A few months back, in Paris, when my daughter Rosalind was walking to work, she came across a tiny doll, lying in the path. It seemed to have been dropped accidentally, but after picking it up, she wondered if it had been placed there on purpose.
The dolly was quite macabre. One of her arms hung loose. Her right foot was crushed, and her plastic thighs had been flattened. She was dressed in an ugly nappy that went halfway up her torso and someone had put a cross round her neck. Rozzie looked for somewhere safe to put her- and eventually came across a little cage in the park, with succulents planted inside it.
It seemed the perfect home.
Then one evening, a few months later, when Ben and I were visiting her in London, Rozzie remembered the doll. We were strolling around Bonnington Square near Vauxhall, when in the trash we saw a very old dollshouse.
At first glance, it seemed a pity that it was being discarded. It reminded me of the dollshouse I had played with as a girl. Surely it only needed a bit of TLC to get it back in shape.
But when we looked more closely, we noticed it looked like a crack house. There was only one person who might happily dwell here, and that was the lost Parisian dolly.
Fast forward to our holiday in France, a few weeks later. We had gone to Bayonne for the afternoon and wandered into a bookshop, mostly to look at an exhibit of Art Deco posters. While she was browsing, Rozzie became engrossed in a novel whose first paragraph held her spellbound.
It was about a young woman who had just had a wonderfully healthy day. She had run a marathon visited galleries and consumed no alcohol. Then suddenly she realized that what she really wanted was to be bitten and pinched. She wanted to be devoured and swallowed whole. Finally, the important last sentence of the first paragraph read: "She wanted to be a doll in the garden of an ogre." (translation).
"That's disgusting!" I cried. "For God's sake don't read any more."
"But don't you think it's well written?" Rozzie asked.
"Yes, I do. It's horribly compelling. But...." I spluttered. "I don't want to hear any more about it. It's disturbing. And I am absolutely not going to read it!"
"I think I may have to," she teased. "Also, it's her first novel."
There is, of course, no connection between these events. They happened in sequence but coincidentally. Just now I asked Roz by text message to refresh my memory about the author of that paragraph.
It was Leila Slimani and her debut novel is entitled Dans Le Jardin De L'Ogre. You can read the first paragraph here.
"Ah my, how the mighty have fallen!" Rozzie texted me.
"I'm not going to read it!" I insisted. "I just want to put it in a blog post."
"yeah yeah yeah. Suuuuuuure." she said. "Enjoy 'putting it in a blog post' without reading it!"
The impulse is always to make our experiences fit a narrative. Sequences must make sense. This blog post is a narrative. And narrative suggests that all the events in them happen sequencially, for a logical reason.