54 great opening lines: 21

When Gregor Samsa awoke from troubled dreams one morning, he found that he had been transformed in his bed into an enormous bug.

Metamorphosis, Franz Kafka (Trans. by Stanley Appelbaum)

*****

Sometimes I have to read a piece of literature in order to teach it.  This one for example.  I’d avoided Metamorphosis all my life until the day a student emailed to ask for help writing an essay on it.  We agreed to meet a week later, to give me time to read it.  Which I did, feeling again the long flying cockroaches of my childhood scratching their way across my bare feet or arms.  At the end of the week I received another email from her, from the other side of the world.  She had left the country, written her essay without my help, then emailed me to say ‘Forget it’.  Too late, I’d read it, I’d squirmed my way to the end.

But one good thing came out of the exercise:  I discovered its great opening line.

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