In Tomasz Jedrowski's Swimming in the Dark, set in the early 1980s, the narrator, Ludwik, commutes to midtown Manhattan for work. The text makes clear that he has to cross a river to get there:

This morning, like every morning, I took the subway across to Manhattan.       (p. 121)

Or when he is wandering around in his neighborhood:

I walked to the waterfront, to the broken-down piers. Across the foamy river the skyline of Manhattan was drawn against the sky ...       (p. 185)

Where in the New York metropolitan area does Ludwik live? There are four possibilities:

  • Brooklyn, across the East River
  • Queens, likewise across the East River
  • The Bronx, across the Harlem River
  • New Jersey, across the Hudson (if "subway" refers to the PATH train, which, although underground, isn't technically part of New York City's subway system).

Staten Island, across Upper New York Bay, can be discounted, since there's no subway from there to Manhattan.

Another possible clue is that when calling his friend Jarek from Third and East 43rd, an intersection near his Manhattan workplace, Ludwik says that Jarek works "down in Queens" (p. 121). This perhaps suggests that Ludwik doesn't himself live in Queens. But someone with a better grasp of the geography of New York city and the vocabulary its denizens use to describe the various boroughs and neighborhoods, or someone who has picked up other indications from the novel, might be able to locate the area where Ludwik lives more precisely.

  • As an aside to my answer below and not having read the novel, where is the New York part of the story coming from as the main things I get from searching; it is set in Poland and the author lives in France.
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 17:52
  • The narrator has escaped Poland and lives in NYC. The book is largely his recounting a love affair he had when in Poland, but the narrative present is in New Yawk
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 17:56
  • Ah, okay that makes more sense now, none of synopsis mention the narrator living in Noo Yark.
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 17:58
  • Third and East 43rd is actually Midtown, and is directly across from Queens.
    – Alex
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 23:46
  • @Alex thanks, edited. I did see on the map that it was across from Queens
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 23:50

2 Answers 2


Ludwik lives in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. See the first few pages, "Wanda's Greenpoint Convenience".

  • 3
    Whoa. Thank you for stopping in, Mr Jedrowski. Love your novel!
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 9:35
  • 3
    @verbose Well, I am glad to see my educated guess was correct. This is so cool you received a direct response!!
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 20, 2021 at 11:40

This answer is coming from my experience of living and working in the northern NJ/NY area for almost 20 years...

To me the only area where you would have both "broken down piers" and be "across the river" from Manhattan would be Brooklyn.

Brooklyn is where many of the historic "piers" are. These days they are parks and recreation areas but in days gone by they were hubs for passenger liners and cargo ships alike. (Further reading about the piers and their recent revitalization)

This also fits well with the "Manhattan was drawn against the sky" as from Brooklyn one would be looking west to Manhattan and this could provide a sharp relief of the skyline during sunset.

I rule out The Bronx due to the lack of piers and that if one was looking across the river there it would be to Harlem which isn't exactly known for its skyline the way lower Manhattan is. Similarly, I also rule out Queens as it doesn't really have the piers (at least not large famous ones). New Jersey could be another option as it would have the broken down piers and a good view of the skyline from places in Bayonne, Jersey City, or Hoboken, but I think the author would make that known as there is fierce rivalry between the residents of the two states.

As for "down" that can really mean anywhere. Down colloquially can mean any direction, except for perhaps "up-state". Think "down the shore", or "down to grandma's house". So I don't really Queens being East of Manhattan and Brooklyn would really factor into it.

  • Cool, Brooklyn was my guess, but I don’t know NY well at all, so nice to have it confirmed. I went to Brooklyn by mistake once. I missed my subway stop and oops, we’re not in Manhattan any more ....
    – verbose
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 17:53
  • @verbose Yeah it is what makes sense to me having spent a lot of time up that way (moreso on the NJ side). I think the process of elimination works pretty well and without more concrete evidence of a direct mention or possible more history about author (like if he lived in NY for a time or something) it fits.
    – Skooba
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 17:56
  • You don't take the "subway" from New Jersey to Manhattan, you take "PATH" or "the train" (depending on whether you're traveling on PATH or New Jersey Transit). Nobody in New Jersey or New York calls PATH the "subway".
    – Peter Shor
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 19:40
  • 2
    @PeterShor To be fair, most native New Yorkers don't call it 'the subway' either, but just "the train."
    – Tiercelet
    Commented Apr 14, 2021 at 20:28

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