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Swimming in the Dark

4.23  ·  Rating details ·  16,705 ratings  ·  2,728 reviews
Set in early 1980s Poland against the violent decline of communism, a tender and passionate story of first love between two young men who eventually find themselves on opposite sides of the political divide—a stunningly poetic and heartrending literary debut for fans of Andre Aciman, Garth Greenwell, and Alan Hollinghurst.

When university student Ludwik meets Janusz at a su
Hardcover, 191 pages
Published April 28th 2020 by William Morrow (first published February 6th 2020)
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Tomasz Jedrowski Hello Biko, it depends on your level. The language is not exactly simple...but the Polish edition is absolutely beautiful: https://www.osnovapublishin…moreHello Biko, it depends on your level. The language is not exactly simple...but the Polish edition is absolutely beautiful: https://www.osnovapublishing.pl/
By the way the original is in English.
Enjoy, whichever edition you pick!
Tomasz (less)
The Song of Achilles by Madeline MillerCall Me By Your Name by André AcimanAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzMaurice by E.M. ForsterThe Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Best Gay Fiction
2,216 books — 3,467 voters
Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonSwimming in the Dark by Tomasz JedrowskiAristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire SáenzGiovanni's Room by James BaldwinThe Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi
OE LGBTQ+ Fiction
34 books — 15 voters

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Average rating 4.23  · 
Rating details
 ·  16,705 ratings  ·  2,728 reviews

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Will Byrnes
…we can never run with our lies indefinitely. Sooner or later we are forced to confront their darkness. We can choose the when not the if. And the longer we wait, the more painful and uncertain it will be.
This is a stunning work of surpassing beauty!

Tomasz Jedrowski - image from Interview Magazine

Ludwik Glowaki did not fit in. Communist Poland in the 1980s. A period when the old regime was beginning to crumble. A time when being gay was a criminal offense.

Ludwik, living in New York City, l
Kai Spellmeier
Jan 27, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer, owned
when the dedication almost makes you cry, you know you're in for a good one ...more
May 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Some people, some events, make you lose your head. They’re like guillotines, cutting your life in two, the dead and the alive, the before and after.

Every so often a book comes along that just hits all the right notes for you, charming you while also compelling you to grip the covers as each frenetic flip of the page pulls you further into a story you want to see how it plays out yet never want to reach the ending. Polish author Tomasz Jędrowski’s glorious debut, Swimming in the Dark, did just
Larry H
May 08, 2020 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars, rounded up.

Swimming in the Dark is a gorgeous story about love, longing, sacrifice, and secrets.

Ludwik and Janusz first meet at a Polish summer work camp in the early 1980s. Ludwik is mesmerized by Janusz’s carefree manner, his bravado, and his handsomeness, all of which awaken a longing which frightens him. The two connect by chance one night at the river, and they quickly fall into an intense relationship.

When their time in camp is done, they spend a few weeks alone together, ca
May 31, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The pain of separation of a homeland and losing someone to himself. Initially this left me a bit cold but the final 20 pages or so elevate the whole book to an aching, melancholic beauty
I avoided you, so that you couldn’t avoid me.

Initially I was not fully enthralled and thought I read the story Swimming in the Dark before. But the ending despite my trepidation made me tear up.

There is a (for me) distinct lack of dialogue in the first 50 pages, quite descriptive with a lot of metaphors. The rela
Elyse  Walters
Oct 14, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Swimming in the Dark” is a debut novel by Tomasz Jedrowski — a graduate from Cambridge University and the University of Paris. Born in Germany to college parents, he has lived in several countries, including Poland, and currently lives outside Paris, France.

This tender-compassionately-told story is set in the early 1980’s Poland….set against the violent decline of communism.

At the very beginning of the story we are introduced to a memory from when Ludwik, (in his 20’s), was a young 9 year old
May 13, 2020 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2020-reads
“My life was a tiny narrow corridor with no doors leading off it, a tunnel so narrow it bruised my elbows, with only one way to go. That or the void, I told myself. That or leave.”
This book speaks in a quiet voice, but the surprising strength of a quiet and lyrical voice can be unexpectedly mesmerizing.

The setting is Warsaw, Socialist Republic of Poland in 1980 - the Soviet period, full of stifling bureaucracy, food shortages and endless queues for some and rich great and fun life of excess
Shile (Hazard's Version) RL sucks on semi hiatus
5+++++++ "I adored this book more than you knew,"Stars.

Warning! Quotes! Quotes and more Quotes.

I walked home slowly. The air was suffocating. The sky was grey, and sticky wind blew through the streets, swirling up dust. The few people around looked hurried, caught inside their own minds even more than usual, their faces like masks.


GAAAAAAAHHH! I went into this one blind, after another convincing review from my friend Annery

This is the story of Ludwik.

Told in my favourite POV ever, 2nd person
Frank Phillips
May 06, 2020 rated it really liked it
This was such a short book that packed such an amazing punch!! This was queer historical fiction at its finest, I'm absolutely gutted! As heartbreaking as this book was to read, I found myself wanting more, thinking 191 pages is not nearly enough! I wanted so much more of this story, I wanted to know what happens with Ludik and Janusz down the road?! Do their paths cross again? Does Ludwik find some form of happiness? My goodness, I've never found myself craving so upon finishing a novel. This f ...more
Sahil Javed
May 07, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Swimming in the Dark is Tomasz Jedrowski’s debut novel. Set in early 1980s Poland, amidst the decline of communism, it tells the story of the relationship that develops between Ludwik and Janusz, two students who meet and then develop a relationship at a summer camp, only to find themselves on two opposites sides of the political divide.
“I don’t know whether I ever want you to read this, but I know that I need to write it. Because you've been on my mind for too long. I am done with pret
luce ❀ wishfully reading ❀
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“It’s best to start with the beginning—or at least what feels like it. I realise now that we never much talked about our pasts. Maybe it would changed something if we had, maybe we would have understood each other better and everything would have been different. Who can say?”

Swimming in the Dark is a strikingly elegiac novel. The story, in its broadest terms, explores a young man’s identity and sexuality under Communist Poland.
In December 13th 1981 martial law is d
Jul 19, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I am a sucker for the tragedy! Who is to blame here? Society? The Party? Janusz? Ludwik? Hania? The author paints every scene with just the right details to let your mind vividly imagine every scene: from working in the fields, to the lake, to the cities, to the tram, to the gatherings of people. The sexual encounters are lean, but their placement and meaning is clear. There is so much more going on in this book.

There are parents and grand parents and societal pressures here. You must remain tru
Apr 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
4.5, rounded up.

While I can see why the names Aciman, Greenwell and Hollinghurst are invoked in the synopsis, to me the more relevant antecedent would be Kundera, and this read to me as nothing less than a gay Polish The Unbearable Lightness of Being. For a debut novel, Jedrowski has a firm hold on his material, and though there are a few passages that are a bit overly flowery, or oppositely, seem stilted (I had to look to see if this was indeed translated into English early on), for the most pa
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
i'm a polish gay and i deserve to read this novel abt historical polish gays as soon as possible, thanks for agreeing @ edelweiss ...more
Mar 06, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2021

Absolutely beautifully written, tragic, heart breaking, but also incredibly relatable.
Roman Clodia
An elegiac love story filled with melancholy and longing as the narrator struggles with sexual identity against the repressive background of Poland under Soviet rule. The writing flows easily but is spoilt at times through overwriting, especially in the figurative language and forced similes and metaphors. The details of everyday life in Poland are involving and I like that there's no miraculous ending. An intimate book with an emotive aura, simple but striking: 3.5 stars

ARC from NetGalley
Swimming in the Dark is Tomasz Jedrowski's debut novel, but this elegantly written queer historical fiction novel is so profound that you'd never know it. Set in Post-World War 2 Poland, the central character Ludwik is navigating life through communism while battling his own demons.

As Ludwik develops his distain for Poland's communist restrictions, he also comes to terms with his sexuality. The novel is written as an epic love letter or story to one of the most important people in his life,
Jun 15, 2020 rated it it was ok
Recommended to James by: benj landman
Boy meets boy, falling in then out of love, in Jedrowski’s debut novel that, while peppered with moments of understated beauty (especially in the first three chapters), ultimately left me cold. As Ludwik grapples with “a vast cavernous emptiness inside [him],” so too does Swimming in the Dark struggle with the same, often feeling less like its own book, with a distinctive singular voice, than a book of books, their echoes patchworked—not necessarily intentionally, probably subconsciously—from ot ...more
Reading_ Tamishly
Apr 28, 2020 rated it really liked it
💌 Some memorable lines (in order of appearance):

📌 "It was the sort of early summer that erases any memory of other seasons, one where light and warmth clasp and feed you to the absolute."

📌 "This is how I lived back then - through books. I locked myself into their stories, dreamt of their characters at night, pretended to be them. They were my armour against the hard edges of reality."

📌 "The law of gravity applies to memories too."

📌 "With the inexplicable logic of dreams, I was certain that I was
Jan 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: lgbt
"Swimming in the Dark" is Tomasz Jedrowski's debut novel, and from the turn of the first page this story of young love, lost love, and dystopian realities will have you hooked.

Following Ludzio as he falls in love with Janusz all while confronting the ghosts of the USSR in 1980s Poland, this story shows life for gay people behind the iron curtain. This novel, though, is far more than just a love story; it's a story about the ways in which our politics and our position in society can shape, and di
Jan 09, 2022 rated it really liked it
ah yes... starting off my new year with pain.
Carolyn Marie Castagna
Jan 20, 2021 rated it it was amazing
Oh my poor broken heart!
I offer wonder why it is that I love heartbreaking love stories so much? Maybe it's the strange satisfaction that comes with such powerful emotions. Maybe it's the way they feel more honest and true. Or maybe I like seeing that not all types of love are loves that end a story, but begin a new one. Maybe it's all three. Maybe it's more than just these three. But I do. I love a tragical romance.

My one question is: Why haven't I heard more people talk about this STUNNING bo
Richard Derus
What a beautiful little book. First review of #PrideMonth on my blog, 1 June.
Aug 28, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most beautiful , well-written, painful , artistic book that I have ever read. Tomasz Jedrowski is unquestionably a remarkable writer.
Jan 17, 2021 rated it it was amazing

»And the odds had been stacked against us from the start: we had no manual, no one to show us the way. Not one example of a happy couple made up of boys. How were we supposed to know what to do? Did we even believe that we deserved to get away with happiness?«

This is one of those books I will never forget. I have shelf 6-stars-unforgettable‎ and here I keep books I remember often during my everyday life and they won't ever be forgotten by me. I could say I keep them near my hea
This is being marketed as a close kin to Call Me by Your Name and in a sense it is. However where André Aciman's story was sweet and almost ethereal like a perfect summer pop song or a lemon gelato Swimming in the Dark will leave teeth marks and possibly scars. It should.

The blurb does a good job of summarizing the story so I won't rehash it. What mesmerized me was Tomasz Jedrowski's lyrical style, his use of language which is at once poetic and cutting like a knife. Ludwik's journey of self dis
May 13, 2021 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Jenny
This book slayed me like took my heart and threw it in the garbage can. But I am proud to say I did not cry.


As you may know this is set in 1980s Poland at the end of the Communist party and in the heart of a large Catholic movement. Not only is this story extremely political but Janusz is now moving up in the ranks of government. Ludwik is not only gay but he is on the incorrect side of the political fence. How can these two lovers ignore the outside world and exist together?

In my office at
Jul 29, 2021 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: queerlit
I've always thought that if you loved or were in love with someone, you'd accept them for who and what they are, no questions asked. This book, for me, was an example of what happens when you fundamentally disagree with what the person you love believes to be right about things like freedom of speech, social equality and civil oppression.

Not what you'd expect to read about in a love story but love story this is not. There is one there and it is heartfelt and at times frustrating but in its core
J.Paul Suarez
Solid! I don't know anything about communism in Poland, and I know reading this book won't be enough for me to explore all the nuances of that particular era, but I really liked the story and the complex characters. Usually with this type of novels, I always feel emotionally manipulated so I settle with 3 stars at max, but it's the poetic writing that made my legs melt into a whole pudding of mess. Those carefully-attached words, the rhythm and cadence of the lines, sentences, and paragraphs, ar ...more
Lyn❤Loves❤Listening #AUDIOBOOKADDICT
The audio is currently on sale for $5.00 to audible members until 9/17/20. Will M Watt narrates and he's definitely a talented performer.

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