The Vampires of Alfama Critical Essays

Pierre Kast


(Critical Survey of Science Fiction and Fantasy)

The Vampires of Alfama was in the forefront of a wave of revisionist vampire stories that abandoned the notion that vampires were to be reckoned innately evil, redesigning them as heroic outsiders battling against moral tyrannies based in unreasoning fear. In beginning this new crusade, however, the novel also carried forward the rich French tradition of literary Satanism that began with poet Charles Baudelaire and historian Jules Michelet and was brought to full fruition by Anatole France in The Revolt of the Angels (1914).

João is far more wholeheartedly modern in his attitudes than such real heroes of the Portuguese Enlightenment as Father Luis Verney and the Marquis de Pombal, not merely in his politics but also in his role as a connoisseur of sexual pleasure. In his own way, he is almost as bizarre an intrusion into the actual pattern of European history as Count Kotor. Unlike the flood of sympathetic vampires about to be unleashed on America in the wake of Anne Rice’s best-selling Interview with the Vampire (1976), Kotor is no troubled introvert obsessed with his own peculiar angst. He is, in fact, a modern Prometheus. Having attained a difficult superhumanity for himself, his one desire is to find the means to enable all humankind to advance to a higher state of being. He pursues this selfless quest despite the fact that those who presently hold power in the world are determined to punish him as harshly as they can.

The would-be tyrants of church and state are quite right to see...

(The entire section is 629 words.)