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Grendel (1971)

de John Gardner

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6,1011091,655 (3.83)194
Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. Mythology. HTML:The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his own side of the story in this frequently banned book. This  classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic. This is the book William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions.".… (més)
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1970s (52)
AP Lit (84)
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» Mira també 194 mencions

Es mostren 1-5 de 108 (següent | mostra-les totes)
I’m pretty sure the answer to life, the universe, and everything is somewhere in this book. A more philosophical monster than the nihilistic Grendel you would have trouble finding, even including Frankenstein’s creature. Good vs. evil, politics, religion, art, the power of language to construct reality, you name it, this book’s got it. I’m also motivated to finally get around to Beowulf, since it will be all the more interesting with Grendel’s view to contrast it with.
“The dragon tipped up his great tusked head, stretched his neck, sighed fire. ‘Ah, Grendel!’ he said. He seemed that instant almost to rise to pity. ‘You improve them, my boy! Can’t you see that yourself? You stimulate them! You make them think and scheme. You drive them to poetry, science, religion, all that makes them what they are for as long as they last. You are, so to speak, the brute existent by which they learn to define themselves.’”
( )
  Charon07 | Jul 14, 2024 |
I adored Beowulf from the first time I read it as a little girl. My mother (I was homeschooled for a good chunk of my school years) assigned me this book as required reading (fairly rare, but then, I rarely needed to be told to read, even ‘classics’ or what my mother called 'nutritional' books) when I was about fifteen.

Possibly the worst part about this book was the utter betrayal it represented. I was actually really excited about this! And then. Oh and then. Then I . . . started actually reading.

I was so enchanted by the pitch – Beowulf told from the point of view of the ‘monster’? Grendel’s story? A familiar tale told from a new angle? That’s one of my favourite things! And one of my favourite stories!

This book is actually very short. 174 pages in a quite small volume. I wish I could say that was a blessing, but it took me roughly six weeks to read. (In that time I read about three dozen fantasy novels and about four other classics, including rereading some Wilde.) I dragged myself through every page, feeling like I was slogging on my knees through sand dunes. I even begged my mother to let me off reading this and replace it with literally any other classic she could name. I had never done that before – and never did after – so let it stand as a marker of how much I felt tortured by this book.

(I read classic Russian literature recreationally as a teenager. Depressing, dragging, dark literature was clearly not a deal-breaker for me even then. That was and is not my problem with this book.)

Grendel is depressing, and dark, and . . . well, it is ludicrously self-indulgent over those things.

The kind of ‘I am miserable’ where it feels as though the person complaining to one – which the book, in first person, reads as a kind of stream of consciousness internal monologue of revelling in despair and gore – is delighting in how miserable and awful they are. I’m a monster, you couldn’t possibly understand, everyone hates me and there’s nothing I can do but respond by becoming ever more monstrous feel my pathos while I howl dramatically and go kill and devour more people because what is the point.

I didn’t feel like I was reading the despair of a creature the humans refuse to – or can’t – understand, one who is forced into a corner and fights, kills, because it is all he can do against these creatures to whom he cannot make himself understood, nor understand in turn – which is how it was pitched. Instead I felt like I was hearing the joyously delighted, self-centred manifesto of a psychopath whose psyche’s only ‘torture’ is in the rare occasions he faces a consequence for his actions.

I was told that this book is about confronting the monsters within ourselves, and I see it listed that way in many lesson modules. I want to personally track down the person(s) who thought this book could teach this lesson well and shake them. Hard.

Grendel has no interest in confronting the monster within himself – he is that monster, and there is nothing else but the delight in blood and death, and the self-righteous anger and disbelief when he is forced to face a consequence – like a human that fights back rather than be shredded and eaten in large chunks. How dare they.

(Oh, and it’s also more grotesque and grisly than the original Beowulf, which is . . . delightful.)

I’ve read that Gardner wrote the book intending to ‘examine the main ideas of Western Civilisation in the voice of a monster’ from an already-written story rather than creating a new one, and ‘use the various philosophical attitudes, though Sartre in particular’. (Don’t ask me what ‘use the various philosophical attitudes’ means, I have no idea what he intended with that.) He also has said Grendel represented Sartre’s philosophical position, and that he borrowed much of the book from ‘Being and Nothingness’.

I won’t lie to you, when I read those claims from Gardner my first reaction was ‘oh, so the book was terrible because you were trying to be pretentious?’ and it really, really is – pretentious, that is, not reminiscent of Sartre.

After reading that it was supposed to be, I can see (sort of) the way that Gardner wound the theories of Being and Nothingness into Grendel. But it’s hardly recognisable and in Grendel’s mind comes off as yet another self-centred backdrop of ‘here is why I am such a miserable being, and why it is not my fault’.

I’m glad I was familiar with Sartre before finding out this work was supposed to represent his philosophies, and that it was not presented to me thus in high school, or I might very well have been soured on an entire school of philosophical thought by this ridiculously drab, entitled, self-aggrandising drivel.

For another perspective on Beowulf, I recommend staying to the fascinating essays many very interesting people have written, and away from John Gardner. ( )
  Kalira | May 14, 2024 |
Beowulf's Grendel telling its side of the story. Is Grendel a ferocious monster, a mess-up child of a inattentive mother, or something else? Gardner has kept me confused. ( )
  podocyte | Feb 17, 2024 |
This parallel/companion novel to the legendary story of Beowulf is told from Grendel's perspective. Grendel is a monster who lives deep in a cave with his mother, whose precise nature is unclear, though she seems to be large, slow-moving and unable to communicate (in my head she looked something like a giant, monstrous larva, YMMV). Grendel one day ventures beyond the cave to hunt, at which time he encounters humans for the first time. He spends hours, days, years observing them, fascinated — but, you know, being a monster he's also hungry, so he frequently attacks and devours them as well.

The question I kept wondering throughout the book is what exactly is Grendel? He's certainly large and powerful with the ability to tear men limb from limb as easily as snapping a twig. However, he's also impulsive, overconfident and quite childlike at times. Every now and then we get a glimpse of a conscience. As a reader I wavered between sympathy (is it his fault he is the way he is?) and horror (so much violence and gore). The narrative occasionally wanders into philosophical territory, where I have to admit my eyes may have glazed over temporarily until the linear narrative resumed. I approached Grendel with a familiarity of Beowulf limited to what I had gleaned exclusively via cultural osmosis, so naturally I'm now significantly more curious to learn more about the original work. ( )
  ryner | Jan 21, 2024 |
4.5/5 Having taught BEOWULF for a number of years to my sophomore honors, why didn't I have them read this, too? This book is not simply a retelling of BEOWULF from the monster's point of view; it is highly intellectual and philosophical as Grendel seeks to find some sort of meaning to his life. Drawn to and repulsed by humans, he reminds me of Frankenstein's creature, who also seeks the purpose to his existence. Several philosophies are explored here, most of which I can't wait to look into. The trope of reading a story from the supposed villain's point of view is not new, but it is absolutely heart-wrenching here. I dare anyone who reads this not to be touched by Grendel's utter isolation and loneliness. What a read. ( )
  crabbyabbe | Jan 18, 2024 |
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» Afegeix-hi altres autors (9 possibles)

Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
John Gardnerautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Antonucci, EmilIl·lustradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Ford, JeffreyIntroduccióautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Guidall, GeorgeNarradorautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Kassner, WendyDissenyador de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Leonard, MichaelAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Miller, EdwardAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
Penberthy, MarkAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
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And if the Babe is born a Boy
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I touch the door with my fingertips and it bursts, for all its fire-forged bands—it jumps away like a terrified deer—and I plunge into the silent, hearth-lit hall with a laugh that I wouldn't much care to wake up to myself.
The sun walks mindlessly overhead, the shadows lengthen and shorten as if by plan.
And so begins the twelfth year of my idiotic war. The pain of it! The stupidity!
I understood 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.
What was he? The man had changed the world, had torn up the past by its thick, gnarled roots and had transmuted it, and they, who knew the truth, remembered it his way—and so did I.
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Classic Literature. Fiction. Literature. Mythology. HTML:The first and most terrifying monster in English literature, from the great early epic Beowulf, tells his own side of the story in this frequently banned book. This  classic and much lauded retelling of Beowulf follows the monster Grendel as he learns about humans and fights the war at the center of the Anglo Saxon classic epic. This is the book William Gass called "one of the finest of our contemporary fictions.".

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