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Grendel Paperback – May 1989

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Product details

  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; Reissue edition (May 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679723110
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679723110
  • Product Dimensions: 13.1 x 1.3 x 20.2 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 87,920 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

Few writers ever reach this level of greatness, It doesn't matter whether you think Grendel's about Anglo-Saxon warriors battling monsters or the collapse of superstition and the rise of capitalism, or both at once, this is mythic writing in every sense of those words. (Jon Courtenay Grimwood SFX magazine) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Book Description

'This is a marvellous novel, absolutely marvellous: witty, intelligent, delightful, so totally a work of the imagination that it creates its own world while touching upon our memories of myth and verse, a celebration of what we most need in one of the greatest poetic myths we have' NEWSWEEK --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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The old ram stands looking down over rockslides, stupidly triumphant. Read the first page
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20 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jim on 3 July 2002
Format: School & Library Binding
Alternating between the sublime Orwellian double-talk of the minstrel Shaper and the cold, condescendingly bleak philosophy of the Dragon, Grendel struggles for meaning. Told that his life and energies exist only for man to define himself against, he finds small consolation. Still, Grendel throws himself on the mercy of the men in a Frankenstein's monster effort to be accepted... to no avail, deciding after that 'why should I not' destroy them . At times darkly humourous, and touching, the creature muses on the beauty of Hrothgar's placid, sacrificing wife before attempting to kill her, and plays with the fallen hero Unferth before Beowulf's arrival. As those familiar with the epic know, Beowulf in the original poem arrives from across the sea to save Hrothgar's hall by doing battle with Grendel, his mother, and eventually the Dragon. Grendel senses Beowulf's arrival and marvels at the concept of fear. Familiarity with the story makes the inevitability of the conflict all the more delicious when Grendel finally realizes his purpose and observes 'I cannot believe such monstrous energy of grief would lead to nothing' the reader is left to answer that it did not lead to nothing, it was a necessary component in an incredible story, told from the historical antagonist's point of view.
Another great book is The Price of Immortality, I highly recommend it.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Lark TOP 1000 REVIEWER on 26 Dec. 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the story of Beowulf (not named within this text actually) and the monster Grendel, from the perspective of the monster himself, who stalks the meadhalls of the ancient Danes killing at will, impervious to their efforts to defend themselves, capriciously choosing when to strike, who to strike and who to spare until he comes to grief at the hands of he hero.

The essential narrative of the Beowulf/Grendel myth is unchanged, so reading it anyone acquainted with it will know how it all ends, although that does not spoil the story and you do not need to be in anyway acquainted with the original story in order to follow the narrative and enjoy it. The narrative itself is a person person one, with few departures into paragraphs of poetic verse, as Grendel tells the story of his growing from a youthful existence unconcerned with mankind through his earliest encounters when he is mistaken for a sprite or tree spirit, his visits to a nihilistic dragon with foreknowledge of the future and capricious predations and killing thereafter.

While the monster does engage in some pretty horrendous death dealing the odd thing is that more than once he chooses not to or changes his mind from first planning gruesome, murderous acts or torture to sparing his targets. Sometimes this is contingent upon how they have behaved and at other times its less clear, although throughout the tale, particularly after his encounter with the dragon, Grendel does what he can to deliberately act out of keeping with any kind of meaningful interpretation. Overhearing how bards, mothers and priests attempt to confer meaning upon the world he and they inhabit Grendel finds it both appealing and a pack of lies.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
It is an odd book. I had heard it recommended on the Radio (in an In Our Time on Beowulf) and so knew it would be based on Grendel's perspective on events and I enjoyed that. I was more surprised by the odd way in which the discussions with the dragon and with an old priest were used as a vehicle for religious philosophy - there was Boethius on predestination and eternity; there was discussion of universals and particulars; parts and wholes (essential and accidental) reminiscent of medieval writers like Abelard; animate and inanimate objects and intentionality; know thyself (temple of Apollo with oblique reference to Oedipus - not a surprise in a writer who has also redone Greek tragedy). There was also a Marxist critique of the state in a discussion between one prince and his advisor. I was not always sure that these discussions, which were primarily allusive and so did not genuinely explore the topics, added much, but I enjoyed those where I recognised the allusions.

The writing on the Bard was very good and how stories create realities an interesting touch. The discussions around Unferth and heroism were also rather good and the view of Grendel as associated to a deity in a mutually necessary dialectical relationship between hostile force and powerless people was interesting as the fact that Grendel, who could destroy the hall in one go, chooses not to, indicates (he similarly does not always kill those he can and instead humiliates them or, in seeing their humanity, demystifies them for himself). I think I may dip into further writings by Gardner.

Would the book make as much sense without having read Beowulf first? Does the strange structure, where strange phrases like "Cut B" (p.110) are not clearly either accidental typos or part of the text, help? I think not.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By H. Tee on 13 Oct. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is the story of Beowulf from the monsters point of view. He starts as a youngster with an ever silent mother deep in a cave with other dark creatures. He meets man and later the harpist/story teller and the mystical religious tales he hears creates unsavoury fascinations in him - he realises a dark cause; the eternal Dragon's advice is not helpful but he is granted invincibility. He murders and teases the tribes watching their mini-wars; Unferth the local hero gets the brunt of the monster's toying. Beowulf arrives to play out the monster's destiny.

I found this story so personal and deep. The monster asks questions of himself, his family and ultimately (what I saw) as his personal god (the Dragon) and gets no helpful answers. He is constrained by his being, defined by his behaviour and judged by his history -aren't we all? How much he is a monster by religious design and just a pure fiction to help humanity find its place is unclear. For all his badness I cared and felt sorry for him (much like the monster is Frankenstein). This is a mixture of Sartre, Frankenstein, Child of God (by McCarthy) and The Golem - s speedy, hypnotic excellent book. As an aside I had read Beowulf ages ago but you certainly don't need to have to enjoy the story.
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