Olalla, Robert Louis Stevenson

In Autumn I always feel like reading some mystery and horror. This year I have enjoyed several readings of the genre. Among all the stories read I want to highlight, for its brevity, the petite nouvelle Olalla by Robert Louis Stevenson, published in Catalan by the Vienna Petits Plaers Collection (Vienna Edicions) and in Spanish by Ediciones Invisibles, also in its Pequeños Placeres collection.

For my reading, I have chosen the Catalan edition of Petits Plaers de Viena, for the beauty of its edition: with the covers decorated in red and black according to the genre, and with an interior layout so that the reading is pleasant to the view. Also, the good translation made by Xavier Zambrano into Catalan makes it a small literary must.

Olalla is a petite nouvelle, in which a Scottish soldier, following the recommendations of his doctor, stays in a house in Northern Spain to recover from his injuries, the only condition to be able to stay in that house away from everything, is that it has hardly any relationship with the strange family that inhabits the house. Three people from the family of the house: Felipe the son, Olalla the daughter and the sick mother of both. As the story happens, a silent and strange family is discovered, in which the distancing of the society that surrounds them prevails, and also staying away from the host that temporarily lives among them. This is how the soldier approaches, first to the son, Felipe, and almost by chance to the mother and daughter, Olalla, and when he falls in love with the daughter, he finally asks him to leave his family to join him, away from that house. Olalla rejects him and prefers to attend to the duty imposed by his family, to take care of his family and remain with them, while he warns his soldier friend that it is better to flee from that place, to save not only his own life but theirs too. They cross here, scenes with vampirism, and descriptions that suggest that Olalla and her family are vampires, the author adds views of other inhabitants of the town closest to the house, so, for the reader, it is nothing strange Olalla’s request to the protagonist, and the decision that the protagonist finally makes.

After reading Olalla, I would say that it is a small story very suitable for reading in Autumn, even on some cold winter night of Winter, but nevertheless, beyond the small edition delight achieved by Vienna’s Petits Plaers, this story It will not satisfy the great lovers of the horror genre based on vampirism, since the story itself does not achieve the tension and intensity expected in this type of stories. At some point, you get a dark atmosphere, but not enough that the story itself, I could get hooked as a reader of the genre. Perhaps it may be pleasing to readers who, having not read much about this topic, wish to start with a petite nouvelle, then I would recommend it, but for readers who have read a lot about vampirism before or more horror novels, Olalla would not recommend them, because I would know little by little, but not because of the brevity of the story, but because of the lack of that intensity in terms of mystery and horror that I indicated earlier.

Robert L. Stevenson (Edinburgh, 1850 – Samoa, 1894) travelled all over the world looking for a climate that would help him cope with his tuberculosis. He finally settled in Samoa, along with his wife Fanny Osbourne. Stevenson is the author of other works recognized as classics of literature such as Treasure Island or The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.

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