Freitag, 6. April 2012

Passion, Mystery and Death: Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu

"Nevertheless, life and death are mysterious states, and we know little of the resources of either.”

Sheridan Le Fanu's Carmilla was one of the first vampire stories ever written and whoever reads it and Dracula afterwards will immediately detect how much Bram Stoker was influenced by this novella.
The story follows young Laura who lives with her father in an isolated castle in the dark Styrian woods and whose lonely life quickly becomes more thrilling than appreciated when a mysterious and attractive young lady becomes her companion after suffering a carriage accident.

Carmilla unites all traits and qualities typically associated with vampires: she is unbelievably beautiful, young, but seems sometimes inexplicably old, does not talk of her past and is subject to strange mood swings, she leaves her locked room at night unnoticedly to sleep in her coffin and she is melancholy but also falling in love.

Carmilla as a vampire is the incarnation of the world's two biggest mysteries, love and death. She hides an inexpressible sadness, belonging to the world of shadows for almost 200 years already, and while she is pursuing the goal of ultimately killing sweet, innocent Laura, she also feels an unearthly passion for her.
“You will think me cruel, very selfish, but love is always selfish; the more ardent the more selfish. How jealous I am you cannot know. You must come with me, loving me, to death; or else hate me, and still come with me, and hating me through death and after. There is no such word as indifference in my apathetic nature.”

Of course Carmilla, whose real name is Mircalla Countess Karnstein, is the story's villain, but I can not help feeling a very sad sympathy with her. She did not choose her existence, she is a victim herself and while she is technically alive the sadness of death clings to her all the time. I sometimes got the impression that Carmilla wanted nothing more than to pretend to be just like Laura, carefree and living.
She loves young girls because she searches a connection with life and perhaps because they remind her of who she once was, but since she doesn't belong to this world anymore she can only bring them death.
Nonetheless, I hoped for her to escape from the vampire hunter who is introduced when the story reaches its climax.

Carmilla is an extraordinary gothic novella, which is outstanding mostly due to its haunting atmosphere and beautiful writing, and also because the subject of the vampire, as it is introduced here will fascinate almost every reader. It is not so much scary as it is melancholy, but reading it by candlelight in the middle of the night sent more than a little shiver down my spine and anxiously turning the pages I felt as if I was seeing the beautiful Carmilla in the dark castle with my own eyes.


  1. I love that you read it by candlelight. How appropriate. I felt more than a few shivers down my spine reading The Turn of the Screw alone in my attic room in the middle of the night.

    I enjoyed Carmilla, though I don't remember it too clearly now. I own Sheridan Le Fanu's Gothic novel Uncle Silas, so I'm looking forward to digging into that. It's on my Classics Club list. :)

    1. There you go! Who says the classics are boring? :)
      I love Sheridan Le Fanu because of Carmilla, so I will definitely read Uncle Silas sooner or later too, but mostly I love him for his name. Someone who has as magical a name as Sheridan Le Fanu has to write Gothic stuff, doesn't he? :)

  2. I felt a bit sorry for Carmilla too, and almost as though she was delaying the moment where she would prey on Laura so as to pretend to be like her a bit more?

    And I also love that you read it by candlelight :)

    1. Oh yeah! Thanks again for reviewing this so ardently, otherwise I would not have read it so soon :)

  3. I've read Dracula twice, but still haven't read Carmilla! I'd like to though, because of the influences. I imagine reading it by candlelight really adds to the atmosphere.

    1. You really should, it is intriguing and pretty short, only 100 pages or so. If you've read Dracula twice you're going to like it!