Reading Dracula 

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

As a Transylvanian, it's about time I read Dracula, watch the movie(s), and understand this business. You all know Transylvania is a real place; it's time I learned what the fantasy Transylvania is all about.

I am 100 pages from finishing the novel, first published in 1897, watched both the 1931 Bela Lugosi Dracula, as well as Werner Herzog's 1979 Nosferatu remake (the 1922 Nosferatu has long been one of my favourite movies). I also took out four books of Dracula literary criticism out from the library, to nail this bugger in the heart, for once and for all. And here I thought that I was forever converted to zombies.

So while the extraordinary shock that armadillos live in Transylvania subsides, I picked up the Annotated Dracula (edited by Leonard Wold and dedicated to Bela Lugosi) to backtrack through the footnotes. The discoveries, hitherto obscured by a century's linguistic and societal changes, stretch beyond the minor surprises at Dracula's mustachioed face and Lucy's brunette-ness.

Those of you who've yet to read the novel know the drill: spoilers ahead.
  • My first surprise was to finally be interested in Jonathan Harker's journal. Not in the narrative, but in the mechanics. The last time I picked up Dracula, in high school, I only liked the journal; when the action switched from Transylvania to Lucy and her beaus, I trudged on hoping that the story would return to Harker. After Lucy's Bloofer Lady suffered execution, I gave up waiting for the return to the fast-paced terror at the beginning and gave up on the novel. This time around, I've been intrigued that Jonathan Harker writes in shorthand, thus foiling Dracula, who most certainly rifled through the Englishman's papers. Leonard Wolf, in the Annotated Dracula, guesses that Harker uses the Pitman method. Of course, I've looked up this method and, should I ever have time to spare for shorthand, this will be the method I'll learn.

  • I also am curious as to the gaps in the diary: Jonathan Harker was in Dracula's castle for two months. There is a two-week gap when the imprisoned Harker writes nothing. Is this because there was truly nothing to tell? Or is it because the vampire hunters, later in the novel, omitted the irrelevant when typing up the various accounts about Dracula? What did Jonathan do during those lost two weeks?

  • Klausenburgh, which Jonathan Harker visited on May 2, is my very favourite Cluj! Cluj, overlooked by too many tourists, is a perfect gem of elegant architecture, in full colour as opposed to Bucureşti's blanched houses. Harker eats in Cluj some paprika hendl, which sounds like it might be our own tocăniţă.

  • Quoting Emily Gerard and the 1900 Baedeker for Austria, the population of Transylvania contemporary with Dracula is 1,200,000 Romanians according to the former and 1,395,000 for the latter, to the 652,221 and 765,000 Hungarians respectively. At two Romanians for every Hungarian and the numbers provided by foreigners, I wonder who took the census. Nevermind why I wonder - hey, look, both sources say there were 8,400 Armenians in Transylvania at the time! How'd they get to Romania?

  • The impletata, the "eggplant stuffed with forcemeat," may be patlagele impulute. Whatever that is. I'll have to ask my mother if I've ever eaten any.

  • Leonard Wolf points out that midnight marks the witching hour. But, again I'll have to consult with my parents, because I recall that either 2 am or 3 am was the really devilish time of the day in Transylvania.

  • The Stoker Dracula really said, "Listen to them - the children of the night. What music they make!" I had always thought it was a movie cliche, non-existent in the book. Indeed, its companion phrase, "I never drink wine," does not exist except on film.
That's enough for tonight. Halloween is almost over. My bat wings are off and soon my bat ears will come off. Good night!

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Ok, I'm less than 100 pages from finishing now. I like that bit on the ship where Dracula is apparently killing and eating everyone aboard. I was a bit disappointed that more of the action doesn't take place in Transylvania, however. And I don't quite get that Renfield guy. Let's discuss.
i think you meant to insult me (or us?), Anon, but I can't help but sing "She's a Brainiac, Brainiac on the floor. And she's dancing like she's never danced be-fore..." Call it Nerd Pride.
MaikoPunk, our troll is from Texas. Anyhow, troll be gone! Poof!

As for Drackie, I am less than 100 pages too. Too many chores tonight to get near finishing. But I like the boat bit too. And I like the part about Transylvania. Renfield...rather weird, but Matt finds him interesting. Will call you in a few minutes.
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