Prominent French academic and author, Anne Dufourmantelle, who wrote about the importance of taking risks, died Friday while trying to rescue a drowning child at the beach in Saint-Tropez.
She was 53.
It was her friend’s 10-year-old son who was struggling in the water, reports Le Monde, and Dufourmantelle succumbed to a heart attack while trying to come to his aid.
Other news outlets, including the BBC, say it was two children Dufourmantelle was trying to rescue and that they were ultimately brought safely to shore by lifeguards.
Swimming conditions were not good Friday at the Pampelonne Beach with strong winds and high waves, according to television channel France 3. An orange warning flag had recently been switched to red, prohibiting people from being in the water, when Dufourmantelle was overcome by the strong current.
That Dufourmantelle sprung into action, despite the risks, perhaps comes as no surprise. In 2011 she wrote a philosophical book called Éloge du Risque (In Praise of Risk).
“The idea of absolute security — like ‘zero risk’ — is a fantasy. … Being alive is a risk,” Dufourmantelle told the French newspaper La Liberation in a 2015 interview.
“When there really is a danger that must be faced in order to survive, as for example during the Blitz in London, there is a strong incentive for action, dedication, and surpassing oneself,” she said.
In addition to being a prolific author, Dufourmantelle was a philosopher, psychoanalyst and professor at The European Graduate School.
According to her biography on the school’s web site, she studied at Brown University, earned her doctorate in philosophy from Paris-Sorbonne University and trained and practiced in the Freudian tradition of psychoanalysis.
She was also a member of the esteemed Académie française, a council charged with protecting the French language.
France’s culture minister Françoise Nyssen tweeted Sunday, “Emotions following the death of Anne Dufourmantelle. Great philosopher, psychoanalyst, who helped us live, to think about the world of today.”
The BBC reports her funeral is scheduled for Tuesday in Ramatuelle in the South of France.