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E3S3 Lauren Collins

I first met Lauren Collins about fifteen years ago, when we were both working at The New Yorker. I noticed her immediately—the New Yorker can be a quiet place, but she was friendly and effervescent—she even asked me out for drinks! But she was also very focused. She radiated energy––like a blonde, Tasmanian devil, but much more charming and polite. (She grew up in the south, in Wilmington, North Carolina—that may explain it.)

In 2010, The New Yorker sent Lauren––who was by then a staff writer––to live and write in London. She met a Frenchman there, Olivier, who would become her husband. She moved to Geneva for him—and then she made an even bigger sacrifice: she started to learn French. Her book about that, When in French: Love in a Second Language, was named one of The New York Times’s 100 Notable Books of 2016. Soon, she moved to Paris, where she still lives today with her husband and her two little children, writing about current events and the enigmas of language, culture and identity that she runs into every day across the Atlantic.

I talked with Lauren in May, over Zoom, about life in Paris under “le confinement,” which is what the French call lockdown—and about the mysteries of Frenchness that she's still decoding.