A Question of Identity

“I can’t really say that I’m myself,” he thinks. “I don’t know who I am. . . . I am the late Mattia Pascal.” So speaks the anti-hero of one of Italian writer Luigi Pirandello’s better known novels “Il fu Mattia Pascal” (The Late Mattia Pascal).

Mattia Pascal endures a life of drudgery in a provincial town. Then, providentially, he discovers that he has been declared dead. Realizing he has a chance to start over, to do it right this time, he moves to a new city, adopts a new name, and a new course of life?only to find that this new existence is as insufferable as the old one. But when he returns to the world he left behind, it’s too late: his job is gone, his wife has remarried. Mattia Pascal’s fate is to live on as the ghost of the man he was.

Having long been an admirer of this story, you can imagine my surprise when yesterday I found myself watching a real life version of it on local TV. The man behind the case: Enric Marco, 84 year old head of Amical de Mauthausen. Amical de Mauthausen is a Spanish association dedicated to commemorating the victims of the notorious death campwith that name. What is really incredible about Marco’s case is that he passed himself off for over thirty years as a concentration camp victim, whilst the real life ‘Enric Marco’ never set foot inside any such camp till he entered as a victims representative sometime during the later years of the twentieth century.
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