Sunday, 23 August 2009

The Dracula Phenomenon

Two books on Dracula recently arrived. One is a classic biography of Vlad Tepes published and reprinted in Germany several times since 1980: Ralf-Peter Märtin's Dracula: Das Leben des Fürsten Vlad Tepes (Verlag Klaus Wagenbach), and the other is the quite new Bram Stoker's Dracula: A Documentary Journey into Vampire Country and the Dracula Phenomenon edited by Elizabeth Miller (Pegasus Books). As things have been in my life during the past weeks I have found little time to look at these two books, so here I will merely state my immediate notions.

Märtin's book is, I think, the current standard popular biography in German on Vlad Tepes, and it may in fact be the most reprinted volume on this medieval ruler. It looks very inviting and seems to be an easily read presentation of his life and the historical context, including a chapter on cruelty in the late medieval period. It is nicely illustrated and contains an updated bibliography (as of 2008) on the topic, including books on vampires.

The focus of Miller's book is, of course, Bram Stoker's novel, its genesis and its legacy. It is described as a 'documentary journey' because it is sort of an anthology or scrapbook of material that sets the background for Stoker's novel, describes in detail Stoker's work on the novel, and follows its publication history and way into popular media like theatre and movies. The portions on the historical vampire are symptomatically weak, as there are only a few pages on the Visum et Repertum, Calmet, van Swieten etc. But as Stoker himself did not have access to a lot of information on the vampires of the 18th century, and mostly knew about vampires from 19th century books in English, it is probably sufficient to the scholar or reader mainly interested in Stoker's vampire count. And there is certainly a wealth of interesting material on Stoker, his book, and fictional vampires, so this is definitely a must for anyone with an interest in 'the Dracula phenomenon', no doubt providing many hours of interesting study!

One slight let down is the quality of the reproduction of the illustrations. Some of them are slightly blurred, which is a shame because there are so many unique illustrations here, like e.g. a reproduction of Stoker's death certificate as shown in the photo below.

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...