely relevant today.
After all, part of it is set in a Montreal psychiatric hospital, during the days when MKULTRA was freaking out in that city.
Other parts are set in the past, when Jesuit missionaries went equally crazy among the Hurons and Montagnais in Quebec. The absent heroine of Beautiful Losers is Katherine Tekakwitha, a Mohawk saint, who survived the smallpox that wiped out most of her tribe and ended up dying as a result of her conversion to Catholicism.
There are references to the orphanage where the narrator and his mentor F. were raised and introduced to various forms of rampant abuse.
Leonard was in his early thirties when he wrote this epic, fueled by amphetamines and perhaps just a trace of rage, which he disguises behind the comedy.
Reading it now, it’s pretty obvious that Leonard knew quite a bit about Ewen Cameron and MKULTRA and the secret experiments on children, including First Nations children, at McGill. He also knew what happened to people who spoke too openly about what they knew.
But how much did he know? Perhaps Beautiful Losers was written from bits of information that Cohen heard and improvised into a novel. Perhaps he did not directly witness these horrors, which he recounts in a hallucinatory way of consciousness; After all, it was 1966, he had taken LSD and read The Lamp of Albion Moonlight by Kenneth Patchen, a novel that some say inspired this. one
But hallucinations alone, even very well-informed hallucinations, do not explain the parallels between the events described in Beautiful Losers and the secret and real events in the behavioral laboratories of the Allan Memorial Institute, the center of secret experiments of the CIA in various unfortunate mental patients and children.
The Nazi connection, which Cohen flirts with but does not develop, is obvious to anyone and is now backed up by thousands of pages of declassified CIA documents. Not that those documents mention children, of course. If they did, my generation would have grown up much faster. We would have stopped believing in fairy tales a long time ago.
There are no documents that survived beyond 1973, when CIA Director Stansfield Turner ordered his staff to destroy all evidence related to one of the ugliest investigative programs ever to appear in the halls of learning.
But Leonard Cohen mentions them in BEAUTIFUL LOSERS. Oh, not too directly, of course, but it alludes to orphans and pedophile scientists and priests, and it paints a picture of a world that, in those days, seemed the product of the fantasy of a drug-consumed mind.
Cohen, the whistleblower, playing the harp of his Jews in the ruins of what used to be called The Free World.
Cohen, the canny operative, cunningly calculating the limits of what he could say in print. He knew that if he told the simple truth, they wouldn’t believe it.
And he was right. NO critics received the message. No one connected the obvious dots, or followed the trail of breadcrumbs Leonard dropped for us in the woods. If they had, the trail would have led to the witch’s door and straight into the oven.
It’s been 40 years since Beautiful Losers was first published in 1996. And it’s time we reread it, with a copy of John Marks’ The Making of the Manchurian Candidate by our bedside, and our browsers ready to search. True, true stories of orphans, children, First Nations children, pedophile priests, cynical politicians, and Nazi doctors … they all populate the pages of Beautiful Losers.
In mythical form, of course.
Is it surprising that you searched libraries for news about the victims?
Fictional victims! all the victims we ourselves do not murder from incarceration … “p. 7
Still a brilliant literary diversion, this tour de force of style and showmanship is based on the bodies of “fictitious” victims whose graves Leonard adorns with a book-size epitaph.
“I have poisoned the air, I have lost my erection.
Is it because I came across the truth about Canada?
Fathers of the city, kill me, because I have talked too much. “P. 37
In an interview recently, Cohen called Beautiful Losers a long “prayer.” It’s strange, how religion tends to blur distinctions and erase memory: just like those drugs that MKULTRA was giving each and everyone. I hope you go out and find an old copy, or buy the new edition, and decide for yourself.