54 great opening lines: 12

Of late years, an abundant shower of curates has fallen upon the north of England:  they lie very thick on the hills;  every parish has one or more of them;  they are young enough to be very active, and ought to be doing a great deal of good.

Shirley, Charlotte Brontë

*****

Are you imagining it, the shower of curates?

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54 great opening lines: 11

There is a French saying which runs:  ‘A dry fisherman and a wet hunter have the same sad look.’

Living Relic, Ivan Turgenev

*****

One of Turgenev’s ‘Sketches from a Hunter’s Album’:  a short story that could be told on canvas, so intimate are the descriptions, so charged the emotions.  The reader is pulled into the wattle hut to sit beside the narrator in an unexpected conversation with a ‘living relic’.

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54 great opening lines: 10

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip.

Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

*****

I had to read it at school and liked it then; I still like it now.  There’s enough Gothic darkness and joyful resolution to satisfy me.

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54 great opening lines: 9

All true histories contain instruction; though, in some, the treasure may be hard to find, and when found, so trivial in quantity that the dry, shrivelled kernel scarcely compensates for the trouble of cracking the nut.

Agnes Grey, Anne Brontë

*****

Agnes Grey is trying to be independent and earn an income, albeit to help her poor parents.  It is the 1840s and she has little choice but to work as a governess.  Although she has no trouble finding a couple of jobs, her charges, the children, are unmanageable and their families unexpectedly scorn her.

I empathised with Agnes as she struggled to tutor pupils in their own homes, who feel free to run around the room or sit under the table or go into the garden and kill innocent chicks in a nest.

The opening line of Agnes Grey is a great piece of Brontë wisdom.

 

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Ailsa’s travel photo challenge: Bridges

Bridge photos, I’ve posted a few.   But here’s one you haven’t seen:

Imbaba opening bridge, Nile River, Egypt, c1941
Imbaba opening bridge, Nile River, Cairo, c1941

The Imbaba Bridge is a swing bridge in Egypt. A photo of the swing section can be found here.

You might also be interested in this post of mine from July about another opening bridge on the Nile, the El Gala’a Bridge, or, as it was known in 1941, the English Bridge.

And below, from a post in December, this excellent bridge perspective.  Thanks to Ahmad Omar (see his comment below) I’ve discovered the name of this bridge:  Aboul Ela Bridge, also known as the Abou el Ela, Abou al-Ela, and the Boulak Bridge.  It was constructed between 1908 and 1912 and dismantled in 1998.

March - THROUGH. Nile Bridge, Cairo, c1941
Abou el Ela Bridge, Cairo, c1941

And you should look at the Beckett Bridge in Dublin by night, on Ailsa’s blog.

 

 

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54 great opening lines: 8

My father and mother should have stayed in New York where they met and married and where I was born.

Angela’s Ashes, Frank McCourt

*****

I was surprised to find my own family in this book.
This afternoon I was about to list the similarities, but was silently checked by this commandment:  ‘Honour your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you.’
It is enough to say, Read it.

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A Short Story from New Caledonia about Japan. Translated from French

Origami

by Anne Bihan

(© Translation by Patricia J.F. Worth)

Trembling.  It’s what I do best. I’m an expert at trembling. I have an incredible mastery of trembling. Had it since I was very small. Since the day I started kindergarten, the teacher has been telling my mother who comes to pick me up every day, running from the Sendai–Minami Sanriku train; she has been telling my father who never misses a fete at the Shizugawa school: Your daughter, she trembles; it’s amazing how she trembles; it’s amazing how well she trembles. Perhaps she didn’t say exactly that at the end, Your daughter, how well she trembles, but she looked so impressed that I think she did. I am the best at trembling.

It began the first time someone said, All children under the table. At first, I hesitated. When the voice repeated, All children under the table, the Earth is trembling, I thought, it’s the table with the red tablecloth, and on top of it all the flowers and the birds and the horses and the multicoloured lanterns of the origami class for the school fete, if it starts trembling, us underneath, no one to watch it, everything will be knocked to the ground, the fete knocked to the ground. But the voice insisted, so I slipped under the table with the others, and I thought the only thing to do was to tremble all together, me, us, the table, the flowers, the birds, the horses, the multicoloured lanterns of the origami class for the school fete. And that’s what I did; every time, that’s what I did and the teacher said, Your daughter, she’s an earthquake on legs; and the old doctor Tokiji Watanabe looked at me for a long time, a long time, and he said, There is actually a sickness called ‘Essential Tremor’ or ‘Familial Tremor’, but to be sure, we’ll have to wait till she grows up, and she’ll have to learn to live with it.

Learn to live with it; Papa says, It’s Shinto, it’s knowing that everything is connected, nothing and no one is ever separated, it’s our pride. I’m not sick, my name is Katsumi, Victorious Beauty; my father chose my name and he never misses the school fete that takes a long time, a long time to get ready, sometimes all year, and every day when parents ask, What did you do today?, me, Katsumi, I answer, Today we got ready for the school fete, and the next day, and for days and days, when Papa or Mama asks What did you do today?, always the same answer, Today we got ready for the school fete.

This morning, Friday 11th March 2011, for the school fete, for the origami class, I brought in some beautiful old paper that Grandma Sadako gave me. There’s a drawing on it that frightens me, but Papa says, Fear is like the tengu, like trembling, you must tame it; take this picture, it’s by Hokusai, our ‘Old man mad on painting’, his Great Wave off Kanagawa, it’s everywhere in the world, it’s our pride. So I dared to take it because folding, it calms my trembling, and especially because I saw her in the folds, the creases, the teeth and the claws of the sea on the paper: the crane of my dream. She was just waiting for me so she could fly away. And that’s what I did. All morning, I had to fight with this rotten drawing and my trembling. In the end, she was standing on the table with the red tablecloth; the one‑thousandth crane for Grandma Sadako, who folds one every day, saying, It’s my prayer; and she was the most beautiful, too.

She’s Prussian blue and yellow ochre, with greys like you’ve never seen over her whole body; here pale like shellfish soup, there dark like pea soup, and a very white spot on her throat. The great wave living inside her doesn’t frighten me any more. Papa is right. Everything is connected, no one is separated. It was 2.30pm when the voice shouted, All children, quick, the Earth’s trembling. I held her close to me under the table with the red tablecloth. Both of us lying down, folded, patient. When I put her up to my ear, I clearly heard the roar of the sea; Mama, running from the Sendai–Minami Sanriku train; Papa, his footsteps, full of pride, coming to the school fete. She was just waiting for me so she could fly away. I’m not trembling any more.

Anne Bihan, Noumea, New Caledonia, 29 April 2011

'Great Wave off Kanagawa', Hokusai
‘Great Wave off Kanagawa’, Hokusai (Image courtesy Wikipedia)

 

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54 great opening lines: 7

Trembling.  It’s what I do best.

Origami, Anne Bihan (Translated by me)

*****

You may have read this short story in French.  🙂  But if you didn’t, then let me show you what it looks like in English.  The author, Anne Bihan, has given me permission to blog my translation of it, so, after dinner, I’ll post it.  If you’d like to see the original French version, go to p. 13 of the online publication, Il y a toujours une guêpe pour piquer le visage en pleurs:  http://issuu.com/ecrireenoceanie/docs/il-y-a-toujours-une-guepe

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54 great opening lines: 6

The day broke grey and dull.

Of Human Bondage, W. Somerset Maugham

*****

It’s a great opening line, and it sets the mood for the book, even to the contrasting last line:

‘Cabs and omnibuses hurried to and fro, and crowds passed, hastening in every direction, and the sun was shining.’,

a line which I assume is supposed to fill the reader with optimism.  I closed this book with a groan, my mood still grey and dull.

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54 great opening lines: 5

I had the story, bit by bit, from various people, and, as generally happens in such cases, each time it was a different story.

Ethan Frome, Edith Wharton

*****

This week’s WP Photo Challenge, Kiss, prompted one blogger to tell us that his hometown isn’t a place where public kissing is encouraged.  He compared it with Starkfield in Ethan Frome.

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