Saturday, April 16, 2011
Rosny Aîné was a science fiction writer and his treatment of vampirism was, at it s heart, a science fiction. It tells the story of Evelyn Grovedale, a young lady who is described as having an “excessive pallor” in her skin tone that was traced back to when she died. Indeed she was dead for four days, had even begun to decompose, and then she revived but the revived Evelyn was distant to her family and her memories seemed jumbled and indistinct.
At around this time her family began to display symptoms of lethargy and listlessness. That was until Evelyn was married to a James Bluewinkle. Once she had moved to her marital home her family seemed to regain their health, though Bluewinkle began to show signs of lassitude.
Eventually he catches Evelyn feeding from him. However her method of feeding is unusual, administered by a kiss she draws the blood from her victim by an osmosis technique. She is not, however, an evil creature. The need to feed was strong but she shared her special kisses amongst her family so as not to kill any of them and, as Bluewinkle discovers the truth, she tries to stop feeding altogether. She describes herself as another being living within the original Evelyn’s body.
He gets a physician involved, interestingly described as a Scottish Charcot remembering that Charcot was named within the text of Dracula but Evelyn eventually, through starvation it would seem, dies. However this enables the original Evelyn to regain her body and once that happens the vampiric impulses end. The story then becomes very interesting as it explores the aftermath, the fact that Evelyn does not know Bluewinkle (she remembers his wedding to someone else, as she describes it).
Rosny Aîné then leads us down a different exploration as Evelyn discovers that she is pregnant (the child conceived when she was the vampiric Evelyn) and we wonder whether the child will prove to be a normal human or a vampire. This is answered.
Fascinating stuff, it has to be said. I liked the fact that she was vampiric but there was an explanation beyond the animated corpse. She is an interloper and the original Evelyn is eventually restored. We are not told where she comes from (she has memories of her origin but does not have the words to describe it to Bluewinkle or, subsequently, us). This reminded me, to a degree, of Lovecraft – particularly the Shunned House, though Evelyn is far from the malevolent force described by Lovecraft and, of course, has a definite body. However the effect she had on her family again reminded me of the Shunned House and the root of that story which can be found in the scapegoating of a consumption plague via the recently deceased.