It’s October, the nights are drawing in, it’s raining and many of us will turn to reading choices to match that mood. I could sign up to the #RIPXV challenge, but instead I’m resurrecting my own banner from the dead to usher in my ‘Season of the Living Dead‘ 2020. (Search for that tag, or ‘vampires‘, and you’ll find plenty of my old posts – I have read an awful lot over the years!
I started October with my dark choices for the monthly Six Degrees of Separation tag the other day (here). Now it’s time for a vampire I think…
Vlad by Carlos Fuentes
Translated by E.Shaskan Bumas and Alejandro Branger
Fuentes was one of Mexico’s foremost authors, he wrote this novella in 2004 and it was translated into English in 2012, produced in a nice little hardback by Dalkey Archive Press.
Imagine that Vlad the Impaler lives and is planning to emigrate to Mexico. He needs someone to find him a suitable dwelling. This task is assigned to lawyer Yves Navarro by his boss Don Eloy Zurinaga:
“Navarro,” he said. “I want you to take care of a very important matter.”
I nodded in assent.
“We were talking about Central Europe, about the Balkans.”
I nodded again.
“An old friend of mine, displaced by wars and revolutions, has lost his estate along the Hungarian-Romanian border. He had extensive lands strewn with castles in ruins. The thing is,” said Zurinaga with a touch of melancholy, “the war only terminated what was already dead.”
I looked at him in hope of an explanation.
“As you know, it’s preferable to be the master of your own downfall rather that to find yourself the victim of forces beyond your control . . . Suffice it to say, that my good friend was the master of his own fall from nobility and that now, between the fascists and the communists, he’s been stripped of his lands and his castes and his . . .”
For the first time in our relationship, I felt that Don Eloy was hesitating. I even noticed a nervous twitch in his left temple.
So, a few pages in, Navarro is set to become a modern incarnation of Jonathan Harker, as Fuentes relocates Dracula to the New World. Conveniently, Navarro’s wife Asunción is an estate agent and she is able to find a suitable house quickly and get the builders in to fulfil the odd requests to have windows bricked in and a tunnel excavated from the cellar and so on.
No sooner than Count Vlad arrives, than Navarro is summonsed to dinner and things get stranger and stranger and Navarro gets more and more uneasy, especially as Vlad suggests that Navarro’s daughter Magdalena could be the perfect playmate for his own.
I won’t say any more about the plot, you all know the Dracula story and can imagine the parallels, I’m sure. It’s very much a book of two halves – the set-up and once the Count arrives, the first being all suspense-building and the second having the action and awful realisation of the situation. Fuentes also uses the story to comment on the materialism of the Mexican middle-classes that Navarro and Asunción are part of.
This was my first encounter with Fuentes. Judging by the comments and reviews of this book on Amazon, it’s not his best by a longshot – but I rather enjoyed this quick read, and now will be looking out for more in translation by this author. (7.5/10)
Source: Own copy. Carlos Fuentes, Vlad (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012) hardback, 122 pages.