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Carmilla

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J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s Gothic novella Carmilla is a precursor to Dracula by Bram Stoker. Yet it is an important one, and in Carmilla, the narrator Laura is uneasy but powerless under the obsessive attentions of – and potent spell cast by – the title character. Le Fanu ultimately describes the relationship between the two women with a typically Victorian stricture, yet the Sapphic implications cannot be ignored - though the central conflict, like in Dracula, lies in the struggle for possession of a young woman’s immortal soul.

90 pages, Kindle Edition

First published January 1, 1872

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About the author

J. Sheridan Le Fanu

1,259 books980 followers
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the 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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Displaying 1 - 30 of 10,233 reviews
Profile Image for Jesse.
435 reviews419 followers
April 11, 2009
In many ways the antithesis of Dracula, and if Stoker's novel disappointed me with its clean-cut, heterosexual male-influenced dichotomies, than le Fanu's novella is the flipside of the coin: female-centric, homoerotic, ambiguous and enigmatic (and all in about a quarter of the length!). Here the vampire is not the withered, evil "Other" but the beautiful, sensuous stranger that is readily welcomed into home and heart, becoming the double for the protagonist, leading to a very different sense of horror--the necessary destruction not of an enemy but a loved one, perhaps even the self. It's a really eerie, beguiling little novella, uncanny in a way that Dracula only is in brief flashes...

Profile Image for emma.
1,822 reviews48.1k followers
December 14, 2022
A sapphic vampire story published decades before Dracula???? I love classics.

This is beautifully written and gay and there's a vampire.

Also it's like 100 pages long. What more could you want.

Bottom line: And they say the perfect book doesn't exist.
Profile Image for Alejandro.
1,125 reviews3,551 followers
September 15, 2015
Bloody relevant to read!


BEFORE DRACULA, THERE WAS...

But to die as lovers may - to die together, so that they may live together.

This is a very important book in historic sense, in the genre of vampire reading, due that it was published 25 years before than Dracula.

Also, it presented lesbian situations, easily one of the first open mentions of the topic in literature.

So, it was a pioneer book in two subjects: Vampires and Lesbian literature.

Some may wonder how it was possible to publish a book with lesbian issues in 1872.

Joseph Sheridan Le Fanú was ingenious in that, since when he was asked about, he just replied that it wasn't a homosexual situation since Carmilla was a vampire and due that, it was a creature without sexual genre.

Sneaky devil this Le Fanu!

Of course, that was a trick by the author but it worked since the book didn't have any trouble to be published in those times when there was a extremely close-minded attitude.

And certainly the importance of the book to the eventual sucess of Bram Stoker's novel was fundamental.

Without Carmilla there weren't Dracula and due that maybe there weren't a vampire sub-genre in the horror books that now it's one of the strongest subjects in modern paranormal literature.


BRITISH GOTHIC

Nevertheless, life and death are mysterious states, and we know little of the resources of either.

Le Fanú also was the father of the Gothic horror of Britain establishing the style of how that kind of literature would be written even on these days.

Maybe the only trouble with Carmilla to be read by current readers is its form of mystery that it's impossible that anybody would pick nowadays this particular novel to read without the previous knowledge that Carmilla is a vampire, and due that, the reader felt like reading a mystery where one already knows the answer to the mystery.

The clues to the real nature of Carmilla are elegant and stylish but too evident for any reader familiar with vampire-related similar books, movies, TV series, etc...

It's clear that Carmilla started all and the reality is that anybody else copied FROM it, but sadly, in many case, readers find the book way after of being already too familiar with the general world of vampires, diminishing the shock that the book could ever do.

However, it's still an important book in literature history.




Profile Image for Meave.
789 reviews56 followers
April 21, 2011
Poor Carmilla. I guess there are only so many isolated noblemen's daughters you can devour before they start talking.
Profile Image for s.penkevich.
849 reviews5,811 followers
October 9, 2022
Love will have its sacrifices. No sacrifice without blood.

Step aside, Dracula, Carmilla by Sheridan Le Fanu is my new yardstick for vampiric stories. You may have heard the big talking point around Carmilla, a queer vampire story published as a serial in The Dark Blue (later collected in La Fanu’s In a Glass Darkly) in 1871 and predates Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897) by several decades. But does it live up to the hype? Yes, and some. Set in Austria and drenched in gothic tones of dread, Carmilla is a gripping tale of seduction and bloody horror, treating us to the mysterious Carmilla growing close to 19-year old narrator Laura as a strange plague seems to be killing the young women in the local region. As scary as it is spicy, Carmilla is a riveting read that presents early vampiric lore as well as some excellent examinations of class warfare and a loss of innocence in this chilling coming-of-age tale.

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Original llustration from Dark Blue publication by D.H. Friston

For maximum reading experience, listen to this song.

The notion of a seductive vampire is alive and well in Carmilla, with Le Fanu boldly exploring themes of women’s sexuality. For the 1870s, this book feels pretty erotic, with a lot of caressing and kisses that do not disguise a craving of sexual intimacy between Carmilla and Laura. If one is anxious this will lead to an assertion of the draw of homosexuality as demoic or anything like that, rest assured this is not present in the text. It is frequently noted that the two girls are drawn to one another’s beauty, and even the old men of the book seem charmed by that (the father is actually a rather endearing character). The short novel creeps forward, piling dread upon dread across supernatural sequences with some truly frightening imagery. The gothic setting of constantly grey weather in a countryside full of decaying castles (Le Fanu uses the utterly delightful term schloss as often as possible) set a perfect tone for the tale. This has a growing tension that reminded me of Henry JamesThe Turn of the Screw, though it has been suggested that James was inspired by this novel for the narrative framing in his own book. With each surmounting horror, from shared dreams between the two girls, Carmilla disappearing from her room, a shadowy figure walking through the fog down a path beyond the schloss, and frequent deaths in the town, the novel will keep you flipping pages eagerly enjoying this little gothic gem.

But to die as lovers may—to die together, so that they may live together.

Carmilla is one of the earlier vampire stories, but by no means the first. For example, The Vampyre by John William Polidori predates it, published in 1819 during the same writers retreat as Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley’s Frankenstein, but there was already a rich vampire lore for Le Fanu to draw from. It has been asserted that 18th century monk Dom Augustin Calmet’s vampire story served as an inspiration, and Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem of a succubus,Christabel, (and the shared theme of hospitality betrayed) each influenced Le Fanu. A major source of inspiration was also found in a memoir by Captain Basil Hall, Schloss Hainfeld; or a Winter in Lower Styria, which shares the same setting as this novel and the family name Cranstoun is likely the source of the deceased Hungarian family Karnstein in Le Fanu’s novel.

That said, an aspect I found interesting reading it in the present is how I had to cast aside any preconceived notions of vampires, as there is a fairly rigid modern vampire lore that has been built over time and any deviation from it always stands out. At the novel’s conclusion there is a brief recounting of what is purported to be known about vampires at the time, insinuating a robust lore this story is immersed in. The story is framed as being from the case files of Dr. Hesselius, Le Fanu’s paranormal detective, and this story functions as Hesselius’ investigation into vampires through a first-person account written to him by a now-adult Laura. In Carmilla, vampires are able to go about in sunlight, but cannot travel far from their burial place where they return to sleep without disturbing the soil above their coffin. One aspect I found rather silly but wish continued through vampire lore is that the vampire can only disguise themselves using an anagram of their name while alive (Mircalla/Millarca/Carmilla). So if you ever meet a dude named Veste--watch out, I’m about to vampire you. Carmilla appears as a black cat instead of a bat and also can more or less teleport. But one description stands out to me:
One sign of the vampire is the power of the hand. The slender hand of Mircalla closed like a vice of steel on the General's wrist when he raised the hatchet to strike. But its power is not confined to its grasp; it leaves a numbness in the limb it seizes, which is slowly, if ever, recovered from.

This is the perfect metaphor. The grip of a vampire will leave you numb forever, such as how the seductive grasp Carmilla holds over Laura will either leave her dead or a vampire like her. It is said here that vampires like to multiply their numbers (which occurs either through being turned, like Carmilla, or suicide), and the story is vague on what Carmilla plans for Laura. I have my opinion, but I think the vagueness makes the story all the more eerie.

Dim thoughts of death began to open, and an idea that I was slowly sinking took gentle, and, somehow, not unwelcome, possession of me. If it was sad, the tone of mind which this induced was also sweet.

This book situates Carmilla as a member of the Hungarian aristocracy, a line that ended during an uprising. There is an interesting look at class warfare and keeping down of the poor here, with peasant girls being the usual victims from the vampires.The middle-class members such as Laura’s father or the General seem to write these deaths off, assuming some disease spread amongst the poor and that their wealth and schlosses will protect them. There is certainly a disdain for the lower classes, particularly from comments by Carmilla. For her, the poor are merely a meal and we have a pretty blunt metaphor of the rich feeding off the suffering of the poor. Laura, on the other hand, offers her resources and wealth, making her much more alluring (as did the General’s niece). We see the vampire always as a social climber. I quite enjoyed how in order to integrate into human society the vampires here are always presenting a narrative involving intrigue and danger. It seems as if this playacting is a foreplay of sorts to the vampires.

But dreams come through stone walls, light up dark rooms, or darken light ones, and their persons make their exits and their entrances as they please, and laugh at locksmiths.

What really drives this novel home, however, is the language. Everything is dripping in dread and gothic tones and Le Fanu has a large vocabulary surrounding dreariness and blood (or lack thereof). As the book presents itself as a scientific examination of vampires, it is interesting to note how much humorism plays into the language used. Characters are often described as languid, plaid or languorous to nudge to ideas of the blood being drained. The weather is without warmth or sun and everything is decaying or corpse-like. It is perfect.

'You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever.'

This is an excellent early vampire story that certainly has deserved to survive through the public consciousness. It even influenced Dracula, most notably in the deleted first chapter that later appeared as a short story, Dracula’s Guest, but one can see similarities in characters like the Baron or the General being an influence for Van Helsing. Anne Rice has cited Carmilla as a major influence for her Vampire Chronicles series, and there have been comic and film adaptations of Le Fanu’s slim novel. I quite enjoyed the openness of women’s sexuality here and Le Fanu certainly knows how to succinctly create a sensual atmosphere within an otherwise deathly cold tone. While the ending is a bit abrupt, it isn’t unsatisfying and still leaves a lot to ponder over. Also it’s always fun to consider this theory that correlates the popularity of vampire or zombie media with the rise of either right or left-wing politics. Carmilla is a classic and has certainly seduced me. Now to figure out these bite marks on my neck…

4.5/5

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Profile Image for Peter.
2,620 reviews467 followers
November 13, 2021
Laura lacks company in a remote part of Steyria when her father gives shelter to a mysterious young girl named Carmilla. Soon after young women are beginning to die. Who is the girl? Did she use another name in another century? Is there any connection between her and the unusual death rate in the area? This is the quintessential gothic vampire novel. You really find all the motifs (ruined castle, ruined chapel, a masquerade, uncanny setting) and a detailed description of the "revenants". The novella is masterly plotted in 15 chapters and a conclusio. Starting slow the story soon turns into an absolutely intriguing nightmare. This tale preceded Dracula and is absolutely compelling. The gothic vampire classic. Must read!
October 11, 2022
I am iffy, if the Irish author, Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu, wouldn’t have died early, hadn’t he sued Bam Stoker and many others, for blatantly nicking the plot premise of “Carmilla” and replicating into Dracula and so many others (both written and motion)!😊

Carmilla, a mid-1800s, first novel on female vampirism (quintessential of vampirism), tastefully captures the European wilderness, with the narrow roads, gothic bridge and the drawbridges. This gothic masterpiece, has been classified as one, displaying lesbianism, and accused of homophobia, which is quite vexing and questionable for me!

Can’t two females, devoid of love, with a lacking childhood, find solace and ardour, in each other’s company?
Yes, the love between the two, has been portrayed a wee erotically, but I didn’t find anything obscene or smut!


I read the scenes between the two, repeatedly, and didn’t find anything vulgar, but for acute fondness for each other.
Laura keeps talking of her antipathy for Carmilla, but capitulates to her open and warm-hearted ardour and affection. This cyclic emotional-wheel of antipathy, extrication and fondness, has been portrayed throughout the novel. For me, it was nothing more than - Two solitary souls, living a solitary life, finding company in each other!

One might conjecture, that in the mid-1800s, such fondness in friendship, between same sex, was uncommon, and hence reprimanded!

Without divulging the intricate details, an abridged plot-overview:-

Laura, the protagonist, begins narrating her story. She resides, along with her father, General Spielsdorf, in Styria (a region in Austria) in a castle/schloss. She is accompanied along with Madame Perrodon, the governess; and Mademoiselle De Lafontaine, her “finishing governess.” She lost her mother in her infancy.
One fine day, she is out with the maids, and they see a carriage over turned, the mistress of the cart was to continue with her journey, but Laura requests her to let her daughter, Carmilla stay with them in the castle to recover from the accident!

“If you confide this young lady to our care it will be her best consolation.”

The two, start living together, getting enraptured with each other, and become best friends.
Carmilla is open, warm, and effusive with Laura, but Laura is inhibited and wonders at Carmilla’s level of confidence. She feels a tiny degree of repulsion but the attraction overwhelms her.

Laura, finds oddity in certain habits of Carmilla, like she locks the door from the inside at night, she displays languor and lassitude. There are moments, when Carmilla is utterly consumed by a passion for Laura, and kisses, grasps, and tells her they will be one. But I see Laura just being used as a prop by Carmilla, who is still battling with her emotions towards Carmilla!

Eventually, Camilla’s health starts deteriorating, Laura too falls sick, and strange bewildering things start taking precedence. Read to know more! 😊😊

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Stars-Distribution: -

I give 4-stars to this Victorian gothic tale!

More than a vampire-tale, this effectually sways the readers hypnotically, across various other issues, of culture, gender, sexuality.

More than the gothic element, I found, Laura's adoration and yearning for companionship versus actual attraction towards Carmilla, far more appealing and compelling!

The trail of death left behind by the vampire, is defined as a disease which passes like a parasite/infection, from one to another.


This tale has all the vampiric credentials, but I see it as more of a cultural breakthrough, about gender and sexuality. It may garner a lot of literary criticism, for the scenes between the girls, but I found them aesthetically narrated, propelling from a place of lack of love!!
There is a constant unwillingness and antipathy from Laura(keeps trying to extricate herself from Carmilla’s hypnotic charm), but Carmilla’s affections keeps wooing and overwhelming her.

There is a magnetism and repulsiveness. One can revel in their fondness and antipathy!! The bond between the two is uncanny.

In my view, the novella, reflects cultural advances in the Victorian era, and is just not a mere female vampire tale, but a metaphor to showcase female prowess and sexuality! The novella is intriguing and pretty much plausible.


I wouldn’t have docked a star, only if it was captured as a novel and not a novella! I didn’t want it to end so soon!
Profile Image for Anne.
3,917 reviews69.3k followers
January 31, 2023
BEFORE STOKER'S DRACULA.
But after Polidori's Vampyre, Lord Ruthven.
There was Le Fanu's Carmilla!

So. Kind of like the middle child of vampire tales.

description

This one was much shorter and much creepier than Dracula, in my opinion. Carmilla was a scary bitch. And part of that was because she was this ethereally beautiful creature that charmed her way into the family's hearts, not some zombie dirt-muncher that was mindlessly roaming the moors looking for the odd sleepwalker.
Although she did like a bit of light snacking in between the main meal, as a lot of peasants in the area surrounding Laura's home fell ill and died from some unknown wasting sickness.

description

Oh, and little Carmilla has a bit of a crush on the naive Laura.
“I have never been in love with no one, and never shall," she whispered, "unless it should be with you.”
That was interesting.
Apparently, Stephanie Meyer wasn't the first author to write a creepy watching you sleep scene, either. Only Carmilla liked to stab a fang in Laura's tit every now and then. So. Unbelievably, the point goes to Edward for being a gentleman and keeping his canines to himself whilst he sat in the corner of Bella's room.

description

There were actually a lot of creepy scenes in this.
Starting with the opening scene where Laura describes meeting Carmilla for the first time when she was just a little child. She just pops out from under her bed like the boogeyman and proceeds to do her vampiric worst, then slithers back under there and disappears until Laura is a young woman.
Talk about the long-term stalking game.

description

When they find an old portrait of someone who looks a helluva lot like Carmilla in the attic...
Whaaaaaat?!

I swear to god, I've read so many books like this that if I find a hundred year old painting that resembles someone I know, I'm 100% going to just stake them on the spot. They're definitely a vampire! You know it, I know it, and there's no court of law that will convict me because everyone in that jury box will have read some shit like this before and be nodding along - Yup! They were definitely undead. Nothing to do but run a stake through their heart. NOT GUILTY.

description

Ok, I can feel myself going off the rails a bit, so let me just end this by saying that this is my top old-timey vampire story.
Highly Recommended!
Profile Image for Ahmad Sharabiani.
9,566 reviews56.5k followers
September 27, 2021
Carmilla, J. Sheridan Le Fanu

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.

تاریخ نخستین خوانش: روز بیست و چهارم ماه ژوئن سال 2008میلادی به زبان اصلی

عنوان: کارمیلا؛ نویسنده: جوزف شریدان له فانو؛ برگردان: هامون جعفرنژاد؛ مشهد، بوتیمار، 1394، در 125ص؛ شابک 9786004040334؛ موضوع: داستانهای نویسندگان ایرلند - سده 19م

کارمیلا نام یکی از نخستین شخصیت‌های خون آشام ادبیات است؛ این شخصیت، بر خلاف «دراکولا»، یک زن است، و البته جای یادآوری دارد، که رمان «دراکولا»، نوشته ی «برام استوکر»، پس از «کارمیلا» نوشته و منتشر شده است، بنابراین هستند کسانیکه میگویند: «استوکر در نوشتن دراکولا از لی فانو تاثیر گرفته است»؛ «کارمیلا» اشراف زاده ای نفرین شده است، او به خون آشامی‌ اشتغال دارد؛ «کارمیلا» ظاهر یک دختر جوان زیبا را دارد، که زیبایی و معصومیتش، جذاب و گیراست؛ دندان‌های نیش او، نه به اندازه ای که خیلی مشهود باشند، اما تا حد مشخصی، تیز هستند، تا نیمه شب، بتواند آن‌ها را در سینه ی قربانی فرو برده، و از خونش تغذیه کند؛ «کارمیلا»، گاهی به طور ناگهانی، غیب میشود، و پس از مدتی، دوباره در محل غیب شدن خویش، دیده می‌شود؛ او با شنیدن حرف‌های مذهبی، یا سرودهای کلیسایی، رو ترش می‌کند، و محل را ترک می‌کند؛ «کارمیلا»، برای جذب قربانی، مدت‌ها زمان صرف می‌کند، تا به او نزدیک شود، و محبت بسیاری برای قربانی روا میدارد؛

نقل از متن کتاب: (در شبی مهتابی، پس از غروب کامل آفتاب، به بالای یکی از برج‌های کلیسا رفت، و از پنجره‌ اش قبرستان را زیر نظر گرفت. لباسی از جنس کتان را، که پیشتر تا کرده بود، در کنار قبر قرار داد، و به سمت دهکده‌ ای به راه افتاد، تا طاعونش را بر سر اهالی آن فرود آورد؛ ...)، پایان نقل از متن کتاب

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 28/12/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ 04/07/1400هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی
Profile Image for Alex.
1,418 reviews4,381 followers
March 27, 2020
Vampires are gay. They've always been gay. Twilight was literally the first vampire story that wasn't gay. (Unless it was? I don't know, I didn't read it.) Dracula was our pioneering gay male vampire story. Carmilla, which predates it by some twenty years, is our pioneering lesbian one.

The authors themselves are not always gay. Bram Stoker was, of course - gayer than a guy who knows how to change the sheets on his bed - but Sheridan Le Fanu, the popular and terrific 1800s Gothic writer responsible for Carmilla, seems like a cousin-fucker but a straight one. And this is, if we're being honest, lesbians more of the "nightgowns and swooning" variety than the "roommates who enjoy pants" variety. ("Roommates who enjoy pants" is what they called them back then.) So this is lesbians by way of the male gaze, and with quite a lot of Daddy Issues mixed in. "My hot daughter's hot friend keeps flouncing about in nightgowns," is one way you could describe the plot. I mean we've all seen Poison Ivy, right? Do a shot for every time you see the word "languid".

poison-ivy
Ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-cherry bomb

The hot daughter and her single father live in an old castle ("schloss" is now a word you know) in the middle of nowhere, because of course they do, and a total stranger driving by leaves her hot teenage daughter with them for a few months because she fainted. That's the plot. They set the nubile stranger up in the bedroom that has a tapestry of Cleopatra holding poisonous asps to her bosom, and can I tell you how much I love imagining that decorating decision. "What if we make this room the Dead Naked Lady Room?" Cool.

cloepatar
Cleopatra And The Asp by Girolamo di Benvenuto, 1500ish

Townspeople are dying, as they do. Carmilla's door is locked from the inside at night. She comes down late in the morning. "My strange and beautiful companion," says daughter Laura,

"would take my hand and hold it with a fond pressure, renewed again and again; blushing softly, gazing in my face with languid and burning eyes, and breathing so fast that her dress rose and fell with the tumultuous respiration. It was like the ardor of a lover; it embarrassed me; it was hateful and yet over-powering; and with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one for ever." Then she had thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling.

Do a shot for "languid." And should this be taken seriously? Is it literature? Is it great vampire literature? Are vampires inherently silly?

sheridan
Sheridan Le Fanu: would you bang, yes or no

Vampire books are mostly gay and always about sex. Dangerous visitors to your bedroom at night! Certainly Le Fanu intended Carmilla to be hot, and if Stoker didn't intend Dracula to be it was only because he was so far back in the closet that he ended up in Narnia. But of course vampires are predators, as well, so there's an element of "these depraved homosexuals," right? "So hot! But so dangerous! But so hot!" I hope that in these enlightened times we're slightly less panicky about the vast spectrum of our sexual desire. But sex is still dangerous, and it seems to me like a serious concern. Books about sex are worthy. And what other books, particularly in the stodgy 1800s, were about sex? If you didn't smuggle it into a vampire book, where else would you find it? Henry James certainly wasn't helping anyone.

What I love about this particular edition of Carmilla by Lanternfish Press is that they've convinced the mighty Carmen Maria Machado, a Gothic lover herself, to write an intro where she says all the quiet parts out loud. Machado first of all insists that the entire thing is true, producing historical documents like a righteous gay Borges, and then further accuses Le Fanu of straightwashing the story. It's not gay enough, she says. The true story would have been about about "a young woman’s sexual awakening; the senseless slaughter of her supposed defiler.” Machado points out that gay passion is often read as murderous (hello, Patricia Highsmith), while making a driveby suggestion that the infamous Countess Bathory (of Blood) was bathing less in virgin blood than in their vaginas.

Elizabeth-Bathory-Portrait
Countess Bathory, one kind of scissor fighter or another

Machado continues,
The act of interacting with text - that is to say, of reading - is that of inserting ones self into what is static and unchanging sounds that it might pump with fresh blood. Having read this introduction, I hope you will enter into Carmilla thusly, using your fingertips and mouth and mind to locate ...what exists below: the erotic relationship of two high-strung and lonely young women.

This whole thing is, of course, a meta joke about our modern hobby of declaring old books gay. Carmen Maria Machado is fingerbanging Carmilla. But under that, there's something serious going on, right? This is a declaration of our right to interpret old books however we want to. The book is as gay as we say it is, she suggests. The words on the page are, of course, static and unchanging. But when we go down on them, we open them up and find new meanings hidden inside, and those are not only valid but crucial to the survival of the book. If there's nothing hidden in it, it doesn't matter. "Girls are caterpillars when they live in the world," says Carmilla,

to be finally butterflies when the summer comes; but in the meantime there are grubs and larvae, don't you see - each with their peculiar propensities, necessities and structures.

A book can be lurid and great at the same time, and Carmilla certainly is both. I love every preposterous sentence of it. Look at this indelible scene where the vampire appears at Laura's bed, her nightgown drenched in blood.

IMG-6864
Illustration from the Lanternfish edition

The image was echoed by Stephen King 100 years later in Carrie, another great novel about the terror of feminine sexuality. It's spectacular, and Carmilla is still a gripping and unnerving book. It has plenty of secrets and peculiar propensities left for our probing fingertips.
Profile Image for Rebecca.
234 reviews204 followers
November 5, 2022
Before Dracula there was a sensual, sickening, fascinating figure, the first to have opened the doors to vampirism in literary works: Carmilla.

Suddenly arriving in the ancient castle immersed in the charm of the Styria landscape, Carmilla unravels the life of its inhabitants: the young Laura, the narrating voice, and her rich father.

Between the two girls a deep relationship immediately establishes, like the one between two lovers. But who is Carmilla really? What about Mircalla? and what's behind the strange disease involving the inhabitants of the surrounding village?

Carmilla may be a tale of few pages but it is incredibly immersive. A few hours is enough for Le Fanu to arrest us in his writing and in all the ambiance he creates for the story. A gothic, atmospheric, enchanting tale of romance and horror.

Simply beautiful.
Profile Image for Nayra.Hassan.
1,260 reviews5,351 followers
March 30, 2022
ما كل هذا البطء المُغلف لتحركاتها ؟
ما كل هذا البرود و التحفظ..كأنها بلا ماضي او مستقبل ؟
انت لي..انا و انت سنصير واحد إلى الابد؟؟

ا{يا للروعة منذ إثنى عشر عاما رايت وجهك في احلامي و ظل
يسكن فيها منذ ذلك الحين }ا
و{منذ اثني عشر عاما رأيت وجهك في الواقع }هكذا بدأت علاقة بين فتاتين في 1871 قوامها الافتتان من طرف و ان كان افتتان مشوبا بشكوك عديدة

هنا مصاصي الدماء يتجولون في عز شمس الظهيرة عادي
هنا حيث يقطن كارنشتاين
هنا القلاع المهجورة و الخراءب و المقابر
و الأحداث الغامضة البطيئة التي تحتمل تفسيرين
..الرعب القوطي كما يقول الكتاب

.النوفيلا ليست لكارهي النهايات المفتوحة و الاحتمالات اللانهائية
هنا البروفة الأولى لرواية دراكولا
Profile Image for Icey.
150 reviews108 followers
February 6, 2022
From fear there is excitement; from abhorrence there is adoration; from repulsion there is pleasure.

The burning of languor.

The ruin in the hollows, the blood in the veins, the desire in the flesh.

C A R M I L L A

Eight alphabets. Her name was as soft as the morning rose.

Published in 1872, Carmilla was the true first vampire fiction that has haunted the literary world.
Profile Image for Justin Tate.
Author 7 books906 followers
August 9, 2021
Lesbian vampire novel that pre-dates Dracula by 25 years? Sign me up! Carmilla (1872) was in fact a huge influence on Bram Stoker, as shown by many subtle references in Dracula (1897) and more obvious ones in "Dracula's Guest". Largely a forgotten classic, today Carmilla is receiving something of a revival thanks to an increased academic interest in queer artifacts and this new edition that's edited by Carmen Maria Machado.

I'm a big fan of Machado, especially her brilliant 2019 memoir In the Dream House. She's also an astute scholar of pop culture and distinguished LGBT voice, so the perfect person to offer gentle commentary via footnotes. This edition also includes some steamy illustrations not to be missed.

The story follows Laura, a secluded and lonely girl, as she's befriended by a supernaturally beautiful woman who preys exclusively on other attractive young women. In addition to draining blood, Carmilla seduces with old-fashioned kisses and whispered affectations:

...with gloating eyes she drew me to her, and her hot lips traveled along my cheek in kisses; and she would whisper, almost in sobs, "You are mine, you shall be mine, you and I are one forever." Then she had thrown herself back in her chair, with her small hands over her eyes, leaving me trembling (37-38).

The "You are mine" line here is an early example of a vampire's possessiveness, which will be echoed by Dracula when he proclaims of Jonathan Harker: "This man belongs to me!”

Such sentences also depict precedent-setting vampire sensuality, where pain and pleasure are an enticing combination. While being seductively handled, Laura admits to “blushing,” feeling “embarrassed” and describing the encounter as “hateful and yet over-powering” — but it's also clear that she's enjoying herself. From the beginning, or at least as far back as John Polidori's "The Vampyre" (1819), the literary vampire seems to be an outlet for repressed desire and exploration of taboos.

Consider this juicy paragraph, of which Machado observes: “If this isn’t an orgasm, nothing is.”

...sometimes there came a sensation as if a hand was drawn softly along my cheek and neck. Sometimes it was as if warm lips kissed me, and longer and longer and more lovingly as they reached my throat, but there the caress fixed itself. My heart beat faster, my breathing rose and fell rapidly and full drawn; a sobbing, that rose into a sense of strangulation, supervened, and turned into a dreadful convulsion, in which my senses left me and I became unconscious (69).

All these conflicting feelings described here are admittedly complicated, overwhelming, and a lot to wrap one's head around. Is the scene supposed to be scary? Hot? Why not both? The reason vampires have been sexy for hundreds of years is largely because of this mixture of emotions, not in spite of it.

Like salted caramel, the vampire’s bite is a duality of flavors. Bittersweet. Being punctured about the neck is a painful sensation, but wrapping that feeling in a layer of ecstasy is how the vampire succeeds in an almost Darwinian way. By directing supernatural levels of pleasure toward the receptive partner, not to mention the enticing possibility of immortality, vampires make being their victim as much fun as possible. In a way that is scary—and hot—because the victim is willfully drawn to their own demise, enjoying every moment until it's all too late.

Mosquitoes could learn a thing or two.
Profile Image for John Mauro.
Author 5 books392 followers
December 29, 2022
My complete review of Carmilla is published at Grimdark Magazine.

Carmilla by J. Sheridan Le Fanu is the one of the first great works of vampire fiction, published in 1872, about a quarter century before Bram Stoker’s Dracula. Like the undead titular character, Carmilla is a timeless work, brimming with vivacity and an irresistible yet dangerous allure.

The teenaged narrator, Laura, lives with her father in an old Austrian castle. As a six-year-old girl, Laura dreams of a young woman looking over her at night, a singular beauty whom she cannot erase from her mind. Upon waking from her dream, she discovers a mysterious pain in her chest.

Many years later, a carriage breaks down in front of their castle, and the family is left to take care of a beautiful girl, Carmilla, who appears to be the same age as Laura. Laura and Carmilla immediately recognize each other from their childhood dreams, and a close-knit friendship blossoms. This friendship soon crosses over to romantic courtship as Carmilla’s desires grow more carnal.

Meanwhile, girls across the village are succumbing to a mysterious illness, unexplainable by any natural means. The locals believe that the girls are becoming sick through supernatural means and are determined to put an end to this evil.

Carmilla is an early masterpiece of Gothic fiction, setting the standard for vampire fiction for 150 years after its publication, and its influence has only grown in recent years. Personally, I enjoyed Carmilla a lot more than Dracula, which seems rather stodgy by comparison. J. Sheridan Le Fanu should also be commended for his natural and non-judgmental depiction of sapphic love, which is surprising for something published in the nineteenth century.

Overall, Carmilla is a must-read for lovers of Gothic fiction and vampire horror. J. Sheridan Le Fanu’s classic novella is somehow just as vibrant today as when it was published in 1872.
Profile Image for Tim.
476 reviews609 followers
May 21, 2022
"In an isolated castle deep in the Austrian forest, teenaged Laura leads a solitary life with only her father, attendant and tutor for company. Until one moonlit night, a horse-drawn carriage crashes into view, carrying an unexpected guest -- the beautiful Carmilla."
- Description taken from the Pushkin Press edition of the novel.



Carmilla was published more than twenty years before Dracula. I feel like I should stress that as everyone tries to treat the good count as if he was the proper introduction to vampires (let's not even get into The Vampyre by John Polidori which is another conversation entirely).

If I'm to be completely honest, the fact that Dracula gets all the love over Carmilla is more than slightly frustrating, as in my opinion, Carmilla is actually a better vampire story and manages to pull it off in almost 1/4 the page count. That's not to discredit Dracula as I gave it five stars as well. Both are excellent stories, I just feel Carmilla is the more exciting of the two.

Carmilla is just such an interesting little tale. While Dracula had moments of homoerotic subtext, Carmilla is flat out blatant with it. Zero subtlety here, Carmilla is obviously trying to seduce our lead. Carmilla also uses a rather interesting tactic to get close to her victims which makes for and interesting tale… it's also rather fascinating that she's very much featured throughout the book whereas Dracula has very few pages in his own book.

This is such a delightful little book. One I can see myself revisiting again in the future. Well worth a read to all fans of classics and/or horror. 5/5 stars.
Profile Image for Magrat Ajostiernos.
566 reviews3,927 followers
October 29, 2019
Genial. ¡Me ha gustado mucho! una pena que sea tan cortita porque me hubiera encantado leer (y saber más) de la terrorífica Carmilla.
Si os gustó la maravillosa 'Drácula', disfrutaréis de esta novela también, tienen el mismo estilo e incluso atmósfera, aunque 'Carmilla' fue anterior.
Recomiendo además la edición ilustrada por Ana Juan, es cierto que la traducción tiene alguna expresión "rara", pero en general no está mal y las ilustraciones son maravillosas y consiguen envolverte y atraparte por completo.
Profile Image for Ariel.
301 reviews64.2k followers
May 5, 2015
PRETTY AVERAGE. I don't feel like I particularly learned anything. It was a very monotone and non-climactic. Very /quaint/. And the giant plot twist was spoiled for me (i mean, it'd be spoiled for anyone living in 2015 because it's SO OBVIOUS) but I really feel that that spoilers shouldn't have the power to ruin a story, but I really feel that all this book had was that one spoiler.

I still see merit in it, don't get me wrong. I read it for school and after intense studying I can see value in it, but Goodreads is a place for personal opinion, I think, and I just found it very "MEH."
Profile Image for Graeme Rodaughan.
Author 9 books341 followers
December 27, 2022
Horror Reader Shocker! Spooky Vampire Leaves Wannabe Author Prostrated!: "What the FRACK!!! I can't get her out of my head!" - Vampire Guild Weekly

After reading this book, I am left frustrated and oddly underwhelmed, and yet there is an undeniable and dare I say it 'uncanny,' power to this story which is a mystery to me.

The smartest character in the story is the antagonist (who is not that smart), who proceeds to charm and bamboozle an array of protagonists who are all very nice, and not the least bit given to suspicion of others.

There are multiple events where the fact that Carmilla is a vampire is hinted at with growing strength, up to and including the discovery of a perfect portrait painted in the dim past. Le Fanu doesn't quite get to the point of hanging a sign, written in fresh blood around Carmilla's neck proclaiming, "I am a vampire, and I am here to kill you." But he gets close.

With the characters stumbling about in their ignorance as the Vampire runs rings around them - I was left imagining shooting fish in a barrel. I found myself thinking what if a terrible blizzard arrived that shut up the Schloss for 3 days (and especially 3 nights). Leaving Carmilla alone with only the hero - Laura (our narrator), her father, the governess, and the other staff without any hope of escape. As the death toll mounted, the presence of a vampire would quickly become obvious. Laura would then be confronted with a need to make a decision of consequence and take irrevocable action. Something she really doesn't get much of a chance to do.

Passive characters, especially if the narrator are frustrating.

On the plus side, the author has made an excellent stab at establishing the vampire genre. He has also provided a clever subplot of lesbian love. Neither would have been easy to do in his day and age.

Also the description of the actual vampire attacks is genuinely spooky and admirable writing.

While this book failed to excite me with it's general lack of pace and suspense, It has deep qualities that many would appreciate. Especially those with a taste for "Creeping Horror."

On a decidedly UNCANNY personal note. ... I had a dream, an incredibly VIVID dream, while reading this novel where I was visited by a magnetic, alluring, dark-haired female vampire and I willing offered my arm to her. Something that I have never done before in a dream. What was also noteworthy was the experience of an abiding personal intimacy that accompanied the act of freely giving blood to sustain another.

The sultry summer evening had barely given way to the night. I had left the bedroom doors open to the balcony to allow a light breeze to circulate. I lay back on the bed, tossing and turning, unable to sleep. The house belonged to me, I was its sole occupant, but the loneliness of this house weighed heavily - it was not a home.

Moonlight cut through the room, then it vanished for an instant. A momentary shadow flitting through the doorway, entering my bedroom and filling it with a pervasive sense of possession - the room was no longer mine.

My heart thudded in my chest. I sat up suddenly, pressing backward against the headboard. There was someone in the room, the feeling of Her presence was overwhelming, but I couldn't see anyone - there was no one there.

The shadows thickened at the end of my bed. I stared, frozen where I sat, as the shadows coalesced into the ethereal shape of a young woman. She wore a light diaphanous gown. Her hair was lustrous black, her skin pale like marble, her eyes were large and dark, her lips red, full and slightly curved in a coy smile.

Her form solidified. A faint perfume filled the air. She seemed deeply familiar, and yet, I had never seen her before - at least I had no memory of ever meeting her and I'm sure I would not have forgotten.

She moved to her right, floating, lithe, serene. She was majestic and mesmerizing - power beyond words was bound up in her gaze. Her eyes glittered like black diamonds, brilliant and hard. I couldn't tear my eyes away from them even if I tried.

She sat down beside me, gently picking up my left arm with her cool hands. She turned it over, palm up. I didn't resist - I didn't want to. I lifted my arm up and she lent forward.

A bell rang in the distance, a muffled warning - ignored and discarded in the face of her needs. Needs I was a willing servant to.

Moonlight gleamed on her ivory fangs. She leaned further in, first kissing, then licking - finally biting. A single drop of blood fell off my wrist, dark against the white bed sheet. She murmured in delight, my heart beat hard in my chest, but I stayed still - unwilling to disturb her feast.

Everything was for her...

(inspired by my dream while reading this book...)


I am left wondering just how deep this story can creep into you when you read it?

Strongly Recommended. 5 'Spooky Vampire Kisses Beneath the Moonlight,' Stars.
Profile Image for Orsodimondo.
2,149 reviews1,680 followers
June 16, 2022
PRIMA DI DRACULA


Carl Theodor Dreyer, “Vampyr”, 1932.

Sì, prima di Dracula. Ben venticinque anni prima del Dracula di Bram Stoker: 1872 questo, 1897 l’altro. A firma di quel geniaccio dell’horror gotico a nome Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu (che ho frequentato anche per il tempo della lettura di un’altra chicca del genere, Uncle Silas), scrittore irlandese proprio come il papà di Dracula.

Penserai che sono crudele, e molto egoista, ma l’amore è sempre egoista. Non puoi sapere quanto sia gelosa di te. Devi venire con me, e amarmi fino alla morte; oppure mi odierai, ma verrai comunque con me, odiandomi nella morte e dopo la morte.
Carmilla non va per il sottile, è alquanto esplicita. Ed è chiaro che la sua nuova amica, all’apparenza coetanea, figlia del signore della dimora nella quale è ospite accudita alla (esagerata) perfezione, rimane scossa e turbata.

Credo si possa proprio dire che questo romanzo è un capostipite dal quale varia altra letteratura è germinata. E non si tratta solo del vampiro – peraltro qui in veste femminile – ma anche degli espliciti sottintesi saffici. Direbbe Carmen Maria Machado che sono in gioco:
Potenti sfumature queer tra l’innocente protagonista e padrona di casa e l’inquietante vampira del titolo.


Roger Vadim, “Et mourir de plaisir – Il sangue e la rosa”, 1960.

Una ricca famiglia ridotta all’osso: padre e figlia, una fanciulla che è un bocciolo ancora da schiudere. Vivono (chissà perché) in un castello della Stiria (Austria), meglio se il maniero è anche malandato. Laura, la giovane perla figlia del nobile inglese, aspetta l’estate che come sempre le porterà la lunga visita della sua migliore amica: ma quest’anno il rendez vous salta perché l’amica muore di malattia improvvisa.
In una notte di luna piena (ça va sans dire) una carrozza ha un incidente proprio accanto al castello. A bordo ci sono una signora e la di lei giovane figlia svenuta. Verrebbero volentieri entrambe ospitate, ma la signora si sottrae all’invito, deve assolutamente proseguire: però, accetta di buon grado che rimanga sua figlia (ancora svenuta). La giovane, incarnato pallido e lunghi lisci capelli corvini, è cagionevole di salute e soffre di crisi di nervi.
L’amicizia tra Laura e la sua inaspettata ospite – dal nome di Carmilla – si sviluppa in breve tempo: le due sono pressoché coetanee, Laura è rimasta “orfana” della sua migliore amica, ha uno spazio nel cuore che può essere occupato, Carmilla è affettuosa e affascinante.


Roy Ward Baker, “The Vampire Lovers”, 1970.

Certo, Carmilla dorme fino a tardi, succede che a volte di notte scompaia, detesta i canti religiosi, e assomiglia in modo impressionante a Mircalla, la signora di quelle terre morta due secoli prima. Inoltre nella zona al mattino si comincia a ritrovare il corpo di qualche fanciulla privata della vita.
Carmilla è l’anagramma di Mircalla, che si è incarnata anche in un altro anagramma, Millarca, ed è chiaramente una vampira. Già qui la morte del “mostro” necessita di rituale: si comincia dal tradizionale paletto (non sono sicuro fosse frassino), decapitazione e rogo. Tanto per essere sicuri, non lasciare tracce, e soprattutto eliminare possibilità di ‘rinascita’.


Vince D’Amato, “Vampires vs Zombies”, 2004.

Il cinema ha amato molto Carmilla, anche se i film esplicitamente basati sul romanzo sono di numero nettamente inferiore a quelli liberamente ispirati.
Si comincia nel 1932 col maestro Carl Theodor Dreyer che in Vampyr è di gran lunga, e per sua stessa ammissione, debitore a Sheridan Le Fanu più che a Stoker, e del primo attinge sia a Carmilla che a certi racconti.
Nel 1960 ci prova Roger Vadim, il titolo è diverso, Et mourir de plaisir – Il sangue e la rosa, ma i riferimenti a Carmilla sono più espliciti ed evidenti: non per niente la sua seconda moglie, Annette Vadim, interpreta un personaggio dal nome Carmilla.
Vincente Aranda nel 1972 con La novia ensangrentada aggancia la sua trama a una parte di quella del romanzo, in particolare alla maledizione della famiglia Karnstein, alla quale stirpe appartiene Carmilla.
I Karnestein sono usati come base per una trilogia prodotta dalla mitica Hammer britannica: The Vampire Lovers del 1970, dove la vampira si chiama proprio Carmilla, seguito da Lust for a Vampire – Mircalla, l’amante immortale del 1971 e infine da Twins of Evil – Le figlie di Dracula dello stesso anno.
Nel 2004 è il regista Vince D’Amato (canadese, da non confondersi col nostrano mitico Joe D’Amato, al secolo Aristide Massacesi) che con Vampires vs Zombies porta la storia ai giorni nostri, l’aggiorna con la presenza degli ormai prezzemolini zombie, e realizza uno splatter movie direttamente per il mercato home video.
Carmilla ritorna come personaggio in Lesbian Vampire Killers del 2009 che se non altro coglie un elemento essenziale del romanzo di Sheridan Le Fanu: l’attrazione omosessuale tra le due giovanissime protagoniste.
Fino al recente (2019) Carmilla di Emily Harris dove il lesbismo diventa molto più centrale del vampirismo, che anzi sfuma nel sottofondo.


Emily Harris, “Carmilla”, 2019.
Profile Image for Gabriel.
483 reviews638 followers
November 8, 2021
Carmilla tiene asegurado un lugar muy preciado entre los libros que más me han encantado. Tanto por su historia como por lo que representó en su tiempo. Y es que Carmilla es una gran representación del gótico, del vampirismo con una mirada femenina bastante sugerente y ligada al lesbianismo (tema tabú en su época de publicación). Además de que tampoco es larga ni se hace pesada en ningún momento, convirtiéndose en esos relatos que te lees en un solo día.

La ambientación gótica es uno de sus puntos fuertes. Te lleva por sitios solitarios y oscuros, envolviéndote en esas atmósferas con poca iluminación y que están llenas de sombras. Y no solo eso sino que te hace un recorrido por lugares tétricos como los extensos pasillos, habitaciones sombrías y desoladas, castillos viejos y en ruinas, tumbas y cementerios, bosques silenciosos y perturbadores. Y como no puede ser de otra forma, todas las escenas transcurren mayormente al anochecer; cuando solo está de compañía la luna en el basto cielo.

Lo segundo por resaltar es la figura del vampiro asociada a una mujer y como esta se entrelaza fuertemente con el interés afectivo y sexual hacia otra mujer. Con una clara referencia a la homosexualidad de dos mujeres que se atraen, quizás no de la forma más adecuada pero que con pinceladas y trazos delicados Sheridan Le Fanu logra transmitir esa tensión existente entre ambas. Sin embargo, esa misma relación no es tan dulce y romántica como parece a primera vista, ya que tiene connotaciones eróticas muy marcadas y tiende a ser algo más salvaje y peligroso al venir de una criatura sobrenatural.

Además, como último punto creo que la extensión (aunque a mí se me ha hecho corta y quería más) me parece que no peca de repetitividad. Es bastante cercana al ser en primera persona ya que asistimos a un relato en el que solo quieres saber el desenlace de una vez por todas y la voz es directa y va al grano, sin rodeos; cosa que se agradece. Y aunque el único defecto por mencionar es que puede ser predecible a día de hoy, creo que con lo mencionado anteriormente es más que suficiente recompensa al ser una historia llena de supersticiones, pesadillas, personajes que no saben cómo hacer frente del todo a este ser sobrenatural en un entorno igual de siniestro y la indudable representación lésbica entre sus letras.

Para mí, estos elementos son lo que la hacen una lectura que merece ser recomendada y leída por cualquier persona que esté mínimamente interesada en el vampirismo, el terror con una ambientación gótica y sin duda invirtiendo un tiempo que no será desperdiciado en lo más mínimo con esta historia. Que por cierto, si no fuera por Fernanda (amiga de Goodreads de confianza), quizás ni me hubiera enterado de la existencia de esta obra. Solo he tenido como referente a Drácula y pues sí que me molesta un pelín y me entristece bastante que esta esté a la sombra del primero cuando tiene venticinco años de anterioridad. Pero de lo que sí estoy seguro es que si Drácula contruye el arquetipo del vampiro masculino, Carmilla es el arquetipo femenino del vampirismo. Y eso me parece una razón más que suficiente para leer el libro y conocer la otra cara de la literatura que utiliza este tópico muy frecuentado por lectores.
Profile Image for Howard.
1,172 reviews73 followers
December 19, 2021
4 Stars for Carmilla: A Vampire Tale (audiobook) by J Sheridan Le Fanu read by Megan Follows.

This is a very early gothic vampire tale. It was written 26 years before Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. It’s a rather short but very poetic story. I find it interesting to see how this mythology got its start. This was a great audiobook...5
Profile Image for Jonathan.
744 reviews3,537 followers
January 1, 2023
welcome to 202-Queer 🌈✨, the year where i only read queer books and finally have fun 🌈✨


i hope we can all agree that vampires are only good if they are queer. what's a straight vampire except a waste of space. edward who?


this was a fantastic start into my reading year. it had all a good story needed: beautiful writing, gothic vibes, a sapphic vampire.

did the author write this with the intention of "yay lesbian vampires"? who knows! did i read it going "YAY LESBIAN VAMPIRES ✨✨🌈🌈"? definitely, and that's the only thing that matters
Profile Image for Fabian {Councillor}.
231 reviews476 followers
April 3, 2016
With Dracula, The Picture of Dorian Gray and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, some of the most famously recognized horror stories of the nineteenth century have been created, yet only few people seem to know this little story which may have been the ultimate inspiration for Bram Stoker to write his popular novel Dracula. Carmilla is an early vampire story, laying the foundation of a genre which would see many other vampire tales in the upcoming years, until the development recently culminated in the seemingly perfect picture of the attractive, charming and oh so sexy vampire. Le Fanu's tale, only 100 pages long and perfect to read as a two-hour-long distraction during a Sunday afternoon, may seem unoriginal and inferior compared to the huge stories listed in the beginning ... but looking closer at this, it might be easier to realize that "Carmilla" is much more than that.



Set in a gothic atmosphere surrounding the Austrian castle home of the first-person narrator, eighteen-year-old Laura, and her father, Carmilla tells the story of a young lady who comes to visit them under mysterious circumstances, with death and nightmares falling over the inhabitants of the castle and the vicinity soon. Not only does this premise introduce an interesting development - seldomly could it have been possible to find a female character in such astonishing circumstances in the 19th century - but also does the author prove himself to be far ahead of his time, including several homosexual allusions and thus being one of the first authors of his time to do so. Most of the events in this novel are implied rather than accurately explained, which strengthens the chilling atmosphere and makes up for a thrilling reading experience.

Le Fanu's writing is anything but tiresome. While the gothic influence can easily be recognized in the novel, it feels like the writing could also have originated in modern days. Slowly does the horror creep inside the pages, and short chapters as well as fast-paced scenes help the reader to hasten through those pages. Apart from the dumb and rather annoying protagonist and the casual, perhaps even lazy characterization, Carmilla is a fascinating tale which should be read by everyone interested in the gothic horror genre and, generally, by horror readers.
Profile Image for Beverly.
805 reviews289 followers
September 16, 2021
A fine little vampire tale

Carmilla was written by another Irish author, Le Fanu, a quarter century before his fellow countryman, Bram Stoker wrote Dracula. Carmilla is a typical Gothic story with an old castle set in a lonely forest with few neighbors. The young girl and her father who live there have few visitors, so they welcome drop-in guests. Carmilla arrives out of the blue to stay with them. Young girls in the area start sickening and dying of a strange, wasting disease.

Carmilla prefers girls and when they are beautiful like her host's daughter, she is particularly entranced. Surprisingly, it is not moralistic in tone, with the subtle lesbianism, only the vampirism is seen as anathema.
Profile Image for Carol.
1,370 reviews2,133 followers
October 10, 2017
.....Here it is OCTOBER and I'm stumped at finding a good scary read so I reverted to the GR list of Best Horror...then moved on to Best Gothic Books Of All Time and found this little gem.

.....While not scary, CARMILLA is indeed an atmospheric well told story and one of the earliest works of vampire fiction. First published in 1872, CARMILLA predates even DRACULA by more than 25 years.

.....It all begins with a creepy carriage misadventure....is filled with phantasmagoria and ends....well, I'm not going to say, but there is the slightest lesbian undertone to the tale that I found surprising.

.....Highly recommend for a bit of mild gothic horror!

Profile Image for Kay ☼.
1,964 reviews668 followers
October 17, 2022
Perhaps this is the first female Vampyre?🧛‍♀️
Read for Halloween because I heard good things. This is an entertaining gothic vampire novella that I initially thought was the first "Vampyre" novel until I saw there's another short story that was published over 50 years before this one. The Vampyre
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