Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Opening Sentences of the Day: The Beggar and Changing Places

"White clouds floated in the blue expanse overlooking a vast green land where cows grazed serenely. " -- The Beggar by Naguib Mahfouz. Mahfouz won the Nobel Prize for literature. I am trying to read at least one book by every Nobel Laureate. The Beggar was the first Malfouz book to make it on to my TBR shelf. Not famous like his Cairo Trilogy, this is a 1965 novella about contemporary (1965) Egypt. So far, The Beggar is a little sparse and a little vague, which is why I was lured into starting Changing Places by David Lodge. Opening sentence: "High, high above the North Pole, on the first day of 1969, two professors of English Literature approached each other at a combined velocity of 1200 miles per hour." That's a good one. Lodge caught my attention with How Far Can You Go?, which made it on to Anthony Burgess's list of his favorite 99 novels and my list of favorites for 2008. This 1975 novel tracks an American and a British professor as they swap university spots for a semester.


  1. I read Malfouz's book about Pharaoh Akhenaten and liked that quite a bit. I still need to read The Cairo Trilogy.


  2. Hm. Anyone else feel like Mahfouz's opening sentence is a bit heavy? I'm curious to read something by Mahfouz (we share a Nobel prize goal) and the topic sounds very interesting, but I wonder if I shouldn't get some reassurance that the rest of the book isn't as awkward as the first sentence.

  3. The first sentence describes the painting hanging in the waiting room of his doctor's office. So it is a little more clever than it sounds, reading it out of context.

    But I am finding the book to be slow going. It is very short, but hard to get through. It's technical stuff that keeps tripping me up -- like dialog without identifying the speakers and changing verb tense and point of view all the time -- even within single paragraphs.

  4. I haven't read anything by Lodge yet. I do like that first sentence!


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