VAMPIRE

In Of Hospitality, Derrida invites us to consider an unconditional hospitality, where we open our door to someone without limits or asking anything in return not even their name. ‘If I am unconditionally hospitable I should welcome the visitation, not the invited guest, but the visitor’. At this point I start to think of Dracula. In legend, a vampire cannot enter unless invited, only then is he able to overpower you. In Bram Stoker’s novel he represents fears of foreign invasion from the East, his plan is to infect or drain the blood of the innocent and take over London. He has many forms and can swarm as rats or slip under the door and through cracks as a mist; he can even invade your dreams. He almost lives up to Derrida’s hypothetical extreme guest, except as a legend and literary figure he is subject to as many rules as he has freedoms, however, in terms of Derrida’s argument for hospitality, it is still interesting to consider this extreme because of its impossibility. The impossibility of pure hospitality is important because it adds meaning to the hospitality we are able to offer and helps us to question our limits. Not only does the idea of Dracula transgress our threshold of acceptability, it transgresses the threshold of safety. Accepting this guest would be a kind of suicide. I say a kind of suicide because the added danger of being attacked by a vampire is that it would kill you but you wouldn’t die, not properly.

This brings us to mourning and other uninvited guests. The vampire legend probably came about out of a very real fear, not so much of death, but of the dead coming back. The legend deals with the physical form of this visitation, we imagine a body, like Dracula’s, unable to die, or a zombie coming out of the grave. These are metaphors for mourning. It is bad enough to suffer a loss, even worse to be haunted. Even the idea of the dead living on in your heart or memory seems distressing. How can you possibly ‘get over’ the loss of someone who is still there? If we consider the possibility of offering unconditional hospitality to this kind of guest what could it tell us about our attitudes towards others? By inviting Dracula in we activate him, however in the recent Swedish vampire film, Let The Right One In the vampire enters the boys home uninvited and begins to die, the boy chooses to invite her in order to keep her ‘alive’. He has embraced their difference and given himself to her, not through a blood tie, but through love. She will never age and he is destined to be her carer until he dies. In essence the vampire is a parasite and yet it has been a source for so much romance. It shows that this impossible guest is something strangely longed for. It brings with it a kind of destruction of the self and the hope of eternal rest or rebirth.

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