Carmilla – Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu
Download Carmilla ebook. Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and one of the early works of vampire fiction, predating Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) by 26 years. First published as a serial in The Dark Blue (1871–72), the story is narrated by a young woman preyed upon by a female vampire named Carmilla, later revealed to be Mircalla, Countess Karnstein (Carmilla is an anagram of Mircalla). The story is often anthologized and has been adapted many times in film and other media.
Carmilla, serialized in the literary magazine The Dark Blue in late 1871 and early 1872, was reprinted in Le Fanu’s short story collection In a Glass Darkly (1872). Comparing the work of the two illustrators, David Henry Friston and Michael Fitzgerald, whose work appears in the magazine but not in modern printings of the book, reveals inconsistencies in the characters’ depictions. Consequently, confusion has arisen relating the pictures to the plot. Isabella Mazzanti illustrated the book’s 2014 anniversary edition, published by Editions Soleil and translated by Gaid Girard.
The vampire has always been used to convey sexuality — and one of the earliest ones, the title character of “Carmilla,” is no exception. Years before Bram Stoker ever dreamed of Dracula. Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu wove together a luscious, haunting gothic mystery that centers around a lovely, immortal young woman with a taste for blood.
When a mysterious carriage crashes at their schloss, Laura’s father offers to take care of a young lady named Carmilla, who has been stunned by the collision. Laura herself is struck by how similar the girl looks to a strange figure that visited her as a child — and Carmilla claims that they’ve had some sort of mutual vision of one another.
Even more striking, Carmilla immediately becomes VERY attached to Laura (“You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever”), and Laura is strangely entranced by Carmilla’s speech.
As the days go by, Laura is increasingly bespelled by Carmilla, despite the young woman’s strange behavior (and her weird resemblance to an ancient painting in the schloss, of a woman named Mircalla — get it?), and is becoming increasingly ill and nervous. But when they visit an old friend, he reveals the shocking truth about Carmilla’s true nature… and what she will do to Laura.
“Carmilla” is a true gothic novel in the best sense of the word — a lushly-written little novella filled with ruined palaces, abandoned villages, moonlight and blood. And Le Fanu injects a not-so-subtle lesbian subtext into the story, since Carmilla seems to be as infatuated with Laura as she is hungry for her blood. Lots of kisses, adoring speeches, and Carmilla constantly creeping into Laura’s bedroom.
And Le Fanu’s writing is utterly exquisite. He swathes this eerie little story in a ghostly wrap of lush writing (“Over the sward and low grounds a thin film of mist was stealing like smoke, marking the distances with a transparent veil”) and some deeply creepy moments, such as Laura waking to see Carmilla covered in blood.
Le Fanu also sketches out his characters quickly and effectively, despite the novella’s brevity. Laura is a sweet ordinary girl who seems both weirded out and entranced by Carmilla, and Carmilla herself is a larger-than-life character — sensual, obsessive, vibrantly erotic and extremely creepy, except when she goes off on crazy rants about how much she hates hymns and funerals.
Stoker brought the vampire into the limelight, but “Carmilla” seductively introduced the vampire’s eerie allure long before that. Luscious and eerie.
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Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu (/ˈlɛfənjuː/; 28 August 1814 – 7 February 1873) was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was a leading ghost story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era. M. R. James described Le Fanu as “absolutely in the first rank as a writer of ghost stories”. Three of his best-known works are Uncle Silas, Carmilla, and The House by the Churchyard.
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