First Lines (Primeras líneas)

Some books have unforgettable first lines…

Unos libros tienen inolvidables primeras líneas… 

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man in possession of a good fortune must be in want of a wife.

Es una verdad universalmente conocida que un hombre soltero poseedor de una gran fortuna necesita una esposa.

(Jane Austen: Pride and Prejudice /
Orgullo y prejuicio)

El día en que lo iban a matar, Santiago Nasar se levantó a las 5.30 de la mañana para esperar el buque en que llegaba el obispo.

On the day they were going to kill him, Santiago Nasar got up at five-thirty in the morning to wait for the boat the bishop was coming on.

(Gabriel García Márquez: Crónica de una muerte anunciada / Chronicle of a Death Foretold)

On Friday noon, July the twentieth, 1714, the finest bridge in all Peru broke and precipitated five travellers into the gulf below.

El viernes 20 de julio de 1714, a mediodía, el puente más bonito de todo el Perú se rompió y precipitó al abismo a cinco viajeros.

(Thornton Wilder: The Bridge of San Luis Rey /
El puente de San Luis Rey)

No era el hombre más honesto ni el más piadoso, pero era un hombre valiente.

He wasn’t the most honest or pious man, but he was a brave one.

(Arturo Pérez-Reverte: El capitán Alatriste /
Captain Alatriste)

Cuando vio aparecer a la india en la puerta de la choza, Lituma adivinó lo que la mujer iba a decir. Y ella lo dijo, pero en quechua…

When he saw the Indian woman appear at the door of the shack, Lituma guessed what she was going to say. And she did say it, but she was mumbling in Quechua…

(Mario Vargas Llosa: Lituma en los Andes /
Death in the Andes)

He was an old man who fished alone in a skiff in the Gulf Stream and he had gone eighty-four days now without taking a fish.

Era un viejo que pescaba solo en un bote en el Gulf Stream y hacía ochenta y cuatro días que no cogía un pez.

(Ernest Hemingway: The Old Man and the Sea /
El viejo y el mar)

En un lugar de la Mancha, de cuyo nombre no quiero acordarme, no ha mucho tiempo que vivía un hidalgo…

In a village of La Mancha, the name of which I have no desire to call to mind, there lived not long since one of those gentlemen…

(Miguel de Cervantes: El ingenioso hidalgo Don Quijote de la Mancha / Don Quixote)

The collection above of course is in no way a definitive list of the best first lines ever; it’s merely a selection from my favourites. So feel free to add your favourites in the comments, and to discuss, disagree or share on Facebook. 🙂

Por supuesto, la colección que tienes arriba no es una lista definitiva de los mejores primeras líneas que has leído nunca; es sólo una selección de mis favoritos. Así que no dudes en añadir tus favoritos en los comentarios, y en discutir, disentir o compartir en Facebook. 🙂


2 thoughts on “First Lines (Primeras líneas)

  1. I enjoyed this post. It makes me want to go read. I read somewhere that Don Quixote is the biggest seller fiction book. Don’t know if that is true. I’ve learned not to believe everything I read. I’ve never read it, but the first line still doesn’t grab me. Have you read it?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed it, Oneta!

      I don’t know if Don Quijote is the biggest selling fiction book ever – but it wouldn’t actually surprise me. It’s obviously extremely well-known in the Spanish speaking world and on top of that it has been translated into many languages. I mean, really, everybody knows about Don Quijote even if they haven’t necessarily read the book.

      As for me, I read it in an abridged version in my mother tongue when I was young. It was okay but in no way a favourite. I went back to it recently to read it in the original: I have a scholarly edition that didn’t strike off a single comma from Cervantes’s prose. I did actually really enjoy Cervantes’s style and the story – but not the numerous detours in the plot. So I looked for alternative editions and I found one that I think should suit me – a recent edition by the Spanish Royal Academy, edited by my favourite Spanish author who is a great fan of Cervantes. He hasn’t touched Cervantes’s style but he cut out the bits that are not actually related to the main story; I don’t know how well he’s done it as I’m still to get it from Spain and read it, but I’m hopeful. 🙂

      If you want to try it, I’d advise you to get an abridged version – you can always read the full version later if you liked it enough! Also recently I wrote a post about Don Quijote which might help you to decide if you want to tackle it: you can read it here.


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