I had three potential quotes in mind for the epigraph of The Reengineers.
The hero Chinmay’s adventure begins when he steps out from one library to another, and encounters a man who is likely to be his author. The much loved lines from T S Eliot were symbolic of the surreal adventure of Chinmay and his friends.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always present.
Footfalls echo in the memory
Down the passage which we did not take
Towards the door we never opened
Into the rose-garden. My words echo
Thus, in your mind.
But to what purpose
Disturbing the dust on a bowl of rose-leaves
I do not know.
Inhabit the garden. Shall we follow?
T S Eliot, Four Quartets
I also thought of using these lines from Edgar Allan Poe, which evoke the plot of the book in more than one way.
Is all that we see or seem
But a dream within a dream?
Edgar Allan Poe, A Dream within a Dream
I finally decided to choose the opening line of one of the most beloved books of all time, which perfectly summarises the premise of the book, on what made a person the hero of his own life.
Whether I shall turn out to be the hero of my own life, or whether that station will be held by anybody else, these pages must show.
Charles Dickens, David Copperfield
David Copperfield was one of my favourite heroes as a child. He still is. The quintessential writer hero who narrates his life story. When I started writing The Reengineers, I had assumed that Chinmay would be closer to Holden Caulfield from The Catcher in the Rye considering the similarities that they both share, such as a smothering family and existential angst fuelled by teenage depression. But when I finished writing the novel and read it objectively, I found myself unconsciously associating the grown up Chinmay who appears for a fleeting moment in the epilogue with David as he completes narrating his own story.
The Reengineers begins with fifteen year old Chinmay waiting in a library on a sweltering Summer morning, reflecting upon his plans to kill himself. It concludes (no spoilers here) with a grown up Chinmay in another time and place, looking out at his snow-covered garden from the warmth of his library, musing upon who really was the hero of his life. Looking back, I believe that there could not have been a greater inspiration, or a better epigraph for The Reengineers than the quote above from David Copperfield.