“CARMILLA—PRELUDE TO DRACULA”
by Timothy Baril, 2014
This book IS Le Fanu’s 1872 story, “Carmilla”, line-by-line—except those lines which Baril has changed and a few scenes of action and horror towards the end. I think it would more correct to credit Le Fanu as the author and “edited by, and with additional material by Timothy Baril”.
Baril has taken “Carmilla” and modernized the language, making it more accessible for today’s reader. The problem with modernizing a story, however, is that it then loses its place in history. It no longer opens a window onto the mid-Nineteenth Century, its mores and customs.
No matter how hard I try, I can’t imagine Lady Mircalla Karnstein saying, “Off to kill vampires, boys?”
Except for one or two confusing paragraphs by Le Fanu, I‘ve never felt the original “Carmilla” needed a rewrite. But has Baril added anything original and of note? I certainly liked his erotic but subtle description of a kiss between Carmilla and her victim, Laura. Baril’s completely original material includes fight scenes at the end and plenty of carnage.
Most of Le Fanu’s material remains in Baril’s rewrite, so no doubt the reader will get a good story. The great thing he’s done—and which I do in my own books—is to reconnect the characters and events of “Carmilla” with those of “Dracula”. It gets points for that.
But I suppose it comes down to this: if I was to recommend the story of Carmilla to someone, would I recommend the original by Sheridan Le Fanu or Baril’s reinterpretation? I would recommend the original.