Grendel / John Gardener





So childhood too feels good at first, before one happens to notice the terrible sameness, age after age.






“Theories,” I whisper to the bloodstained ground. So the dragon once spoke. (“They’d map out roads through Hell with their crackpot theories!” I recall his laugh.)






I understood that the world was nothing: a mechanical chaos of casual, brute enmity on which we stupidly impose our hopes and fears.






“Surround him!” the king yelled, “Save the horses!”—and suddenly I knew I was dealing with no dull mechanical bull but with thinking creatures, pattern makers, the most dangerous things I’d ever met.





“The world resists me and I resist the world,” I said. “That’s all there is. The mountains are what I define them as.”






If the songs were true, as I suppose at least one or two of them were, there had always been wars, and what I’d seen was merely a period of mutual exhaustion.






"Bastards!” I roared. “Sons of bitches! Fuckers!” Words I’d picked up from men in their rages. I wasn’t even sure what they meant, though I had an idea: defiance, rejection of the gods that, for my part, I’d known all along to be lifeless sticks.






“That could change,” I said, shaking my finger as if at an audience. “The Shaper may yet improve men’s minds, bring peace to the miserable Danes.” But they were doomed, I knew, and I was glad. No denying it. Let them wander the fogroads of Hell.






“If you with your knowledge of present and past recall that a certain man slipped on, say, a banana peel, or fell off his chair, or drowned in a river, that recollection does not mean that you caused him to slip, or fall, or drown. Correct? Of course it’s correct! It happened, and you know it, but knowledge is not cause. Of course! Anyone who argues otherwise is a stupid ignoramus.






“They sense that, of course, from time to time; have uneasy feelings that all they live by is nonsense. They have dim apprehensions that such propositions as ‘God does not exist’ are somewhat dubious at least in comparison with statements like ‘All carnivorous cows eat meat.’ That’s where the Shaper saves them. Provides an illusion of reality—puts together all their facts with a gluey whine of connectedness.






“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. The exile, captivity, death they shrink from—the blunt facts of their mortality, their abandonment—that’s what you make them recognize, embrace! You are mankind, or man’s condition: inseparable as the mountain-climber and the mountain. If you withdraw, you’ll instantly be replaced.






I had become something, as if born again. I had hung between possibilities before, between the cold truths I knew and the heart-sucking conjuring tricks of the Shaper; now that was passed: I was Grendel, Ruiner of Meadhalls, Wrecker of Kings! But also, as never before, I was alone.






I laughed. It was outrageous: they came, they fell, howling insanity about brothers, fathers, glorious Hrothgar, and God. But though I laughed, I felt trapped, as hollow as a rotten tree. The meadhall seemed to stretch for miles, out to the edges of time and space, and I saw myself killing them, on and on and on, as if mechanically, without contest.






I changed my mind. It would be meaningless, killing her. As meaningless as letting her live. It would be, for me, mere pointless pleasure, an illusion of order for this one frail, foolish flicker-flash in the long dull fall of eternity. (End quote.)






What does a kingdom pretend to do? Save the values of the community—regulate compromise—improve the quality of the commonwealth! In other words, protect the power of the people in power and keep the others down.






If the lowest of the workers start grumbling, claim that the power of the state stands above society, regulating it, moderating it, keeping it within the bounds of order—an impersonal and higher authority of justice. And what if the workers are beyond your reconciliation? Cry ‘Law!’ Cry ‘Common good’ and put on the pressure—arrest and execute a few.”






If a few men quit work, the police move in. If the borders are threatened, the army rolls out. Public force is the life and soul of every state: not merely army and police but prisons, judges, tax collectors, every conceivable trick of coercive repression. The state is an organization of violence, a monopoly in what it is pleased to call legitimate violence.






There is no conviction in the old priests’ songs; there is only showmanship. No one in the kingdom is convinced that the gods have life in them.






Will the last of my life slide out if I let out breath? They watch with mindless, indifferent eyes, as calm and midnight black as the chasm below me. Is it joy I feel? They watch on, evil, incredibly stupid, enjoying my destruction. “Poor Grendel’s had an accident,” I whisper. “So may you all.”








<베오울프>를 읽어 본 적이 없어서 그런건지... 그냥.... 재미가 없었다. 200쪽 가까이 나오는 이야기라고는 그렌델이 쓸쓸해하면서 뭔가를 파괴하고 엄마를 찾고 왕이 흐느적거리는 것이 전부라서 지루하다. 밑줄 친 구절들도 굉장히 인상적이었다기보다는 그냥 뭐... 이런 생각을 이렇게 썼구나 정도의 감흥밖에 일지 않았다. 그리고 그렌델은 여기 나오는 왕국 사람들이 두려워하는 괴물치고는 너무 찌질하고 약해 보여서 귀엽기만 하다. (사람 만나기를 귀찮게 여기고 쎈 척하는 찌질이라면 그렌델의 모습을 보면서 은근히 공감성 수치도 느낄 수 있음) 건조한 문체의 호러 소설을 원한다면 이 책 말고 셜리 잭슨의 소설을 읽어보기를 권한다.