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vrijdag 29 januari 1993

Dracula by Bram Stoker

The vampire novel!

Actually Dracula does not need a lot of explanation. Everybody must have experienced at least once the myth of Count Dracula in any form: film, television or book. No character has ever ignited so much imagination than the Chief Vampire of Transylvania. It is absolutely no surprise that this book is still read by thousands of people worldwide.

The narrative unfolds itself by combining letters, newspaper clippings, journal entries and even phonograph records. This certainly adds to the mysterious atmosphere that dominates the first half of the book, but turns a bit against the story when the action really starts. Simply by reading a letter written by Miss Mina Murray, you are already informed that Mina will survive the struggle described by her. Technically this method also puts extra constraints on the author. Knowing this, it is fun to see how many tricks Stoker needed to keep the flow of letters going. At one point in the story he has to send Doctor Van Helsing back home, just so he can respond with a letter. Of course, it would have been quite silly to have two people writing each other letters while they are living in the same house.

The story itself is very powerful, but to modern readers it is often perceived as being dense and overcrowded with details. This is typical to Victorian novels, in which the women are always tender and caring and the men brave and intelligent. It seems that these conclusions have to be underlined on every page of the book. Still Bram Stoker succeeds in winning the attention of the reader by supplying an unprecedented richness to the story. The plot is filled with unexpected twists, remarkable action sequences and rather eerie -sometimes almost erotic- confrontations with evil entities. No situation is left unused to heighten the mystery. Even for the spoiled modern reader, some lugubrious scenes can still be experienced as hair-raising; a treat that most modern novels can't claim so easily.

Keeping in mind that this is a typical Victorian extravaganza and that the story suffers a bit under its form, one can but only admit that Dracula must be 'the' classic vampire novel. Although there is a lot of 'derived' work on the market, no one can truly claim to know the legend of Dracula without having read Bram Stoker's novel.

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