November 11, 2006

The Historian

Having mentioned Elizabeth Kostova's novel The Historian (as I just did), let me add that as a true aficionado of Bram Stoker's wonderful 1897 epistolary novel Dracula, with which Kostova's is intimately interwoven, I would not be one to think well of any cheap ripoff of it; but Kostova has crafted a serious, well-written, and ingenious homage to Stoker's imaginary world and the historical truth about Vlad Drakul that partly inspired it.

In addition to being talented, Kostova is, as her picture shows, very beautiful. If there is any Language Log reader who happens to know how to get in touch with her, I would be grateful if they would kindly convey to her the following private message.

Elizabeth (if I may): I wish to take you to dinner at some time and place in the future that is mutually convenient. On the eve of St George's Day, perhaps. I thought we might have paprika hendl, as did Jonathan Harker when he broke his journey at the Hotel Royale in Klausenburgh (Cluj as it is now called). We might also enjoy some impletata (he must mean patlagele impulute, the stuffed eggplant dish he spoke of as having been offered to him at breakfast; it should do well as part of the dinner). Some cheese, and a salad, and a bottle of old Tokay, the wine Dracula himself served for Harker with his first dinner at the castle. Then, after dinner, a taste of slivovitz, the plum brandy offered to Harker by Dracula's mysterious carriage driver on that cold May 4th night when he was driven to Castle Dracula.

At the end of the evening I would like, if it is acceptable, to bite you very gently on the neck. (You will find that when a grammarian kisses you, you stay kissed.)

Perhaps you might even do me the honor of visiting my own humble home.

Welcome to my house! Enter freely and of your own will! Come freely. Go safely; and leave something of the happiness you bring!

Grateful acknowledgments to Leonard Wolf, whose beautiful book The Annotated Dracula (New York: Clarkson N. Potter, 1975) is indispensable for an appreciation of Stoker's world. Spellings of place names in Transylvania used above are those found in Stoker's novel, not the modern Hungarian or Romanian spellings.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at November 11, 2006 12:55 AM