Carmilla (Joseph Sheridan le Fanu)

Carmilla is a novella by Joseph Sheridan le Fanu.
Finished on: 5.4.2019

Laura grows up quite lonely with her father in a remote castle in Styria. She wants nothing more than a companion. When a carriage accident brings Carmilla, a girl her age, to the castle, Laura is overjoyed. But the two girls also realize that they know each other from their childhood dreams. Carmilla is a mysterious girl who seems to be hiding something – Laura doesn’t know what it could be.

Carmilla is a beautiful staple of the vampire genre (and it is set in Styria, which I didn’t know. as an Austrian, I find that particularly nice), and a lovely queer classic. I really enjoyed it.

An etching of a hooded woman leaning over a half-naked sleeping woman, reaching for her as a man enters the room with a sword in hand.

I thought that Carmilla would be the kind of queer historic book where you have to go through the subtext with a fine comb to find the queer content. Happily I was absolutely wrong about that. There was no need for searching anything – Carmilla is obviously a lesbian and it is not hidden in any way.

That isn’t all there is to the book. It is very readable and has some very nice phrases and formulations. Sometimes the writing feels a little awkward, but that didn’t slow me down or made me enjoy the novella any less.

I also liked that the vampirism we get here is a little different from what we’re used to, opening up a bit of room that became closed in the meantime by having rather fixed rules about what vampires can and can’t do.

In any case, I enjoyed this novella and can understand that it stuck around for the past 150 years or so. Not all classics still work, but this one certainly does.

Summarizing: really good.

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