Grendel

ISBN: 8423311252
ISBN 13: 9788423311255
By: John Gardner

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About this book

Grendel es una obra cómica, grotesca y a veces muy triste. Está llena de curiosos y simpáticos personajes, entre ellos un sabio y formidable dragón, el viejo rey Hrothgar y el singular extranjero Beowulf, defensor de la humanidad, medio dragón, medio computadora, de ojos vacios. La novela explora, uno tras otro, los principales valores de los seres humanos y los compara con los del monstruo, viniendo a demostrar que los monstruos son mejores. Para los héroes de Beowulf, Grendel, devorador de hombres, encarnaba el caos, la muerte y la oscuridad pagana que siempre ha rondado por los límites de la conciencia humana. Pero, en realidad, tal actitud responde a que su visión ideal del hombre y de Dios queda repetidamente traicionada al probarle sus ídolos humanos que son falsos e indignos.

Reader's Thoughts

Rob

Something I had forgotten in the 20 or so years since last I'd read Grendel, was that it is not a necessarily a book about the solipsism of "the monster". No, Grendel is largely unconcerned with whether/not the Scyldings exist; his struggle is not with existence [1] but rather one with alienation and isolation. In some ways, he is the ultimate outsider: not human enough for the Scyldings, too human for the animals -- the only ones that will speak with him are an aloof dragon [2] and a senile/deranged priest. [3] Grendel is not evil so much as he is an introspective nihilist.---[1] Making it "not really" an existential novel?[2] Who further isolates him by granting him an apparent albeit apparently tenuous invulnerability.[3] It is hard to count the conversations with Unferth and "the stranger" (Beowulf, the Geat); those challenges are more like lop-sided dueling soliloquies.===original mini-review, per original reading (approx. April 1997):Incredible work. Helped shape my goals as a writer at a pretty early age. For better or worse.

Spuddie

I actually "read" the downloadable audio version. Narrated by the incomparable George Guidell, this is the Beowulf story told from the point of view of Grendel, the monster. While it is, indeed, ‘just a story,’ it’s also a commentary on the basic nature of humankind, about the darkness (and the light) that resides within each of us. I listened to this on the heels of reading The Book Thief, so it was a very contemplative week at my house. ::grin:: Guidell does a stellar job with the narration (as always!) and the story provides a different, and quite interesting spin on the tale of Beowulf, Hrodgar, Grendel and the Dragon, although of course if you’ve read the original, you know from the get-go how this is going to end. Well worth the few hours of listening time! A.

Sean

Wonderful. Grendel is a tormented monster. This we know. But why is Grendel tormented? As I read, his anguish began to seem familiar, and - horror of horrors - I began to identify with him. Eliot's plea in "Ash Wednesday" - one of my favorite poems - applies:"Will the veiled sister between the slenderyew trees pray for those who offend herare terrified and cannot surrender"Grendel is tormented by his own nature: he longs for faith, goodness, and virtue, but cannot escape his deep skepticism, anger, and resentment. And that is something I recognize in myself all too clearly. This struggle either makes Grendel human, or me a monster. All the more reason to ask for the prayers of a veiled sister.

Marvin

I recently read Beowulf which I deemed an impressive relic. I admit I read it mainly to prepare myself for Grendel. John Gardner's retelling of Beowulf from the monster's viewpoint was a delight from beginning to end. But I think it tells a lot about modern man. Perfect heroes no longer interest us. We identify with the imperfect, the grotesque and the insecure. Gardner's Grendel isn't so much evil as confused and conflicted. In between gobbling humans and wrecking mead halls, he is struggling with his, and everyone else, role in the universe. He becomes cynical with much disdain for heroes and values. At one point he goes to a dragon with the ability to see the past, present and future. The dragon's advice isn't much help: "“My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it.” Grendel is actually quite an idealist..and like many idealists he becomes a nihilist when he discover the world is not one that makes sense. Gardner's brilliance is in seeking out the fear and anxiety of his monster and making him more human than the humans. It is no mere accident that Beowulf not only shows up late but nameless. He is simply a cog in Grendel's tragic life. The other humans are trite, vain and fragile. Grendel may be a brute but he is not a blind unthinking brute. Go, Grendel, Go. A galaxy full of five stars for this modern masterpiece.

Ryan H

Grendel was one of the most interesting books I've read. I found myself scratching my head after the first page, wondering what the heck was going on. As the book went on, I found it a little easier to understand. It was just very hard to follow Grendel's thoughts. His whole living situation was perfect for this book, all secluded from people and away from everything. I found myself in the beginning hating Grendel because of his thoughts and actions. Some things he said were so gruesome and grotesque that I had to put the book down. He also was malicious when he killed people, at one point snapping a mans head off and “sucked the blood that sprayed like a hot, thick geyser from his neck." Chapter by chapter my passion for hating Grendel grew, both in the character itself and being forced to read it. I did appreciate the authors vivid imagery about scenery, and his love of animals. I can't stop thinking of what a fire snake would look like. And that poor ram that was brutally beaten by Grendel for no real reason. Then with a dramatic twist the reader has to wonder well maybe Grendel isn't the only bully. Grendel, at times, almost seems to reach out to the town people only to be shunned and almost killed. The town people would not give him a chance, which you could then see why he had some much hatred toward them. As the book came to an end I was, hate to say it, glad it was over. I know the historical aspect of why we read it, but besides that point I would go out of my way to make sure people didn't read it. Grendel's thoughts and actions are so disturbing that it seems like the book should have a rated R sign on the front. In the end I still disliked Grendel, even seeing it from his side. I was also really missing action throughout the book. I mean there was a lot of fighting, but the majority was deep philosophical thoughts of Grendel, which left me making my head spin. I rated the book two stars just for the imagery and the historical reference. I would unfortunately have to advise anybody I knew not to read this book, not because I didn't like it, but because it was so disturbing that I don't know how anybody could like it.

Astrid Yrigollen

Howl mad Grendel, howl. Howl your rage,your loneliness, your loathing. Ah, I love books that make me feel poetic!Where to start on this classic? I went in to it expecting nothing and came away with much.The cover was what made me pick it up since I love monsters,beasties and other creatures(Oh, is that title taken yet? Would make a great name for a comp).How can you not be attracted to the cat/dogman howling in what I thought was dispair? There were times I could relate to the Grendel who is a monster, but other times, he was absolutely revolting to me. He both hated and needed mankind.He was both a loner and lonely.Forever looking for a connection, an equal, but admiration would quickly turn to scorn and eventually lead to someone getting their head bitten off.I swam through the book hoping for Grendel to redeem himself for me,shaper of worlds that he was, but just as in real life, sometimes we expect to much from our creatures. Grendel is at once violent and poetic and at times, a character study of humankind.

Dracostellarum

I'm not sure of what to think of this book. The style shifts a lot, and clearly Gardner put a lot of work and thought both to its narrative construction and to the themes he was covering in the book. That being said, I was more aware of how the book was written rather than why. The words and the construction of the narrative got very much in the way; I was too aware of them. It seemed very skeletal, not a whole lot of flesh or life to it. There is a lot of philosophy, and its introduction seems forced. It would be a fascinating book to sit and pick apart for hours and hours, but as its value as something readable...not entirely sure of that.

Adam

Gardner writes in The Art of Fiction, that once the mechanism of an analytical plot is figured out, much of the magic becomes the illusory wielding of gimmicks from behind the curtain. Grendel warrants some reconsideration, the writing enough (figurative and just plain good prose), carries pleasure beyond the staging of ponderings into civics and humanity, light footed into the full bodied character of Grendel. Beside a solid plotting, this Anglo-Saxon tale retold from his other half, gates the great themes from British beginnings through Romanticism to Hardy’s hollow raving into the void, in the preponderous entertainment with which the Scops must of belligered their songs into the night. So if you have come to know poor Grendel from that other much told tale, come pleased to meet him. The British have given us the Rebel Cool of Lucifer, and now another beat in that heart of darkness, so “Have some sympathy, and some taste/ Use all your well-learned politesse/Or [he’ll:] lay your soul to waste, um yeah”

N.T. Embe [Against GR Censorship]

I must say, coming right into this book after having read Beowulf was really quite a jump initially, simply because of the change in styles. But it was such an interesting read, and it was really brilliant and tragic getting to see things from Grendel's point of view. What was even more fascinating was how much time passed before the part that we commonly know from the Beowulf poem, which gives very little on Grendel himself and focuses more on its namesake's journeys.Still, we get a lot of backstory and insight into the Danes that Grendel was terrorizing, and it reads almost like a reinspired Frankenstein--as I kept making small mental notes about parallels between Shelley's masterpiece and Gardner's Grendel. I even saw the moment where my brain pulled out a correlated scene from the movie Megamind and Grendel, when Grendel makes the conscious decision to play his role of the bad guy since he'd so been deemed by the rest of humanity.It was a very emotional rollercoaster, even without any tear-jerking moments. It read very much like philosophical tragedy, and it fulfilled the role of one well. Even in Grendel's most grotesque and cruel moments, his decision-making is the kind almost any reader can connect to, even if we're disgusted by what Grendel does. The reality of why he does it hits home clear as sunrise in the flatlands, and makes for a--not necessarily "predictable"--story, but one that doesn't surprise us either in the turns it takes.I found it a very good story, and probably reading this outside of a classroom setting, I'd even say that most people will be able to relate to Grendel and the situation he's in. Especially considering that most people have in some way, shape, or form known what it's like to be that outcast or that person who's had a role thrust upon them that they don't want to fulfill, but that the world tells them they should. It has a lot of re-reading value, I think, and it definitely will speak to most readers.It's also not shy about handling things frankly, so for some of you that might be a little thrown off by the beginning, just keep reading. It's done this way for a purpose.On a lightly fangirly note, I must say that the additional insights to characters like Hrothgar and Wealtheow, Hrothulf and Unferth, all of them minor characters or unmentioned in Beowulf was really one of my favorite parts of reading this story. So much more about them was fleshed out, and there are entire stories that could be written about each of these characters if others so chose to focus on them. Gardner did really wonderful there, and I can't express how much interest these minor figures evoked in me as I read through this tale.Beowulf himself, the hero of the tale that spawned this reimagination, was a strange mix of what I believed was perfectly in character, a disappointing twist (possibly even a twisting out of character, I would go so far as to say), and an overall amazing force given life like none other in the pages of this book except for Grendel himself or the Dragon. While it killed my fangirl heart to see him portrayed slightly differently than the conclusions I'd come to make about him through study in my course, it was so intriguing to read his character from a different portrayal. Gardner did such an interesting job of writing Beowulf that it hardly matters that the hero (or villain, depending on how people interpret him) shows up only when the book is about done. In the several pages that he's shown in the story, he makes up for it with a life, a presence, that is truly inspired.Overall, I've got to say that this book turned out to really be unexpectedly good. I loved the different point of view that it provided me after I'd just finished reading Beowulf, and it brought so much more life and conflicting thoughts to a tale that already has been one of history's most debated pieces of literature. I definitely recommend people pick this book up, whether they know about the Beowulf tale or not yet. But if you've read Beowulf before, then you should definitely give this one a look too. I guarantee it'll be worth it for the insight it provides.Anyway guys, hope you enjoyed the review! And happy reading~

Allie

Grendel stumbles through life in philosophical mumblings, searching for the tiniest shred of joy in every adventure he journeys. His mother has loved him in a way animals love their young. She helps him survive, but she doesn't nurture him. The humans, in which he placed his trust, laughed and mocked him out of fear. Their minds would not let them understand that Grendel was not out to hurt them. Grendel softens the hearts of readers as his life folds out in a heartbreaking tale. He reaches and reaches for a hope of a happier, more fulfilled life. An unattainable goal.

Antof9

This is one of the strangest books I have ever read. And I've read a lot of books. Perhaps it seems strange to me because I never read Beowulf in any class, nor had I read this before now; I don't know. But it's really, really weird.My book club read this last year (or the year before), and I was out of town during that time, so although I had the book, I'd never read it. The whole time I was reading it, I wondered if I had the right book. For a time I thought maybe I was reading a YA book (because of the cover and the size of the print), but I'm pretty sure I read the right one. Sadly, I was also (in my head) connecting it to Beowulf, but the writing seemed so (semi-) modern that I finally had to check the copyright date. OH! 1971. Well.Isn't one of the main deals about a book supposed to be that somehow, some way, the author makes you care about something? Well, here's a rare novel where I cared about pretty much nothing. Not the poor, sad, lonely monster, not the self-centered Hrothgar nor his marauding sycophantic hordes. Now that I think about it, the only character I wanted to know more about was the poor Wealtheow.I can't help but wonder if I'd have liked this book better or at least found it less weird if I'd read Beowulf. However, if that's a prerequisite, I wish it would say so!Other than Wealtheow, the other character of interest was actually the dragon. The dragon actually has the best line of all: My advice to you, my violent friend, is to seek out gold and sit on it.And now I have to ask the book club what they thought about this!

Joshua Nomen-Mutatio

During a routine walk from the kitchen to the main room, he stopped mid-stride and suddenly realized that no actual speech had escaped his mouth in what was, sadly, many years. And even very few non-lingual sounds aside from occasional coughs and heavy, anxious breathing ever passed between his lips and the world. He scrolled through his long-term memory for the last time he'd spoken and before reaching a definitive answer he interupted himself with the realization that no matter what the specifics, it had been a very, very long time. This made him feel unspeakably dreadful. He decided that words needed to come out of his mouth right then and there. He parted his lips, did something instinctive with his throat and a little staccato "Ah!" sound sputtered forth and immediately halted. It was then that he grimly realized how foreign the process of speaking had become. Something within had atrophied. Suddenly he felt about as intelligent as a tree stump. This compounded the misery. This was supposed to be effortless but it no longer was. Then, as the purpose of language took hold, he expressed his fear, sorrow and frustration with perhaps the oldest language of all: unfettered screams and moans. All manner of such sounds came rushing out of him. Bellows, wails, shrieks, unhinged cackles, hoots, feral pitch-shifts, agonized AHHs and sickly, tattered OOOHs. Lunging and stumbling around the cavernous main room, he indiscriminately hurled the products of his rumbling diaphram and vocal chords at objects, at space between objects, at the thoughts piling up inside himself, sometimes feeling as if he might knock them over or obliterate them with the force of his emotions-becoming-sounds. He briefly envisioned himself as some monstrous, insane version of a symphonic conductor. He caught a glimpse of himself in a distant mirror on the other side of the room and this only amplified the tremendously unnerving cycle of storage and relief that was moving through him. He felt possessed by the sound. He felt that he possessed it. These alternating currents of channeling and being channeled through carried on for some time. His throat had become raw and sore, his lungs ached, felt aflame. He slumped upon the floor, back against the staircase. He heaved atop the first few steps with his eyes closed. He felt like weeping but no tears would approach. He decided that getting noise out of himself was something he'd need to do more often. He didn't exactly feel pleasant, but his head felt clear and his body lightened in a way it never had before and this was vastly superior to the alternative. It wasn't until then that he realized just how backed up with words he'd been. How much of an island he truly was. All he could think of after a while of laying there--covered in evaporating sweat, finally regaining a steady heart rate, now feeling happily emptied--was how he could make his noises louder.

Arianne "Tex" Thompson

Look, I'll be honest: I'm never going to win a triathlon. Yes, scrubbing floors and wrestling dogs keeps me stronger than your average sedentary librivore, but my ecological niche is definitely chair-shaped.Even so, I was surprised at how challenging this book was. Take this sentence, for example:I am aware in my chest of tuberstirrings in the blacksweet duff of the forest overhead.The first time is pretty much "bwah?" The second time, your brain starts to adjust to higher-altitude reading. You say, "okay, tubers are basically ground-plants, like yams and such, and maybe I only understand 'duff' as Homer Simpson's favorite beer, but the only place tubers can stir is in the dirt they live in, so he must be saying that he can feel the roots moving in the ground above him." The third time, you've done all the heavy lifting, so you can sit back and admire how pretty the sentence is, and pat yourself on the back for being such an enlightened reader.But let me tell you, doing that for an entire novel wore me right out.And maybe that's because I'm too long out of college, with Dostoevsky and the less-punctuated parts of Faulkner's oeuvre now six years in the rearview mirror. Maybe it's because so much of the rest of the great American bookshelf is the equivalent of a nice, leisurely walk, where we waddle along enjoying the scenery and congratulate ourselves for being so far superior to those teevee-watching schlubs who are even now forming covalent bonds with the butt-groove in the couch. Regardless, this book was a 200-page stairmaster marathon. I'm glad I read it, and I know it was good for me. If I read it another couple of times, I'd probably really enjoy it (I see it does not lack for enthusiastic praise from truly erudite readers!) But at the end of the day, my to-read pile is growing ever taller, and there wasn't anything in Grendel that makes me want to go suck out the marrow and wear its skin on my face.But let me not discourage you from doing exactly that: even my corn-fed intellect can tell that there is serious meat in these bones, for anyone willing to break a sweat cracking into them.

Irene Lê

I understand that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears. I understood that, finally and absolutely, I alone exist. All the rest, I saw, is merely what pushes me, or what I push against, blindly - as blindly as all that is not myself pushes back. I create the whole universe, blink by blink. Have you ever feel that life is absolutely meaningless? The struggles you are facing - money, college, family problems, friends, relationships, shits and fuckeries, are all mere accidents produced by misunderstandings between people and random chances? Have you ever convince yourself that you don't give a shit when people decrease your self-esteem and comment snidely about your hair whatsoever? Yet even though these struggles and discrimination are meaningless - because well hey, we are all going to fade into dusts anyway, who cares what our hair looks like - we are still depressed and gnawed by it. There seem to be a thirst, a desire in human to create a meaning out of this pointless existence, a desire for hope (even went so far as fabricating up false hope when none exists), a desire for self-revolution and infinite capacity to do good. This theme plagued Grendel.As a monster, Grendel was an outcast in the society of men. He tried to communicate to them, to smile at them, to help them - his intentions were originally innocuous (Resemble that of ours when we are little children), but men pushed him away because of his differences . Then he realized men are so cruel, they wage war against their own kin, they slept and cheat on women, they sing of great deeds of which they never actually do- "no wolf was so vicious to other wolves". He felt enraged. Are Gods real? if they are real why they create death and diseases? what's the point of universal creation only to inflict pain? should we pretend that life has a meaning or accept that it doesn't? This is pretty sophisticated for a monster [ lol, I would definitely adopt him as a pet ], but sadly, Grendel descended to the road of evil, galvanized by nihilistic ideology and his simplistic viewpoint of men. Out of isolation and madness, Grendel started to ravage, kill, murder. Out of this purposeless existence, he became a monster, formed his own identity, adopted the role of evil, because he can't be good, because biologically he was born for murder, because he is had anguish to join mankind but it wasn't fulfill. He used purposelessness as a justification of harm. He savages society for its imperfection, but failed to realize the importance of acceptance, rebirth and creation. Then Beowulf arrived [epic music]. "Sing walls" Beowulf said, as he smashed Grendel's head into the walls .This puzzles me at first - like hello, I never see an action movie where the hero makes the monster sings before he kills him .But in his letter, Gardner explains its metaphor: "What Beowulf says, in effect, is this: one looks at the world--bangs one's head against it--and one has two choices, to accept it as it is or to transform it, shake it to life by imagination. ("Sing walls," Beowulf says. He means, of course, not just the wall Grendel's head has just banged but all life's walls--the walls which lock us away from other people, finally the great walls birth and death.) Grendel has asserted a dead, mechanistic world of brute accident; but by the accident of meeting Beowulf he's forced to discover how accident can be turned into a good, how imagination can reshape and ultimately improve the world--at least for the lifespan of a given civilization." Grendel seems to understand this at he stands on the edge of the cliff - Is it joy I'm feeling? and launched himself into the abyss. He welcomed death as a relief from a hellish, lonely existence. This is why this motherfucking book deserves zillion stars!!!!!

Katie

Warning: This book review might not make sense unless you read Beowulf, because these two books coincide, but Grendel's view on life and the way it lived throughout this book made me rethink Beowulf. Grendel is crazy, it's a bit psycho, but it has some reason to not be normal. It's a monster in a human world. Grendel's mom is insane and the only thing she ever told her child was "dool dool." This wasn't very helpful in Grendel's life. It had nothing to follow except watching stupid humans and then... You'll find out how he interacts when you read the book. Happy reading!

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