Excerpts from an essay by Clemens Ruthner
“This is the textbook of vampirism, but the journalist Bram Stoker has turned it into a typewriter ad,” wrote the Austrian Alfred Kubin, himself a master of uncanny art, in a letter full of contempt in 1915. He has not been the only critic since who tried to desecrate the tomb of the Anglo-Irish author. However, this has done little damage to the undead popularity of the literary work in question: Dracula (1897), apart from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein (1818) probably the most successful undead monster of world literature; a novel that has never been out of print in its more than 110 years on the book market.
Its ingredients are simple and fairly tradtional: the Transylvanian nobleman Dracula first threatens the bourgeois British business traveler Jonathan Harker, and later the wife-to-be of the latter, Mina, until the vampire is eventually hunted down by male bonding. What is really new about this vampire villain from the depths of eastern Europe is that he does not only assault women, but covers all of Britain with a veritable undead D-day invasion: a (latently racist) horror scenario as a consequence of Darwin’s “survival of the fittest.” Whatever you may think about the political correctness of vampire tales, Dracula is pretty much written in the spirit of the English fin de siècle, insofar as the novel foreshadows the military confrontation with Germany and the multi-ethnic state of Austria-Hungary in World War One.