"Remember this too: all bad writers are in love with the epic."

— From Ernest Hemingway’s Death in the Afternoon

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman
Opening Passage:
Come, said my soul,
     Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
     That should I after return,
     Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
     There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
     (Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
     Ever with pleas'd smile I may keep on,
     Ever and ever yet the verses owning—as, first, I here and now
     Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Opening Passage:

Come, said my soul,
     Such verses for my Body let us write, (for we are one,)
     That should I after return,
     Or, long, long hence, in other spheres,
     There to some group of mates the chants resuming,
     (Tallying Earth's soil, trees, winds, tumultuous waves,)
     Ever with pleas'd smile I may keep on,
     Ever and ever yet the verses owning—as, first, I here and now
     Signing for Soul and Body, set to them my name,
An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith
Opening Passage:
"The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour."

An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith

Opening Passage:

"The greatest improvements in the productive powers of labour, and the greater part of the skill, dexterity, and judgment, with which it is anywhere directed, or applied, seem to have been the effects of the division of labour."

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
Opening Passage:
"Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton."

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway

Opening Passage:

"Robert Cohn was once middleweight boxing champion of Princeton."

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett
Opening Passage:
"Nothing to be done."

Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett

Opening Passage:

"Nothing to be done."

"What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though."

— from J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye

Oedipus the King by Sophocles
Opening Passage:
"Τέκνα του Κάδμου του παλιού γενεά νέα,
      τι συναγμένοι κάθεσθε σ’ αυτούς τους τόπους,
      με τα κλαδιά της ικεσίας στεφανωμένοι;
      Και η πόλις είν’ από θυμιάματα γεμάτη,
      και αντιλαλεί από στεναγμούς κι από παιάνας;
      Αυτά εγώ απ’ το στόμα να μάθω θέλοντας,
      κι όχι απ’ το στόμα των μαντατοφόρων
      ο πολυφήμιστος ήλθα εδώ πέρα Οιδίπους.
      Λέγε μου ωστόσο γέροντα που σου ταιριάζει
      πρώτα απ’ τους άλλους να μιλής: η αιτία ποια να ’νε
      που ήλθατ’ εδώ στεφανωτοί με δάφνης κλώνους;
      Για ένα κακό που πάθατε ή μήπως γι’ άλλο
      που προσδοκάτε;[1] πρόθυμος να σας βοηθήσω.
      Γιατί θενά ήμουν άσπλαχνος αν δεν λυπούμουν
      αξιολύπητους όπως εσάς ικέτας."


Translated to English by Gilbert Murray

"My children, fruit of Cadmus’ ancient tree
New springing, wherefore thus with bended knee
Press ye upon us, laden all with wreaths
And suppliant branches? And the city breathes
Heavy with incense, heavy with dim prayer
And shrieks to affright the Slayer.—Children, care
For this so moves me, I have scorned withal
Message or writing: seeing ‘tis I ye call,
'Tis I am come, world-honoured Oedipus.
Old Man, do thou declare—the rest have thus
Their champion—in what mood stand ye so still,
In dread or sure hope? Know ye not, my will
Is yours for aid ‘gainst all? Stern were indeed
The heart that felt not for so dire a need.”

Oedipus the King by Sophocles

Opening Passage:

"Τέκνα του Κάδμου του παλιού γενεά νέα,
      τι συναγμένοι κάθεσθε σ’ αυτούς τους τόπους,
      με τα κλαδιά της ικεσίας στεφανωμένοι;
      Και η πόλις είν’ από θυμιάματα γεμάτη,
      και αντιλαλεί από στεναγμούς κι από παιάνας;
      Αυτά εγώ απ’ το στόμα να μάθω θέλοντας,
      κι όχι απ’ το στόμα των μαντατοφόρων
      ο πολυφήμιστος ήλθα εδώ πέρα Οιδίπους.
      Λέγε μου ωστόσο γέροντα που σου ταιριάζει
      πρώτα απ’ τους άλλους να μιλής: η αιτία ποια να ’νε
      που ήλθατ’ εδώ στεφανωτοί με δάφνης κλώνους;
      Για ένα κακό που πάθατε ή μήπως γι’ άλλο
      που προσδοκάτε;[1] πρόθυμος να σας βοηθήσω.
      Γιατί θενά ήμουν άσπλαχνος αν δεν λυπούμουν
      αξιολύπητους όπως εσάς ικέτας."

Translated to English by Gilbert Murray

"My children, fruit of Cadmus’ ancient tree

New springing, wherefore thus with bended knee

Press ye upon us, laden all with wreaths

And suppliant branches? And the city breathes

Heavy with incense, heavy with dim prayer

And shrieks to affright the Slayer.—Children, care

For this so moves me, I have scorned withal

Message or writing: seeing ‘tis I ye call,

'Tis I am come, world-honoured Oedipus.

Old Man, do thou declare—the rest have thus

Their champion—in what mood stand ye so still,

In dread or sure hope? Know ye not, my will

Is yours for aid ‘gainst all? Stern were indeed

The heart that felt not for so dire a need.”

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen
Opening Passage:
"Gjem juletreet godt, Helene. Børnene må endelig ikke få se det før i aften, når det er pyntet. (til budet; tar portemonéen frem.) Hvor meget -?"
 
Translated to English by William Archer
 
"Hide the Christmas-tree carefully, Ellen; the children must  

     on no account see it before this evening, when it's lighted up.  

     [To the PORTER, taking out her purse.] How much?"

A Doll’s House by Henrik Ibsen

Opening Passage:

"Gjem juletreet godt, Helene. Børnene må endelig ikke få se det før i aften, når det er pyntet. (til budet; tar portemonéen frem.) Hvor meget -?"

 

Translated to English by William Archer

 

"Hide the Christmas-tree carefully, Ellen; the children must  

     on no account see it before this evening, when it's lighted up.  

     [To the PORTER, taking out her purse.] How much?"
Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Opening Passage:
"В начале июля, в чрезвычайно жаркое время, под вечер, один молодой человек вышел из своей каморки, которую нанимал от жильцов в С — м переулке, на улицу и медленно, как бы в нерешимости, отправился к К — ну мосту."
 
Translated to English by Constance Garnett
 
"On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge."

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Opening Passage:

"В начале июля, в чрезвычайно жаркое время, под вечер, один молодой человек вышел из своей каморки, которую нанимал от жильцов в С — м переулке, на улицу и медленно, как бы в нерешимости, отправился к К — ну мосту."

 

Translated to English by Constance Garnett

 

"On an exceptionally hot evening early in July a young man came out of the garret in which he lodged in S. Place and walked slowly, as though in hesitation, towards K. bridge."

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Opening Passage:
"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question."

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë

Opening Passage:

"There was no possibility of taking a walk that day.  We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question."