Grand spent the entire time of the plague writing the first sentence to his novel. This project gave him purpose and distraction at a time when it was very easy to fall prey to ruminating about his wife who ran away. Interestingly his first attempt at the sentence read “On a fine morning in the month of May, an elegant woman was riding a magnificent sorrel mare through the flowered avenues of Bois de Boulogne”. Near death, he asked for his words to be burnt. But since he ended up living, he had a chance to “start again” because strangely enough, he could “remember everything” about that one sentence.
In the case that he did start over, an alternate path for his obsession with the imagery contained in that first sentence could be to attempt to convey it in six words. It would be an interesting exercise to see which words he chose to keep and which words he chose to let go off (and which new words he chose to add), bringing us closer or farther in our speculation on whether the woman in the story is his wife trotting away from his life.
The six word story is usually traced back to Ernest Hemingway although some speculate it has more ancient origins. Ernest Hemingway accepted a challenge to convey a story in six words and a success at it won him many bucks from his friends around the table. His six word story read