THE OPENING SENTENCE
DAILY WRITING PROMPTS 6
DEATH ARRIVED by brewery truck/lorry (döden kom med ölbil). That’s the opening sentence in The Democratic Terrorist (Den demokratiske terroristen), Swedish author Jan Guillou’s second book in the series about secret agent Carl Hamilton. Code name Coq Rogue. It was adapted into a film in 1993, with the brilliant Stellan Skarsgård as Hamilton. I don’t think I’ve seen it, though.
The plot is simple. Verfassungsschutz, the security police in West Germany, asks Sweden to help them infiltrate a group connected to terrorist group Rote Armee Fraktion. Carl Hamilton goes undercover, pretending to be a disgraced and ostracised Swedish officer. His alleged crime: Having been in contact with an East German spy.
Hamilton travels to Hamburg where he infiltrates the terrorists. As a member of their group, he’s involved in the planning of an attack on the CIA headquarters in Stockholm…
Jan Guillou is a famous journalist, columnist, author and publisher in Sweden, and one of my favourite writers. I’ve read all of the books in the Coq Rogue series, but he’s also written a crusades trilogy that I’ve yet to read. They are set in a fictional medieval universe where Arn, the son of Birger Jarl, rides to Jerusalem to become a Knight’s Templar. I think.
What I love about Guillou’s writing is that, stylistically, he’s similar to Salman Rushdie. He has a way of painting whole worlds with his words, and weave socio-political and psychological aspects into the canvas. Whether he writes fiction or factual pieces, he always touches something deep inside my writer’s soul. And that’s regardless of whether I enjoy the plot or agree with the point he’s making.
I guess some people have a certain flair that makes their writing brilliant. The rest of us just have to write, write, and write some more hoping that practice will make us better.
– Now, let me hear your favourite opening sentence.
Let’s talk! You’re welcome to drop links to your posts using today’s prompt in the comments below.
See you tomorrow,
© Evalena Styf, 2022
Writing prompt from #WordPress 365 Days of Writing Prompts: 5 January, Take the first sentence from your favourite book and make it the first sentence of your post.
“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of light, it was the season of darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair.”
There must be so many great openings for books, but this one grabs me. I’d not like to choose between all the great opening lines in all the books of the world, so my favourite might be a different one at another time, but this is the only one I can remember at the moment, and it springs readily to mind.
It is of course Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities. It is so memorable that I almost forgot to mention. The vast majority of people will at least have heard the start of it, but might not realise how long the entire sentence is.
Dickens was writing in Victorian England, when reform of many systems was both needed, and being provided, so he could see very clearly how dark the world was, and yet how much was being done to improve it. The sentence is very subjective though. To any individual, it is easy to see the validity of it, because we each exist in a state of equilibrium with the world, overcoming our own hardships, and seeking a better life. Our best and worst is contextual according to how we fit into our environment. Our pains are always the worst that we can know, because they are ours, and our joys are always the greatest we can know because they are ours. As long as we keep struggling to survive, and we maintain hope, we are always climbing for the best of times, but we are always overcoming barriers. Societies go through transitions, as if every member of a society is a variable resister, each one trying to dial up the light within their life. Ordinarily there is a broad homogeneity of light sustained across the board, but sometimes, the board is particularly dim. That is the time to dial up your energy to maximum, and shine, so the rest of the board realises there is something more. Then they start to dial up their energy, and the board that has over time become so dim, is illuminated into the birth of a new golden age.
This action happens in stops and starts. The reforms of the Victorian era, and a century earlier, The Enlightenment saw surges of energy, but the atrophy continues. Sometimes the board lights up spectacularly, as it did in the centuries following Homer’s Odyssey, or in The Renaissance. The world changed for centuries, but then after a few centuries the atrophy again began to settle in. Now we are in a dark time. There are many benefits in education, knowledge, scientific achievement, but they cloak the hidden aspects of darkness that lurk under the surface, attacks on free speech and the liberty of the individual. This is the best of times, but it is again the worst of times. It is the Winter of despair Jon Snow promised us, but it is the start of the Spring of hope, that Sammy Davis Jr promised us. Now is the time to shine again, because soon, we will enter the greatest golden age humanity has ever known.