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Stranger Danger

Martin Greene
Dracula, by Bram Stoker, Oxford World’s Classics, 448 pp, £4.99, ISBN: 978-0199564095 Ulysses, by James Joyce, Vintage Classics, 672 pp, £10.99, ISBN: 978-0099511199 Dangerous intruders from Hungary play important parts in both Dracula (1897) and Ulysses (1922). Stoker’s “Un-Dead” Transylvanian Count threatens to infect an ever-increasing proportion of the population of England with vampirism; and, in the Circe episode of Ulysses, Virag, Bloom’s long-dead Jewish-Hungarian grandfather, threatens to undermine the Irish moral order. By giving danger a Central European address, Stoker and Joyce were engaging with end-of-century anxieties in Western European countries about the perceived threat from “backward” Eastern Europe. There were two main reasons for this prejudiced view of Europe beyond the borders of the “advanced” Western countries. First, the Balkans were seen as a zone of disorder on the West’s doorstep – specifically, on Austria-Hungary’s doorstep – because of the slow unravelling of the Ottoman empire. Second, Western anxiety about Eastern Europe, particularly at popular level, was linked to the onset of mass immigration of Jews from the region, beginning in the 1880s, provoked by an upsurge of antisemitism in Russia. In 1911, the Daily Mail described Jewish immigrants from Eastern Europe as “the scum of the earth” and as threatening to bring about “the moral and spiritual death of our race”. But the debates provoked by these anxieties reflected not only conditions in Eastern Europe but also a corrosive self-doubt about the capacity of the West to maintain its dominant position. Questions were raised as to whether Western societies had the mettle to avoid the fate of Shelley’s Ozymandias and Gibbon’s Roman empire. Domestically, the traditional order was under threat as long-standing habits of deference were losing their force under the pressure of economic and social change. Internationally, events such as the Zulu and Boer wars in South Africa and the Japanese defeat of Russia in 1905 suggested that seemingly impregnable empires could be vulnerable to challenge by colonial peoples and upstart competitors. The resulting debates sometimes took on an apocalyptic tone: theories of “race decline” and cultural “degeneration” circulated widely. In Hungary, too, ideas about East and West were hotly debated. Historically, the Hungarians who established the medieval Hungarian state in Central Europe had eastern origins: they had migrated over a period of centuries from their original location in Eastern Europe, which was probably in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains. Politically, the turn-of-the-century Hungarian state had (at least nominally) equal status with…



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