- Dracula or Draculitz?: Translational Forgery and Bram Stoker’s “Lost Version” of Dracula
The body of vampire literature—much like the body of the vampire himor herself—is subject to a certain degree of fraudulence and imposture. At the end of Bram Stoker’s Dracula (1897), Jonathan Harker reveals that “in all the mass of material of which the record is composed, there is hardly one authentic document; nothing but a mass of typewriting” (326), a revelation that suggests the vampire’s representation is dominated first by mechanical reproduction and second by inauthenticity. Dracula’s participation in an “inauthentic” archive drives this article, as we argue that the technologies of monstrosity we associate with the literary vampire—those relating to bodily and technological reproduction—have long been intimately bound to the textual practices of fraud and literary piracy. The specific forms of textual fraud we examine here reach their apotheosis in the fraudulent translations of Dracula published in Sweden and Iceland very shortly after the appearance of Stoker’s novel.
Until very recently, critics and biographers assumed that the 1901 Icelandic translation of Dracula was connected to Stoker’s archive through documents now lost to time.1 Since 1986, when Richard Dalby first translated into English the signed preface to Valdimar Ásmundsson’s Makt myrkranna, the Icelandic version has been seen as evidence of Stoker’s collaboration or blessing of the text’s significant changes. In 2017, researcher Hans Corneel de Roos published a translation of Makt myrkranna as Powers of Darkness, hailing the text as Stoker’s “lost” work. De Roos speculated that the translator may have been “working from a proto-version of Dracula that Stoker never worked out to the end” or from a draft “based on the notes Stoker made from March 1890 on” (Introduction 23–24). Meanwhile, Dacre Stoker, Bram Stoker’s great-grandnephew, and a notable researcher, insisted that Stoker must have “orchestrated” the “significant” Icelandic changes (10). Such confidence was short-lived, for researchers soon uncovered not only a source for the Icelandic version, but evidence of literary fraud.
In fact, the Icelandic version is an abridged translation of the earlier Swedish Mörkrets makter (Powers of Darkness), a version of Dracula translated by A-e, which appeared in 1899, a discovery made by Rickard Berghon. Although both Nordic translations claim on their title pages to be “a novel by Bram [End Page 293] Stoker” and include a preface by “B.S.,” their connection to Stoker is tenuous at best. Just a year after publishing his Powers of Darkness, de Roos discovered that passages from the preface had been lifted from the memoirs of a Swedish priest. Rather than being “authorized” versions of Dracula, both translations bear the hallmarks of “artful piracy” (de Roos, “Was the Preface” 25). But these fraudulent translations of Dracula are not the anomalies they appear at first glance. Far from being aberrations—glitches in the otherwise smooth surface of Dracula’s textual transmission—these translations, we argue, epitomize the nineteenth century’s urge to produce and disseminate vampire fiction through various forms of fraudulent textual practices.
The Swedish version, with its forged preface, has been examined by very few researchers but forms a particular focus of the latter half of this article as we consider how nineteenth-century vampire literature—with its fraudulently creative translations—invites us to reread the relationship between translation, authorship, authenticity, and the archive. As research has recast the Nordic texts as translational forgeries, this article takes a closer look at textual fraud in relation to vampire literature, a genre closely tied to evolving notions of textual (in)authenticity. If in Dracula, “[h]orror arises not because Dracula destroys bodies but because he appropriates and transforms them” (Arata 630), the same transformational and appropriating forces appear at the level of textual construction and transmission. We argue that, upon closer examination, Dracula’s extended archival strata, as well as its diegetic surface, reveal a “monstrous” allegiance to literary piracy, forgery, and misused translations.
Turning first to Stoker’s novel, we note that many important critical studies have traced Dracula’s preoccupation with textual...