Wanted Cataloger-Historian for Dracula's Archive

That Dracula wants to recruit the best qualified cataloger-historian for his vast archive indicates how much he respects the printed word and the world of publishing itself.  For the qualified recruit, he or she must first be inducted into Dracula's world. The first phase of that induction guarantees longevity for the new employee: he or she will be able to live hundreds of years, like Dracula himself. In Elizabeth Kostova's The Historian, Dracula is an indomitable recruiter. He lures his candidates to him, into the history and mysteries of his life, its probable origins.

I admire the amount of research Kostova had spent for her first novel, which is set in the US, UK, Turkey, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, France, or, let's just say, Europe itself. She also offers glimpses of the expansion of the Ottoman Empire, encroaching into the borders of Eastern Europe, where a god-fearing Count -Dracula- tries to defend his territory from being occupied by foreign invaders. This is something new -for me, that is- about Dracula and his connections with Christianity; it almost takes out the evil aspect of vampire identity, an identity I've mainly known through movies and tv-shows, represented in the faces of Christopher Lee, Bela Lugosi, Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Antonio Banderas, and Stephenie Meyer's vampire-gang in her Twilight series.

But the other new element that Kostova injects in the mythology of Dracula is that she tries to blur that myth. Here, Dracula is a product of circumstances, that of anger against the expanding Ottoman Empire, of revenge. This revenge reaches a height. That height is myth that quietly morphs into idea, the idea of a highly-intelligent being that can live forever, provided it stays away from sunlight, crosses, garlic, silver-bullets, or wooden-stakes. It's a being that (perhaps) updates the idea of evil in human-form that isn't quite human: vampire: Dracula. Bram Stoker's Dracula is an expression of that update.

Kostova's vision of Dracula in this novel is perhaps the opposite of Bram Stoker's vision of Dracula in his novel. Stoker's Dracula mythologizes a historical figure, Vlad III, Prince of Wallachia (1431–1476), more commonly known as Vlad the Impaler (Romanian: Vlad Țepeș pronounced [ˈvlad ˈt͡sepeʃ]). Kostova de-mythologizes Dracula and treats it as an element of history, a historical-figure whose descendants might still live among us.

No comments: