Dracula in Istanbul by Ali Rıza Seyfioğlu.
My rating: 4 of 5 stars.
I know what you’ve always wanted: a version of Dracula with cars in it, set in Istanbul. And where the head vein-drainer is a military coward instead of a great warlord. And where there’s lots of reference to God, and the steadfast nature of a good Turkish gent is the highest achievement one can have.
Well, you got it here. Dracula in Istanbul is a mash-up of Stokerian text with Turkish pride, and it’s kind of nuts but also moustache-rifflingly great. Ali Rıza Seyfioglu, writing in 1928, modernises the tale somewhat, but spares no opportunity to wax poetic about the strength and pride the main characters feel in being Turkish. It’s probably unsurprising, given that the book was written only five years after the establishment of the Republic of Turkey, and of the changeover to a Latin character-based form of writing.
(The book also inspired a film, viewable here. Indeed, the film was better known than the book, at least outside Turkey, until this translation was made available.)
The historical background of both the Dracula story and its intersection with Turkey are well covered in essays appended to the work. It’s an interesting survey of how stories mutate from their origin to their printed form – both the fictional (Stoker’s tale) and the factual (the history of the real Dracula).
Is it a good book? No, it’s not. But it’s endearing: it has the naive optimism and bullheaded pride of the newly-minted nation inside it. It takes a familiar story and gives it an oddly personal national interest: the fight against ole scumbag Drac is a matter of PRIDE, goddamnit, because he represents injustices visited upon the nation in centuries past. It’s certainly a different
If you’ve just read Dracula, this is worth a look. It’s short – a lot of the story is neglected in the retelling – but there’s a certain naive charm here to reward your time.