One of the best books I have read in 2022.
It was recommended in BBC’s show ‘Between the Covers’, and the participants could not stop talking about it. This had me intrigued so I thought of giving it a chance.
“Accidents ambush the unsuspecting, often violently, just like love.”
He opens his eyes to a hospital bed in the burn ward, and from here, the story begins. The narrator (in his past life) used to be a pornographer and had angelic looks and the body of a Greek god. Now, all roasted and flayed, from his head to the end of his toes, everything is either damaged or burned. His entire skin is parched beyond repair. His hair is gone, no penis to call him a man, vocal cords are damaged, ears and hearing power singed—in short, he is an overcooked and burned vegetable.
Can anyone find any hope in his situation?
In his lonely days, despair takes control of him as he relies on morphine, but the snake that has settled into his spine, who whispers suicidal thoughts in him, never shuts up.
The narrator goes surgeries after surgery, but his despair is the only constant thing in his life. Until he meets Marriane Engel.
Marriane Engel visits the man in the burn ward from a psychiatric ward in the same hospital. Despite strict regulations, she manages to sneak into his room and starts telling him stories, a kind of spin-off of Sheherzaad in Arabian Nights, to keep his mind focused. After a few days, the man starts to enjoy Marriane’s company and looks forward to seeing her every day. She brings him books and novelties from past centuries and tells him they have had connections since the fourteenth century. Knowing she has some mental issues, the man still listens to her absurd stories of how she was once a nun in the monastery of Engelthal and worked in their scriptorium to write and translate books. The man (in her imagination) was a mercenary who was brought by his friend after his severe injury. An arrow had hit him, but luckily the man had survived as the arrow was pierced through the book he was carrying: Dante’s Inferno.
“It doesn’t matter how fast you move, if you never go anywhere.”
Marriane shows him the book that she has kept for the past eight hundred years, but she also translated it for him many centuries ago. In their past life, Marrianne had treated his wounds, and in this process, they both fell in love. She had left the monastery and had started a martial life with the man until his past had come forward that he was a wanted criminal.
The man (in the present life) keeps on listening to her stories until a year has passed, and he is supposed to discharge from the hospital. Marriane Engel convinces the doctors that she will take care of him and of all the finances. She tells the man that since she has been working for eight hundred years, money is of no issue.
The man is taken aback when he agrees to go with her, that Marriane Engel actually lives in a fortress. She is a sculptor by profession and makes quite a good amount of money by selling gargoyles.
At this point, readers are still clueless, like the narrator, if Marriane Engel was telling the truth. But how was it possible that she had lived from 1315 up till now and had carried his love for so many centuries?
“Heaven is an idea constructed by man to help him cope with the fact that life on earth is both brutally short and, paradoxically, far too long.”
In my opinion, The Gargoyle is a kind of parable that teaches us life’s lessons, how one can find love, even in Hell or in the worst of times. How love can pull you out of misery when you’re on the brink of ending your own life. How one can find your beauty when you are at most of your ugly self.
Now I know why the show was praising the book so high.