By Carlos Fuentes (Dalkey Archive Press, 2012)
Trans. by E. Shaskan Bumas and Alejandro Branger


With respect to all the Twilight fans that need their vampires to not only sparkle in the sun, but exchange vows with their victims before any serious necking ever gets done, vampires should be repulsive. At the very least, they should be as unpalatable as any actual living person who feels comfortable wearing Ray-Bans at the dinner table.

Vlad is the latest posthumously published novel from the great Carlos Fuentes, who passed away last May. Here we get the real ugly, undead thing. Of course, this being a Fuentes fiction, we also get the pleasure of his lacquered prose, that typical Fuentes sentence that can inform on culture, crime, and politics. We also get a deft little grand guignol as well.

In Vlad, the author of The Old Gringo has provided his fans with the oldest gringo of them all---a 500 year-old pasty face blood sucker you might remember from Bram Stoker’s Dracula as well as Coppola’s Bram Stoker’s Dracula---to be sure this book is cinematically charged. The winner of the Miguel de Cervantes Prize, who dips with startling ease into theology as well as media trivia, makes no bones about incorporating a fare amount of in-jokes into this funfest of a tale.

There are no real surprises here. And I don’t think there are supposed to be any. This is a Dracula story plain and simple, filled with the reliable imagery of the lawyer and the real estate agent, and there are even those jokes about never drinking wine. We know the drill because lately writers from Stephen King to Stephanie Meyer have taken a stab at the tale.

But in the hands of a master like Fuentes, the vampire story becomes something more. In Vlad we get a world of social critique bound to dark dalliances and unnerving asides, a tale about a monster moving to Mexico City because his vile nature won’t be detected amongst the corruption.

“A city without police protection!” exclaims our vampire who then goes on to complain about all the trouble Scotland Yard once gave him. ¡Bienvenido!

Roberto Ontiveros