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March 16, 2009 5:42 am
The New Annotated Dracula
By Bram Stoker
Edited by Leslie S Klinger
WW Norton £27.99
FT Bookshop price: £22.40
First published in 1897, Bram Stoker’s Dracula remains one of the most sexually charged novels ever written. Its metaphors of penetration and impalement – the vampire’s staked heart, the puncture of fangs – continue to exercise Freudian critics. Yet until the mid-1980s, Dracula was considered merely a late (and not particularly distinguished) specimen of the 19th-century school of terror.
This new edition is the first to make use of Stoker’s original manuscript, which until 2005 was in private hands. From Leslie Klinger’s wonderfully informative notes we learn that Stoker took six years to plot the novel (original title The Un-Dead) using a complex web of diaries, letters and journals. His literary influences ranged from east European travel books to scientific tracts on South American blood-sucking bats.
Of particular interest to Klinger is Dracula’s physiognomy. Scholars have speculated that the vampire’s long white hair was modelled on the silvery mane of American poet Walt Whitman, who Stoker knew and adored. It is also possible that Stoker’s image of Dracula was influenced by the Italian anthropologist Cesare Lombroso, who identified the existence of a “delinquent type” according to physical characteristics such as handle-shaped ears and low foreheads.
By giving a Semitic curve to the vampire’s nose, Stoker may also have revealed his xenophobic response to the influx of Jews to London at the turn of the century. As the Transylvanian count spreads contagion into the British capital, so he represents the fear of violation by a dark outsider. Jewish immigrants had been blamed for the Jack the Ripper murders; parts of Dracula are set around Brick Lane, scene of the killings.
An indefatigable researcher, Klinger incorporates his own photographs of the Austrian town of Bistriz, where Count Dracula’s lawyer, the unwitting Jonathan Harker, had stayed. In addition he offers recipes for Transylvanian dishes. Bram Stoker, a middle-class Irish Protestant in thrall to macabre imaginings, would have been intrigued.
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