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First day, first lines

Soumya Bhattacharya digs out an eclectic collection of opening lines. Read them – and read into them – as you will..

india Updated: Dec 31, 2008 22:15 IST

May I, Monsieur, offer my services without running the risk of intruding?

The Fall, Albert Camus

To make a start more swift than weighty, Hail Muse.

The Golden Gate, Vikram Seth

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.

A Tale of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

Prolixity is not alien to us in India.

The Argumentative Indian, Amartya Sen

Timing is the thing, the ageing Hector wrote from his home on the outskirts of Colombo.

The Match, Romesh


Time is not a line but a dimension, like dimensions of space.

Cat’s Eye, Margaret Atwood

The past is a foreign country; they do things differently there.

The Go-Between, L.P. Hartley

Youth is a country.

The Brainfever Bird,

I. Allan Sealy

The best thing would be to write down everything that happens from day to day.

Nausea, Jean-Paul Sartre

Fear presides over these memories, a perpetual fear.

The Plot Against America, Philip Roth

If I am out of my mind, it’s all right with me, thought Moses Herzog.

Herzog, Saul Bellow

I am a sick man… I am an angry man.

Notes from the Underground,

Fyodor Dostoyevsky

I was the shadow of the waxwing slain

By the false azure in the windowpane

Pale Fire, Vladimir Nabokov

I am nothing but a corpse now, a body at the bottom of a well.

My Name is Red, Orhan Pamuk

The world is what it is; men who are nothing, who allow themselves to become nothing, have no place in it.

A Bend in the River, V.S. Naipaul

I was on the whole very pleased with my day – not many conflicts and worries, above all not too much self-criticism.

The English Teacher,

R.K. Narayan

Every account of the origins of the state starts from the premise that “we” – not we the readers but some generic we so wide as to exclude no one – participate in its coming into being.

Diary of a Bad Year,

J.M. Coetzee

A story has no beginning or end; arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.

The End of the Affair,

Graham Greene

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

1984, George Orwell

The sun shone, having no alternative, on the nothing new.

Murphy, Samuel Beckett

Happy families are all alike; every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.

Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy

Someone must have slandered Josef K., for one morning, without having done anything truly wrong, he was arrested.

The Trial, Franz Kafka

All this happened, more or less.

Slaughterhouse-Five, urt Vonnegut

This is a true story, but I can’t believe it’s really happening.

London Fields, Martin Amis

I don’t believe in God, but I miss him.

Nothing to be Frightened of, Julian Barnes

The idea of eternal return is a mysterious one, and Nietzsche has often perplexed other philosophers with it: to think that everything recurs as we once experienced it, and that the recurrence itself recurs ad infinitum!

The Unbearable Lightness of Being, Milan Kundera

And we end, not with an opening sentence, but with a closing one:


Rabbit at Rest, John Updike