46 Great Opening Lines: 46

This is it, 46 of 46. More importantly, together with the 54 Great Opening Lines I posted a couple of years ago (click on ‘categories’ to go there), now there are a hundred all together.

This last opener is from my (unpublished) translation of a book of short stories. Here today in Canberra it’s mid-winter, about 10 degrees celsius with an icy breeze that spoils a good walk. Winter Tales came to mind not only because of the weather but because, as a translator, I’ve been reading it so closely for so long that I want to show you a little of its magic.

Tom River Valley, near Tomsk, western Siberia, courtesy Andrei Zverev, Flickr

It was Christmas, a few years ago. I had been invited to join a wolf hunt in a province of the Russian interior. The morning was superb: ten degrees of frost, a bright sun in a blue sky, not a breath of wind; plains stretching to the horizon, everything a raw white with pink glints and hints of gold; a dead world gleaming like old bone china.

First lines, Winter Tales, Eugène-Melchior de Vogüé, 1893, my translation

Certain words of the first two sentences had my attention from the start: Christmas, wolf hunt, Russian interior.

Set in Russia and Ukraine, these tales are the writing of a French diplomat who lived there for seven years and married a Russian aristocrat. His unnamed narrator, invited to join the wolf hunt, was staying with a host who had lived through the times of serfdom and its abolition. The host tells stories of former serfs, beginning and ending with his own story as a property and serf owner during this era.


And that, my friends, is my last offering to the list of Great Opening Lines. I do hope you’ve been inspired to hunt down some of these books, particularly the less-known novels and collections. If you have, please leave me your kind reflections on them.


4 Replies to “46 Great Opening Lines: 46”

  1. Super effort, Trish, You are definitely a stayer, as distinct from a sprinter. A few of your excerpts have made it to my ‘wish list’. Your latest immediately brought to mind Dr Zhivago – probably the train passing though similar winter scenery. Thank you for the regular stimulation you have provided with this series.
    …Now, back to my current reading list. G&P, Ken

  2. I like Chesterton very much, and I have “The Sign of the Broken Sword” in my wish list…

    What a great work, Trish. Following your list was a privilege.

  3. Thanks for following my list. It’s good to know someone was reading it! But my big question now is: Where to from here?

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