46 Great Opening Lines: 15

There were 700 or 800 of them at least. Of medium height, but strong, agile, supple, framed to make prodigious bounds, they gambolled in the last rays of the sun, now setting over the mountains which formed serried ridges westward of the roadstead. Opening lines of Gil Braltar by Jules Verne, 1889, translated by I.O.… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 14

Swish! It is the wind, let loose. Swash! It is the rain, falling in torrents. Opening lines, ‘Dr Trifulgas’, Jules Verne (1884), translator unknown This story in French is called ‘Frritt-Flacc’, the sound of the hurricane and the torrential rain it brings. Dr Trifulgas is a rich old doctor who demands exorbitant fees from his… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 13

The men of the twenty-ninth century live in a perpetual fairyland, though they do not seem to realise it. Opening line, In the Twenty-Ninth Century, by Michel and Jules Verne, 1889, translated by I.O. Evans, 1965 The full title of this short story which is mostly the work of Jules Verne’s son, Michel, is In… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 12

I had never seen so many white coats in my little room. Opening line of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly by Jean-Dominique Bauby, translated by Jeremy Leggatt When Jean-Dominique Bauby wakes from a coma after a stroke, he’s surrounded by medical staff. He can’t move much of his body, just his head and one… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 11

1918. 8 March. There is so much influenza about that they’ve had to shut the university. Opening line, The Gray Notebook, Josep Pla, 1966, translated by Peter Bush   Catalonia is in the news and on my mind. I’m reading Josep Pla’s The Gray Notebook. And it’s in my face, for my desktop picture is… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 10

Midway upon the journey of our life I found myself in a dark wood, where the right way was lost. Opening line of Canto 1, “Hell”, The Divine Comedy, Dante, completed 1320, translated by Charles Eliot Norton.   Dante has lost the “right way” and hopes to find it before he grows old. But he… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 9

Aleksey Fyodorovich Karamazov was the third son of a landowner in our district, Fyodor Pavlovich Karamazov, so noted in his time (and even now still recollected among us) for his tragic and fishy death, which occurred just thirteen years ago and which I shall report in its proper context. Opening line of The Brothers Karamazov… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 8

A ridiculous rumour is going round the neighbourhood about new restrictions. In order better to anticipate shortages and to guarantee improved productivity in the working portion of the population, the authorities are going to put unproductive consumers to death; unproductive meaning: older people, retirees, those with private income, the unemployed and other superfluous mouths. Opening… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 7

In Montmartre there lived a poor fellow named Martin who existed only every second day. From Dead Time by Marcel Aymé, 1936, translated by me! This is the opening line of another short story by Marcel Aymé, Le Temps mort in French, Dead Time in English. The main character, Martin, who is alive one day… Continue reading


46 Great Opening Lines: 6

In Montmartre, on the third floor of 75b Rue d’Orchampt, there lived an excellent gentleman called Dutilleul, who possessed the singular gift of passing through walls without any trouble at all. From The Man Who Walked Through Walls, 1941, Marcel Aymé, translated by Sophie Lewis In my previous post about a great opening line I… Continue reading