There is so much to love about “Dracula” and there is just as much to love about “Dracula in Istanbul.” At once familiar and wholly new “Dracula in Istanbul” is a Turkish “translation,” of “Dracula” and an incredible example of transformative fiction and how translation plays a part in that.
The first big difference can be noticed immediately just by looking at the book, it’s a good deal shorter than the original. My copy of “Dracula,” a 1965 Signet Classic, comes in at 382 pages while “Dracula in Istanbul” comes in at a neat 139 pages. This is primarily because one of the major omissions that Ali Riza Sefioğlu makes is the removal of the entirety of the Renfield plot line. Other omissions are made as well, but this one is by far the biggest and most noticeable.
The forward and introduction give a good break down of some of the larger changes, including the setting, character names and characterization, and thematic plots. The whole narrative is moved from Victorian England to Turkey immediately following the Turkish War of Independence. This necessitates some changes by default, Jonathan and Mina become Azmi and Güzin and London becomes Istanbul.
The distinction between Christian and Muslim reactions to vampires is also made apparent, and in fact comes up as a relevant point on more than one occasion, such as when Azmi sees the Transylvanian townsfolk’s reaction to Dracula and when Resuhî (Van Helsing) is explaining to everyone about vampires and how they are dealt with and called in various cultures.
As I noted before, this was published not long after the Turkish War of Independence and as such there is a strong emphasis on nationalism and Turkish pride in the book. Şadan’s (Lucy) suitors are all Turkish and their proud service for their country during the war comes up time and time again. This applies even to our Quincey equivalent, Özdemir. The dashing American, becomes descended of the Efe group who, while from a different part of Turkey, were still noted as proud Turkish individuals. There is more discussion of this this in the forward and introduction, as well as in helpful footnotes throughout.
Now we come to my favorite change. Count Dracula is explicitly identified as Vlad the Impaler. There is passing reference to this posibility in “Dracula,” but “Dracula in Istanbul” takes that thread and runs with it. The references to this that run throughout the book culminate in a grand speech on the history of Vlad the Impaler given by Resuhî right before the final showdown with Dracula.
The only change that really made me a bit sad was that Dr. Afif (Dr. Seward) did not record his diary the way he did in the original, although of all the changes I’m not quite sure why I found myself missing that one so much. I’d never paid it that much thought before.
If you are interested in vampiric lore and Dracula, I would highly recommend checking this version out. It’s an excellent read and, as someone who has mostly consumed Western versions of vampire lore, I found the cultural changes very interesting to see.
You can get yourself a copy of “Dracula in Istanbul” right here.
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