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September 23, 2022

Scolnik’s memoir explores first love and the role of memory in our lives. The BookLife Review praised the author, saying, “She takes readers on a journey with her not just to Paris but deep into matters of the heart.”  

You have mentioned that Paris Blue is a story that has lingered in your mind for 40 years. Why did you need to tell this story?

I might begin by quoting a line by Maya Angelou: “There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.” This is exactly how I’ve felt for the past four decades. The story begins in 1976, when I arrived in Paris to study on a junior year abroad program. As much as I loved my new poetic city, by November I was feeling lost, so I joined a fabulous chorus that sang with the Orchestre de Paris. On the third rehearsal, from across a sea of 200 faces, I was drawn forcefully to Luc, a handsome, married, French lawyer in the bass section, and that is where this love-at-first-sight tale begins. The story spans three decades, evolving from deep romance to sudden heartbreak and finally to a lifelong quest for answers that would allow me to release a hidden immutable grief. I didn’t wake up one morning and decide to write this book—the journey began decades ago! It went from memoir to novel and back again, and every 10 years I would haul it out and work on it. I sent it out before it was ready, got discouraged, and didn’t touch it again for years. I finally learned that a memoir is a universal truth as illustrated by a personal story. When I found my truth and my title came to me, I knew I had a book. After seeking closure that never came, I essentially had to write my own ending, which brought about its own sort of needed catharsis.  

How were you able to remember entire conversations from 1977?

At the age of 22, in the fall of 1978, just after the heartbreak, I wrote down in longhand the story up to that point in time. I had not kept a journal during our romance, but when it was over 18 months later, I was able to transcribe every detail and verbatim conversation, remembering it all as if it had been indelibly imprinted in my memory. Then, as the years passed, I added more current material.

Why do you think Paris Blue has been resonating across boundaries, race, age, and gender?  

I really believe that everyone has a story of first love like this. Countless readers have already written to me that they couldn’t stop sobbing at the end, so deeply did it reawaken something from their past. I am fascinated by this, and it’s what I hoped might be the case. I think that when we share our story, we share our humanity, how we triumphed over something, and our stages of transcendence. I hope part of what people take away from this memoir is that when an intense, romantic “first love” ends suddenly without answers, it can take a lifetime to get over; that music, poetry, and Paris can drive love to madness; and that our memories are not to be canceled but treasured, whatever the outcome, for, as Wordsworth said, they are our “life and food for future years.”

Is there one line in the book that encompasses what it’s about?

Yes. “When you fall in love at twenty... does the heart form around the other person, like an old tree slowly absorbs a sign hung on it when it was a sapling? And then, when it’s gone, do you forever feel the lack of it, feel its imprint, where it once rested?”