Monday, 11 January 2010

Pretentious Opening Lines

I have often thought that having obscure quotes on the opening pages of a book was the height of pretentiousness. Quotes in French, quotes in Latin, quotes from Chinese proverbs about how pebbles are really bigger than mountains or quotes attributed to mythical figures from the twelfth century about the wisdom of hairy-arsed shepherds. If you haven’t managed to communicate all you wanted to in the 90,000 words of the book, will an oracular pronouncement by someone long deceased really make up for it?

But then I wrote a book myself. To be honest, before I even wrote a word of The Mango Orchard, I already knew the quote I wanted on the opening page of the book:

We shall not cease from exploration
And in the end of our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.

It’s from Little Gidding by T S Eliot. I showed it to Trevor, my publisher. He loved it, we just need to get it cleared, he said. The TS Eliot estate, perhaps in an attempt to reduce pretentious quotes at the beginning of books, said no.

We asked again, nicely. They didn’t answer. Then they said no. Buggers.

So I don’t have this quote at the beginning of The Mango Orchard, but I have another. It’s unpretentious and apt. You’ll have to read the book to see what it is.

1 comment:

  1. Dear Robin.

    My name is Javier Castro and I am from Spain. My great grandfather moved from Spain to Mexico, and they were working at Hacienda La Escondida, in Tepic, Nayarit. My grandpa was born there, but because of the ¨unrest¨ they came back to Spain. My grandpa died the same year I was born -1974- so I didn´t have a chance to hear his stories.

    Now I have started to do some research about the story of my family. I posted something in my blog and through it I got in contact with your cousin, Javier Enrique. He passed me the link to your book and I am very excited to read it as soon as it comes out. I already pre-ordered it! :-)He told me that you know well La Escondida, as you have walked together over there :-)

    I am just beginning, reading books and in touch with people. When I have more information, I would like to drop you some lines to share information.

    Looking forward to March 2010, to read ¨The Mango Orchard¨ :-) I wish you a big success!

    Javier Castro