Monday, August 06, 2012

Carlos Fuentes: Vlad

Jeff Vandermeer reviews Carlos Fuentes lastest novel "Vlad".

When Carlos Fuentes died in May at age 83, he left behind an impressive legacy and an eclectic body of work. Novels like the sprawling, Joycean "Terra Nostra" placed him at the center of the Latin American Boom of the 1970s, alongside such greats as Cortázar and García Márquez. But later books were often just as ambitious, returning to themes like the corruption of ideals.

The short novel "Vlad" (first published in Spanish as part of Fuentes's 2004 collection "Inquieta Compañía") provides ample evidence of Fuentes's powerful abilities. The book documents the "awful adventure" of Yves Navarro after his wife helps a respected lawyer find a house in Mexico City for a mysterious European refugee, Vladimir Radu, later revealed to be the infamous historical figure turned vampire Vlad the Impaler.

Dark humor dominates the novel's early pages, with Navarro mystified by the client's requests for a house that is "remote ... easy to defend against intruders ... with a ravine out back." The client also wants blackened windows and an escape tunnel. During Navarro's initial visit, he notices that "a great number of drains ran along the walls of the ground floor, as though our client was expecting a flood any day now." Radu wears a ridiculous wig and glue-on mustache, and his manservant's demeanor owes no small debt to Marty Feldman's performance in "Young Frankenstein."

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