Best opening sentence

Discussion in 'U.K.' started by lithium, Apr 11, 2007.

  1. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    I've always loved this as an intro to a book:

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

    Top that! From Kafka's "Metamorphosis". What are some of your favourite opening lines from books?
  2. L.A.Matthews

    L.A.Matthews Senior Member

    There's always been some debate about that opening line.

    Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

    - Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

    That's probably one of my favourites.:)
  3. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    I know there are several different translations...
  4. L.A.Matthews

    L.A.Matthews Senior Member

    In my copy it says:

    One morning, as Gregor Samsa was waking up from anxious dream, he discovered that in bed he had been changed into a monstrous verminous bug.

    Quite different.:)
  5. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    Yeah it is, I like the "troubled dreams" bit, much more concise and evocative than the other versions. Mine is the translation by Malcolm Pasley in the Penguin Classics edition. Would be interesting to look it up in the original German.

    *edit* here it is:

    Als Gregor Samsa eines Morgens aus unruhigen Träumen erwachte, fand er sich in seinem Bett zu einem ungeheueren Ungeziefer verwandelt.

    I think the concise translation works best to be honest; "unruhigen Traumen" for "troubled dreams" and "ungeheueren" is probably somewhere between "gigantic" and "monstrous". I like translations that keep the tone of the original, and the original in german seems sparse and concise rather than wordy.

    Anyway all this aside, it's a great opening concept, no matter how it is worded!
  6. CaptainDave

    CaptainDave Hip Forums Supporter HipForums Supporter

    "Tyler gets me a job as a waiter, after that, Tyler's pushing a gun in my mouth and saying, the first step to eternal life is you have to die."

    Fight Club, Chuck Palahniuk.

    It really sets the mood for the rest of the book!
  7. CrucifiedDreams

    CrucifiedDreams Members

    That one line makes me want to read the book.
  8. L.A.Matthews

    L.A.Matthews Senior Member
  9. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    In my opinion the wordy translation of "monstrous verminous bug" while undoubtedly more technically accurate, completely ruins the effect of that first sentence. I think tone, richness of connotation and impact are far more important factors to preserve than hammering the meaning to the wall with specificity of denotation. Do you have an opinion? I'd be interested to hear it:) Perhaps preference has something to do with which version you first encountered...
  10. Roffa

    Roffa Senior Member

    "It was the afternoon of my eighty-first birthday, and I was in bed with my catamite when Ali announced that the archbishop had come to see me"
  11. mynameiskc

    mynameiskc way to go noogs!

    is that from knowledge of angels?
  12. mynameiskc

    mynameiskc way to go noogs!

    ah, burgess, earthly powers. i love the internet. trying to figure that one out would have driven me insane.

    while i utterly despised the pedantic wordiness and obsessive/compulsive and totally unnecessary tangents of Moby Dick, i still feel like "Call me Ishmael" is the the best, most evocative opening lines of all time.
  13. Peace-Phoenix

    Peace-Phoenix Senior Member

    Nope, though great book, one of my favourites. I interviewed the author for my student newspaper a while back....
  14. mynameiskc

    mynameiskc way to go noogs!

    man, one summer i had a great reading marathon. i'd just moved to durango and hit a used book store. i got The Butcher Boy, Knowledge of Angels, A Debt To Pleasure and some tom clancy thriller. between parties, hikes, camping trips and drunken binges, i read like crazy.
  15. Peace-Phoenix

    Peace-Phoenix Senior Member

    If you liked Knowledge of Angels, you may also like A Desert in Bohemia, by the same author....
  16. mynameiskc

    mynameiskc way to go noogs!

    i'll look it up. thanks.
  17. mynameiskc

    mynameiskc way to go noogs!

    edit: freaky double post.
  18. sentient

    sentient Senior Member

    The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde

    High above the city, on a tall column, stood the statue of the Happy Prince. He was gilded all over with thin leaves of fine gold, for eyes he had two bright sapphires, and a large red ruby glowed on his sword-hilt.

    He was very much admired indeed. "He is as beautiful as a weathercock," remarked one of the Town Councillors who wished to gain a reputation for having artistic tastes; "only not quite so useful," he added, fearing lest people should think him unpractical, which he really was not.

    "Why can't you be like the Happy Prince?" asked a sensible mother of her little boy who was crying for the moon. "The Happy Prince never dreams of crying for anything."

    "I am glad there is some one in the world who is quite happy," muttered a disappointed man as he gazed at the wonderful statue.

    "He looks just like an angel," said the Charity Children as they came out of the cathedral in their bright scarlet cloaks and their clean white pinafores.

    "How do you know?" said the Mathematical Master, "you have never seen one."

    "Ah! but we have, in our dreams," answered the children; and the Mathematical Master frowned and looked very severe, for he did not approve of children dreaming.
  19. lithium

    lithium frogboy

    "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."

    JD Salinger - The Catcher in the Rye (1951)
  20. Roffa

    Roffa Senior Member

    in a similar vein:

    "You don't know about me, without you have read a book by the name of 'The Adventures of Tom Sawyer', but that ain't no matter".

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