Wednesday, December 09, 2009

Striking opening lines

Like John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, I found some striking opening lines of novels. The first one hit me like a slap when I first read it. Camus brings you face to face with his character immediately. I haven't obviously read all of these, but the first lines promise much.

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Mother died today. Or maybe yesterday, I don't know.
- Albert Camus, The Stranger.

It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.
-Geroge Orwell, 1984

Lolita, the light of my life, the fire of my loins.
-Vladimir Nobokov, Lolita.

Erendira was bathing her grandmother when the wind of her misfortune began to blow. The enormous mansion of moonlike concrete lost in the solitude of the desert trembled down to its foundation with the first attack. But Erendira and her grandmother were used to the risks of the wild nature there, and in the bathroom decorated with a series of peacocks and childish mosaics of Roman baths they scarcely paid any attention to the caliber of the wind.
The grandmother, naked and huge in the marble tub, looked like a handsome whale. The grand-daughter had just turned 14 and was languid, soft-boned, and too meek for her age.
- Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, The Incredible and Sad Tale of Innocent Erendira and Her Heartless Grandmother

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eight-four days now without taking a fish.
- Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea.

I am an invisible man. No, I am not a spook like those who haunted Edgar Allan Poe; nor am I one of your Hollywood-movie ectoplasms. I am a man of substance, of flesh and bone, fiber and liquids—and I might even be said to possess a mind. I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me. Like the bodiless heads you see sometimes in circus sideshows, it is as though I have been surrounded by mirrors of hard, distorting glass. When they approach me they see only my surroundings, themselves, or figments of their imagination—indeed, everything and anything except me.
- Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man

They're out there. Black boys in white suits up before me to commit sex acts in the hall and get it mopped up before I can catch them.
- Ken Kesey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest

An ash-gray dog with a white blaze on its forehead burst on to the rought terrain of the market on the first Sunday in December, knocked down tables of fried food, overturned Indians stalls and lottery kiosks, and bit four people who happened to cross its path. Three of them were black slaves. The fourth, Sierva Maria de Todos los Angeles, the only child of Marquis de Casalduero, had come there with a mullata servant to buy a string of bells for the celebration of her twelfth birthday.
- Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Of Love and Other Demons

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times; it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness; it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity; it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness; it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair; we had everything before us, we had nothing before us; we were all going directly to Heaven, we were all going the other way.
- Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two cities

As Gregor Samsa awoke one morning from uneasy dreams he found himself transformed in his bed into a gigantic insect.

- Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis

Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, General Aureliano Buendia was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

- Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, 100 Years of Solitude

"Who is John Galt?"
- Ayn, Rand, Atlas Shrugged

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way
- Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

"If you really want to hear about it, the first thing you'll probably want to know is where I was born, and what my lousy childhood was like, and how my parents were occupied and all before they had me, and all that David Copperfield kind of crap, but I don't feel like going into it, if you want to know the truth."
- JD Salinger, Catcher in the Rye

It was inevitable: The scent of bitter almonds always reminded him of the fate of unrequited love.
- Gabriel Gárcia Marquez, Love in the time of Cholera

"Yes, Sir. Certainly, it was I who found the body. This morning, as usual, I went to cut my daily quota of cedars, when I found the body in a grove in a hollow in the mountains."
- Ryūnosuke Akutagawa,In A Grove (made into Rashomon by Akira Kurosawa)

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife."

- Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

They say when trouble comes, close ranks and so the white people did.
- Jean Rhys, Wide Sargasso Sea

Which of these do you find the most striking to open the book? If you know of more, do write in.
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