Vlad by Carlos Fuentes

Dalkey Archive Press cover

If you’re looking around for a scary read this Halloween season or a book to give for All Hallow’s Read, I highly recommend Vlad by Carlos Fuentes. This is by far one of the best “sequels” to Bram Stoker’s Dracula that I’ve read.

Fuentes pays homage to Dracula but masterfully makes Stoker’s original creature all his own. There is no pandering to Hollywood and cheapening of the spirit of Bram Stoker’s classic novel in this short work. 

Vlad is an entertaining and well-written horror story. Fuentes’ tale brings the legendary vampire to Mexico City, a city populated by 10 million “blood sausages.” There are some references and nods to Mexican history and politics that would probably enhance the story for those who are knowledgeable, but nothing is lost for those (like me) who are woefully ignorant on these topics. The story is also a commentary on the socioeconomic blindness of the upper middle class as well as a cautionary tale of blindness in one’s own relationships. 

Yves Navarro, the story’s narrator and Jonathan Harker-esque character, is the second in command at Eloy Zurinaga’s law firm. Mr. Zurinaga is a powerful man in Mexico City, but he’s very old and no longer comes into the office. Navarro is in his prime, happily married, secure in his career, and very much a creature of contented habits. He’s a lawyer married to a real estate agent: the perfect combination for what Vlad needs to get settled in his new country of choice. A house is found for Vlad and altered to his specifications. The horror begins.

Alfaguara cover

Vlad is a short novel, only 122 pages, and not a word is wasted. The translation seems masterful to me, but I don’t read Spanish so have no way of knowing for sure. However, this is the first novel I’ve read that made me want to learn Spanish so that I could I read it in the original.

Because Vlad is so short, I read it twice. The first time I read with great admiration for Fuentes’ ability to convey so much with so few words. I also read with something like relief. Relief that Fuentes was indeed paying homage to Dracula, but I was also heartened that he completely refreshed the story and characters into something scary, contemporary, and believable. The second time around I was able to relax into the story and enjoy how Fuentes sets up Navarro and saw more of what Navarro represents: that smug upper middle class attitude that doesn’t really see what’s around until something goes terribly wrong.

Carlos Fuentes
Originally published by Alfaguara, Mexico City, 2010
Translated by E. Shaskan Bumas and Alejandro Branger
Dalkey Archive Press, 2012
Source: Library

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