Thursday, January 13, 2011

Review: Olalla

The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: And Other Tales of Terror:
BY Robert Louis Stevenson
Penguin Classics (2003), Edition: Revised, Paperback, 224 pages

Olalla was first published in 1887 and is set in Spain during a war. The narrator is an English soldier recovering from his wounds in an hospital. After a while the soldier takes residence with a local family. The family consists of a mother, a son, Felipe, and a daughter, Olalla; they are an old Spanish family living in a residencia.

‘It was a rich house, on which Time had breathed his tarnish and dust had scattered disillusion.’ (p. 112)

The soldier cuts his wrist and asks Olalla’s mother for help. Seeing the blood the woman starts screaming and bites the soldier’s arm.

In Olalla Stevenson retrieves from the Gothic genre the themes of old and decayed families, vampires, buildings resembling castles, and, of course, the atmosphere of angst. Although the soldier’s infatuation with Olalla takes most of the story and Stevenson keeps the Gothic themes in the background, Olalla suggests an idea of passage between the Gothic genre tout court and its themes transferred inside the individuals (for instance Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde).

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