The People’s Vampire

There’s a nice long article in this month’s Harpers about vampire belief and lore in the present day Balkans.

Unlike his Western relation–that handsome, aristocratic, mirror-wary antihero–the Balkan vampire is typically confined to living and hunting among the laboring classes … Also a Western conceit is the vampire’s pallor; whereas female vampires are beautiful and white-robed, most firsthand accounts indicated that male vampires are ruddy, corpulent peasants, whose affect–once unearthed–is that of a freshly gorged mosquito.

Lots of good stuff about rural vampire-hunting, a legendary Serbian horror movie about an evil butterfly, the post-Tito return of the Devil, and why there are no goats in the nativity. On sparkly Western vampires, the author has this:

The Americanized vampire is the ultimate fantasy for a nation in decline: the person who has been able to take it all with him when he dies, who has outlived the vagaries of civilization itself. Having abandoned the culture that forged him, moreover, he deceives us into thinking that he has moved beyond being what he always has been–a disease. Now the plague he spreads is a therapeutic fantasy in which an embarrassment of wealth and youth and hedonism is acceptable as long as its beneficiary is equipped with the right intentions. We have forgotten to be afraid because … we are willing to believe that a weapon of evil, in the right hands, can be transformed into an instrument of good.

–Téa Obreht, “Twilight of the Vampires,” Harper’s, November 2010.



Undead Menace Poster

I like the idea of the zombie as having been evacuated of all real consciousness, in ravening pursuit of the living who do. A brilliant analogy. The idea of the zombie was the product of the political and economic system. Of course in the original Caribbean figure zombies are about what slavery does to you…

Another fine post from Barista, involving the origin of zombies, and stories, and stories about zombies. (The image actually comes from artist Travis Pitts, via Action Typist, who has more Moe Berg action too.)