Anna Seghers' Transit: The Puzzle of Identity
Aramendi Pérez, Josune
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The present paper aims at analysing the theme of identity in Anna Seghers’ Transit (1944). Due to the fact that it deals with the story of a German man who is in exile in order to escape from the Nazi regime, its historical context is relevant. The novel p resents Marseille as a chaotic city granting asylum and as the last choice for exiles’ way out. It also reflects the official French policy toward exiles, which was characterized by its unlimited requirement of visas in order to remain in the unoccupied Fr ance. It will be explained, through the analysis of the narrator’s and protagonist’s dimensions, that under the arduous condition of exile the conception of identity turns out to be quite controversial. In fact, individual identity is constructed in relati on to the collective one. In this sense, exiles have to overcome all the obstacles that emerge from their lack of belonging to social groups in the new land. At this point, it must be noted that exiles’ sense of national identity is also affected. They imm erse themselves in a slow and inefficient bureaucratic system which will somehow determine their identities. In fact, the main struggle exiles have to face is the one about who they are and where they find themselves. Hence, they subject themselves to a co mplex process of rediscovery in order to give answer to the principal question identity asks: how they define their place in the world and present themselves to it. After having addressed the basic notions of identity, I will develop the analysis of identi ty in exile focusing on the main protagonist and on the narrator’s voice. Through the analysis of both of them, it will be proved that there is an inability to reconcile the authentic identity and the identification, that is, how they are labelled by the a uthorities. In other words, I will try to demonstrate that there is a gap between how individuals define themselves and how bureaucracy and society determines the individual .