As I lie here in my own bed in the dead of night, wide awake, writing this on my phone, it occurs to me that it’s no surprise that I and other night-time souls like myself have always been drawn to Frankenstein. It’s easy to forget that the novel is effectively set entirely in the dark, with Victor Frankenstein relaying all he has to tell to the story’s narrator from a schooner stranded in the wastelands of the Canadian Arctic under a polar night sky. But there’s also an elemental simplicity to the story – essentially that of an artist, as Shelley refers to Frankenstein, fearful of what it is he creates – which feels murkily profound, particularly when it’s night and the rest of the world is safely asleep. At times such as these it often seems as though dreaming is mandatory, a nocturnal prerequisite regardless of whether one is sleeping or awake: something in the imaginations of those left behind comes to life and begins to roam, shading in the blankness of the surrounding night, picking out horrors. Just ask Mary Shelley.
And so I find myself thinking, as I often do: where did it come from? It’s uncannily apt that the story of Frankenstein itself took on such a wayward life of its own: a nightmare which spilled from wherever it is such things originate and out into the real world, into a book, a successful one at that, a lasting, culturally dominating one. But where on earth does one begin when setting out to tell for the first time a story like Frankenstein?
In a sense one could say that the nightmare which emerged there and then, on Lake Geneva in 1816, begins in the previous year, in 1815, and nine thousand miles away.
You can read it here.