Saturday, 16 February 2013
Waking the German Undead
The development of the literary vampire from John William Polidori’s The Vampyre over Varney the Vampire and Carmilla to Bram Stoker’s Dracula is well-known. This development highlights the vampire as an English language phenomenon, but this is, perhaps, due to lack of knowledge of the German language vampire fiction of the nineteenth century. According to Oliver Kotowski, this view probably stems from both Stefan Hock and Montague Summers, the latter claiming that ‘in Germany sensational fiction was long largely influenced by Polidori’, but it is a view that underestimates the number of vampire stories actually written during the nineteenth century.
Kotowski collects a dozen of these stories in his recent anthology Lasst die Toten ruhen: Deutsche Vampirgeschichten aus dem 19. Jahrhundert (Atlantis Verlag, 368 pages, paperback and hardcover at 14.90 € and 19.90 € respectively). Spanning the whole century, the stories are stylistically different, and Kotowski also includes two stories from parts of Eastern Europe that were available in German at the time.
Each story is accompanied by biographical and bibliographical information as well as an afterword on the story and its use of the vampire motif. At the end of the book is a short summary of tendences in the German vampire literature of the nineteenth century and a bibliography.