I stumbled upon this week’s published piece curled up in bed on Sunday morning flipping through The New Yorker. The image caught me — mountains in flames and glasses forgotten on a white counter-top. Living in Santa Barbara, we’ve recently gone through the biggest wildfire in California history. In the middle of December. It’s been said over and over that there is no longer a fire season. Every season is fire season with our changing climate and drought-stricken landscape. Mass evacuations, apocalyptic skies, smoke masks, and emergency supplies: how do we adapt to this new world?
Of course, I dove right into the story — “The State of Nature” by Camille Bordas. The story centers upon an ophthalmologist who gets burglarized and searches the flea market called the Thieves’ Market to try to regain her lost goods. Throughout the story, Bordas explores the themes of loneliness, self-reliance and survival in interesting ways. Here are some questions to ponder while reading “The State of Nature”:
- How do material belongings play into the notion of connection and loneliness?
- Is it better, or even possible, to survive (the impending apocalypse) in isolation?
- How does the author play with sight in this story, and being able “see” one another (especially between “state-of-nature guy” and the narrator)?
- How does the author subtly build up to the reveal about the mother’s secret?
Camille Bordas has published two novels in French. Her ﬁrst English-language novel, “How to Behave in a Crowd,” came out last year.