Swimming in Paris: A Life in Three Stories (Hardcover)

Swimming in Paris: A Life in Three Stories By Colombe Schneck, Lauren Elkin (Translated by), Natasha Lehrer (Translated by) Cover Image
By Colombe Schneck, Lauren Elkin (Translated by), Natasha Lehrer (Translated by)
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A Natalie Portman Book Club Pick

“Sinewy, tough, sharp . . . Even though Schneck works at a scale that is deliberately small, insistently concrete, and extremely lean, her writing somehow exposes whole vistas of the female experience.” —Katie Roiphe, The Atlantic

From the award-winning and bestselling French author Colombe Schneck, a woman’s personal journey through abortion, sex, friendship, love, and swimming

At fifty years old, while taking swimming lessons, I finally realized that my body was not actually as incompetent as I’d thought. My physical gestures had been, until then, small, worried, tense. In swimming I learned to extend them. I saw male bodies swimming beside me, and I swam past them, I was delighted, my breasts got smaller, my uterus stopped working. My body, by showing me who I was, allowed me to become fully myself.

In Seventeen, Friendship, and Swimming, Colombe Schneck orchestrates a coming-of-age in three movements. Beautiful, masterfully controlled, yet filled with pathos, they invite the reader into a decades-long evolution of sexuality, bodily autonomy, friendship, and loss.

Schneck’s prose maintains an unwavering intimacy, whether conjuring a teenage abortion in the midst of a privileged Parisian upbringing, the nuance of a long friendship, or a midlife romance. Swimming in Paris is an immersive, propulsive triptych—fundamentally human in its tender concern for every messy and glorious reality of the body, and deeply wise in its understanding of both desire and of letting go.

About the Author

Colombe Schneck is documentary film director, a journalist, and the author of twelve books of fiction and nonfiction. She has received prizes from the Académie française, Madame Figaro, and the Société des gens de lettres. The recipient of a scholarship from the Villa Medici in Rome as well as a Stendhal grant from the Institut français, she was born and educated in Paris, where she still lives.

Lauren Elkin is the author of several books, including Art Monsters: Unruly Bodies in Feminist Art and Flâneuse: Women Walk the City in Paris, New York, Tokyo, Venice, and London, a BBC Radio 4 Book of the Week, a New York Times Notable Book of 2017, and a finalist for the PEN/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay. Her essays on art, literature, and culture have appeared in the London Review of Books, The New York Times, Granta, Harper’s, Le Monde, Les Inrockuptibles, and Frieze, among other publications. She is also an award-winning translator, most recently of Simone de Beauvoir’s previously unpublished novel The Inseparables. After twenty years in Paris, she now lives in London.

Natasha Lehrer is a writer, translator, editor, and teacher. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Guardian, The Observer (London), The Times Literary Supplement, The Nation, Frieze, and other journals. As literary editor of the Jewish Quarterly she has worked with writers including Deborah Levy, George Prochnik, and Joanna Rakoff. She has contributed to several books, most recently Looking for an Enemy: 8 Essays on Antisemitism. She has translated over two dozen books, including works by Georges Bataille, Robert Desnos, Amin Maalouf, Vanessa Springora, and Chantal Thomas. In 2016, she won the Scott Moncrieff Prize for Suite for Barbara Loden by Nathalie Léger. She lives in Paris.

Praise For…

“Sinewy, tough, sharp . . . evocative, stylist, direct . . . In some sense, this memoir is for people who are the tiniest bit tired of memoir. It gives one the feeling of greater understanding, a sudden, expansive view from the top of a hill. Even though Schneck works at a scale that is deliberately small, insistently concrete, and extremely lean, her writing somehow exposes whole vistas of the female experience.” —Katie Roiphe, The Atlantic

“For Schneck, what’s unadorned is freer, and pure weightless freedom is not only possible but also the highest imaginable achievement . . . in the pool . . . Schneck learned to dispel her illusions, quiet her anxieties, and write with stunning directness.” —Madeline Crum, Los Angeles Review of Books

“Beautiful . . . a gorgeous meditation on the vagaries of being alive.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Universal . . . with grace and hard-won knowledge. No pulled punches here, just truth.” Kirkus (starred review)

Swimming in Paris is a brilliantly written, searingly intimate piece of biographical fiction, the story of a woman experiencing all of life . . . Schneck writes of herself at 17, at 30, at 40, at 50 and beyond with an understanding that is enviable. She unhesitatingly invites the reader into her blunt, beautiful, sometimes terrible thoughts, taking us through her triumphs and losses, and in the end reveals an unparalleled strength and empathy for herself as a woman, a friend, a lover, and a writer.” Booklist

Swimming in Paris is a deep and devastating pleasure. Colombe Schneck writes with bracing intelligence and lucidity; she sees the world, and herself, with hard won clarity. A brave, beautiful, uncommonly tender book about love, death, sex and survival.” —Katie Kitamura, author of Intimacies

“Colombe Schneck’s work expertly weaves the personal with the political. She deftly examines the cost of pleasure, the loss of adolescence, and the complicated bonds between women. Her writing reminds us of love’s ability to transcend death. She fearlessly reflects on the corporeal, how our bodies limit us and set us free. Swimming in Paris is a must read for anyone with curiosity and compassion.” —Aline McKenna, showrunner and executive producer of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

“Colombe Schneck writes with a tenderness and ferocity that’s entirely her own. These overlapping novellas are droll, fearless, and shot through with both romance and dread. Schneck offers a periscopic view into bourgeois Paris and captures the terror and truth of love like only a Frenchwoman can. Each time I read her, I swoon.” —Pamela Druckerman, New York Times Best-selling author of Bringing Up Bébé

“This is valuable writing. It has immense vitality. You will encounter a female narrator whose direct and bright-eyed stare at the world, and herself, is without shame or faux modesty. At the same time, it is also a deep study of existence, at various ages and stages in life.” —Deborah Levy, author of Real Estate

“A dreamy, bruised, and carnal book that pretty much no American would write and pretty much every American will relish reading.” —Lauren Collins, author of When in French

“This remarkable novel is both universal in its description of women’s friendships, and specific and particular in its insights into the French Bourgeoisie, which has always been utterly inaccessible to the English language reader. The experience of reading this book is both gutting and exhilarating.” —Ayelet Waldman, author of A Really Good Day

“The ‘movements’ of Swimming in Paris thrum with life, sparkle with insight. It was an exhilarating read. I’ve never encountered a more perfect depiction of how the world shrinks when you understand that you’re a ‘girl’, rather than a ‘person’. With this book, Colombe Schneck became my Claire Parnet.” Natasha Brown, author of Assembly

Seventeen mines a trauma all too common for women and is published at a time when France has just enshrined abortion rights in their constitution. I found it a tale of frank retrospection, a mature woman looking back on her naive self with love and respect. It is immensely readable and still sadly relevant. Give it to every young woman you know.” Monique Roffey, author of The Mermaid of Black Conch

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593655931
ISBN-10: 0593655931
Publisher: Penguin Press
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 240
Language: English