Saturday, June 18, 2016
Translators: E. Shaskan Bumas & Alejandro Branger
First published: 2010
The Blurb: Where, Carlos Fuentes asks, is a modern day vampire to roost? Why not Mexico City, populated by ten million blood sausages (that is, people), and a police force who won’t mind a few disappearances? “Vlad” is Vlad the Impaler, of course, whose mythic cruelty was an inspiration for Bram Stoker’s Dracula. In this sly sequel, Vlad really is undead: dispossessed after centuries of mayhem by Eastern European wars and rampant blood shortages. More than a postmodern riff on “the vampire craze,” Vlad is also an anatomy of the Mexican Bourgeoisie, as well as our culture’s ways of dealing with death. For—as in Dracula—Vlad has need of both a lawyer and a real-estate agent in order to establish his new kingdom, and Yves Navarro and his wife Asunción fit the bill nicely. Having recently lost a son, might they not welcome the chance to see their remaining child live forever? More importantly, are the pleasures of middle-class life enough to keep one from joining the legions of the damned?
The review: Its nice, from time to time, to delve into some modern literature about vampires and this novella was certainly a beautifully written piece. Of course the blurb as set out is wrong, Vlad the Impaler’s mythic cruelty wasn’t an inspiration for Stoker – who, as far as we know, knew nothing about said cruelty.
Vlad in this, however, is the impaler – turned, we discover, after being buried alive, by a centuries old vampire who was also a little girl. When we eventually meet him he wears wigs, false moustaches and habitual sunglasses (that hide the fact that his maker took his eyes). Whilst he can make himself any age he dons these affectations and Yves – once he has discovered the truth of his client – even suspects that he trims his ears nightly to make them more human looking.
A document recounts Vlad looking into the legends of the undead when he was alive and lists a series of vampire types; muroni, Nosferatu, Lugosi, strigoï and varcolaci. Of course, whilst some of these are from folklore, one is a conceit.
What struck me about the book, however, as it explored the potential of routine and boredom for professionals in their middle class existence and the reaction to the loss of a child, both against the backdrop of the vampire, was the absolute dourness of the novel’s conclusion. I won’t spoil it but will warn that it is bleak. But bleakness captured within beautiful prose. 8 out of 10.