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PSIPOOK | books | the historian, elizabeth kostova

the vampire code
Title: The Historian
Author: Elizabeth Kostova
Publisher: Back Bay Books
Price: ¥1,092
ISBN: 0-316-05788-6

Seven pages into The Historian there is an innocuous sentence that had me chuckling out loud. The heroine, a lady who knows a thing or two, is arriving in a certain East European city for the first time tells us: “Because this is the city where my story starts, I’ll call it Emona, its Roman name, to shield it a little from the sort of tourist who follows doom around with a guidebook.” Not an obvious rib-tickler, I’ll grant you, but it is a cheeky dig at the people who set out with The DaVinci Code in hand to retrace Dan Brown’s investigative footsteps around Europe and back to his book’s ultimate revelation. These people, of course, were to find out that where history didn’t conform to Brown’s plot, he just made it up.

The above quoted sentence announces that this author, Elizabeth Kostova, really has done her research, has not made up any of the history, and knows what she is talking about (I’ve done my background reading, honest!). Her quip is not mere hubris because The Historian is everything that the DaVinci code is supposed to be but isn’t; it’s a mystery and a horror story, a glorious fiction, set lovingly in a frame of real figures, real history and real locations.

Emona, in case you are the kind of person who likes to follow doom around with a guidebook, is Lubjanja, the capital of modern Slovenia, and a city with links to the historical figure Vlad the Impaler who through local myths and the febrile imagination of one Abraham Stoker became Dracula.

Yes, there are vampires in the story, and Kostova’s achievement is to make them spring from the history and the landscape without faking either, as if they were a necessary part of both.

Kansai Scene, March 2006

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By the way, have you read Chris Page's novel Weed? It really is rather fantastic.

Words of praise for Weed from a publisher in London.

"... it’s really witty and very strong ... I would compare the writing to Robert Rankin, or a really satirically biting Tom Sharpe, and will say again that I’m really impressed by it"



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