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About the Author
Carlos Fuentes (1928-2012) was one of the most influential and celebrated voices in Latin American literature. He was the author of 24 novels, including "Aura", "The Death of Artemio Cruz", "The Old Gringo" and "Terra Nostra", and also wrote numerous plays, short stories, and essays. He received the 1987 Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's highest literary honor.
Fuentes was born in Panama City, the son of Mexican parents, and moved to Mexico as a teenager. He served as an ambassador to England and France, and taught at universities including Harvard, Princeton, Brown and Columbia. He died in Mexico City in 2012.
The author of more than a dozen novels and story collections, Carlos Fuentes is Mexico's most celebrated novelist and critic. He has received numerous honors and awards throughout his lifetime, including the Miguel de Cervantes Prize and the Latin Literary Prize. Included among his books are "Terra Nostra, Where the Air Is Clear", and "Distant Relations".
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Before he joined the undead, through a ten-year-old girl vampire, he was the fourteen century Romanian ruler, Vlad the Impaler, also known as Dracula. If you don't know Vlad his unspeakable crimes are listed here. And they are not what terrifies you in this well-written short novel filled with graphic imagery.
It is the earnest attorney, Yves Navarro, who is tasked with Vlad's move to Mexico. Dark humor pervades the new tenant's many odd requests such as blackened windows, escape tunnel, and multiple drains.
Yves's domestic life appears tranquil, despite the loss of his eleven-year-old son, who disappeared in the ocean on a beach outing. He and his wife, Asunción, and his little girl live the middle class life. But it is the loss of their son that has opened the door for evil to enter the family.
This tale is more than a horror story; it also reveals the ignorance of ignoring or not noticing problems until it is too late. The reader always knows more than the clueless Yves. The vampire has his eyes on his wife and littler girl.
The book is comical at times with Vlad's fake toupee and mustache, but this novella is truly scary and horrible. Fuentes is an amazing stylist, and the story will creep you out and fill you with terror. This may not be Fuente's greatest work. but it has the fingerprints of a master all over it.
The story takes place in present day Mexico city, and though a lot of the story is cut out, the elements that remain are absolutely terrifying. It's the small things that Fuentes kept which helped retain the terror. The creepy aspects of the Count's appearance the main character couldn't explain or rationalize, the terrifying sidekick of the Count's, the oddly sexualized moments the stand in for Harker couldn't contend with, subtle things like the lack of mirrors.
However Fuentes takes it a step further, and in a modern day Dracula's house adds subtle touches that both make the Count seem more technilogically savy, as well as more terrifying. At one point something so gruesome happened I thought I would be sick, but in very much the same way Stoker handles it.
All together I love this book, which is published by the Dalkey Archive Press; An non-profit publisher that operates out the University of Illinois. Definitely go check them out, because they publish a lot of international books like this one that get overlooked by major publishers.
If at first the premise sounds to you like a pitch made by a desperate screenwriter to a bunch of schlock-meister cable network execs, don't be misled. In the hands of a purposeful writer like Carlos Fuentes, an author of broad perspective and fluent literary skills, the conventional story line of vampire genre fiction mutates into a compelling allegory. The result is sly -- and deadly serious.
What Fuentes cares about is the unnervingly wayward state of our moral condition. I suspect he approached the writing of this book as an experiment testing whether, through the aura of the Devil, his message of warning could be freshly conveyed. I, for one, think Fuentes achieved his goal.
From the very start of "Vlad" the Devil's infiltration is felt. Page by page small stitches are added to the story's fabric, new notes of dread harbored in a word, a phrase, a gesture, an observation.
The first chapter introduces us to an aged attorney who heads a politically connected firm where the narrator, also an attorney, is employed. This old "holy terror" is a man of "moral flexibility" who comes from "obscure origins." He has "slithered" from one presidential administration to the next, growing in power while displaying "superficial courtesy and empty praise." He behavior is always accompanied by an "ironic smile." Later, in the fourth of 14 short chapters, when Count Vladimir Radu himself is introduced to us ("All my friends call me Vlad," he says), the narrator's reaction is simply this: "He looked like a ridiculous marionette." This blithe judgment is soon replaced by chilling discoveries about Vlad's mission, with terrible consequences for the narrator, his wife, and his daughter.
It's no surprise that, at bottom, Fuentes is a moralist. He views our day and age as an arena in which it's easy to find ageless signs of evil. "Vlad" shows how evil insinuates itself into the work environment, corrupts professional duties, and sunders the most intimate of family relationships. In every sphere of life, Fuentes wants us to understand, the temptations of the Devil and his minions are here to provoke the fall of men and the malfunctioning of society.
Although the novel is dark, Fuentes does not forget to give expression to his lyrical talents. In the middle of an evening conversation at the decaying mansion of his boss, the narrator pauses to notice how "the light from the burning logs played on our faces like murky remains of sunlight." A tender recollection of the loss of a child is delivered in heart-breaking language. It ends with a cadence: "This absence that is a presence. This silence that seeks voice. This portrait forever trapped in childhood..."
Adding seasoning to the swiftly told story of "Vlad" are Fuentes' signature interests in issues of social class and politics. One theme I found thought-provoking is the notion that honest work is the most effective antidote to evil. Yet as with any such prescription, this guidance comes with bad side effects. I suspect Fuentes, when introducing the idea, may have had in mind the contrary opinion of the Mexican-born early Marxist, Paul Lafargue, who in his 1883 treatise, (The Right to Be Lazy: Essays by Paul Lafargue), declared the work ethic to be a vampire sucking the blood of modern society.
A final mention should be made of the prominence of attorneys in this tale. They -- and by extension the legal system -- are repeated targets of Fuentes' satire ("the lawyer never spoke without a specific ulterior motive"). "Vlad" would make a great gift for your favorite, or better still, the least favorite -- attorney in your life.
Count Dracula, Vlad, has decided to immigrate toMexico after the mayhem inEastern Europe and countless wars have shortened his blood supplies. Vlad has vessels inMexico who introduce him Yves Navarro, a lawyer, and his wife Asunción, a real estate agent.
Yves and Asunción have lost a son in sea and Vlad entices them with the promise of seeing their daughter live forever, and remain a child eternally.
Vlad by Carols Fuentes takes on an interesting premise, what if Dracula still lived and settled inMexico City. As one might expect, there is a lot of dark humor in this book, starting with the strange requests the client is making of the real estate agent ("remote", "easy to defend") to the client's look which consists of a silly wig and glued on mustache.
What I found to be different in this book is that the reader knows a lot more than the narrator. This style of storytelling invigorates the dark comedy and brings a sense of ominous foreboding to banal and meaningless lines said by the famous Count.
In this rendition of the story, Fuentes marries vampire and lawyers - both server as vessels for unprincipled lust without ethics. As many vampire stories do, they let the fantasy and myth reflect on our own lives through anecdotes and metaphors.
While I'm not much for horror and fear, I think this novel is a gem which clearly illustrates the essence of great writing, characterization and flamboyancy which are difficult to pull off. The balance between horror and comedy, debauchery and personification are perfect and the campy, yet surreal atmosphere is almost magical.