5 Paradigms: Fiction

Germinal, Emile Zola, 1885

[First Line]
Over the flat plain, beneath a starless night sky as black and thick as ink, a man walked alone along the highway from Marchiennes to Montsou, ten kilometers of cobblestones cutting straight through the beetroot fields.

Decades after first reading this, I can still feel the blackness at the bottom of the earth in Zola’s soul-stirring work about coal miners in 1860s France.

Death in Venice, Thomas Mann, 1912

[First Line]
Gustav Aschenbach or von Aschenbach, as he had officially been known since his fiftieth birthday, set out alone from his residence in Munich’s Prinzregentenstrasse on a spring afternoon in 19..—a year that for months had shown so ominous a countenance to our continent—with the intention of taking an extended walk.

A nonpareil novella, its brevity a contrast to the largeness in memory of its tragic protagonist.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

[First Line]
In my younger and more vulnerable years, my father gave me some advice that I’ve been turning over in my mind ever since.

I once wrote about Fitzgerald: “If illusion be the fool’s necessity, he made it a not shameful privation.” Gatsby is the reason.

Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov, 1955

[First Line]
Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins.

Dazzling, still. A bravura of literary dexterity, bringing “Nabokovian” into the lexicon.

One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, 1967

[First Line]
Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.

A journey that altered literature forever, worth revisiting every decade or so.

Next: 5 Paradigms: Film →

One thought on “5 Paradigms: Fiction

  1. A great little list of books… Germinal is high on my list of books that made quite an impression on me. A few of these I haven’t read, but now feel inspired to get around to them soon.

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