Britain's first book blogger (November 2000). This Space is now a major motion picture, or something.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A voice comes to one in the dark

A room.
He stands at the window.
And a voice says: Everything passes. The
good and the bad. The joy and the sorrow.
Everything passes.

There are some books whose first lines, the opening lines, are enough. Reading them, you know this is it. This is why you read.

For me, the first in memory was in 1986: the beginning of chapter 2 of Kundera's The Unbearable Lightness of Being (after the digression about Eternal Return).
I have been thinking about Tomas for many years. […] I saw him standing at the window of his flat and looking across the courtyard at the opposite walls, not knowing what to do.
Then in summer 1989, the first line of Peter Handke's Across:
I shut my eyes and out of the black letters the city lights took shape.
A year later, it was Thomas Bernhard's Concrete.

The more one reads, however, the less it seems to happen. Books become more and more alike. They do what novels do. That's all. Sometimes it seems it'll never end. But when I read the first paragraph of Gabriel Josipovici's new, sixty-page novel Everything Passes, it happened again.

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