Theme Of Obsessing In The Immigrants

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In Milan Kundera’s The Joke a young man named Ludvick makes a mistake that changes the course of his life. Instead of accepting his mistake, he blames others and creates more problems for himself as a result. In W.G. Sebald’s The Emigrants, a man follows the lives of several people pre and post mortem in order to find own his identity. A concurrent theme in both novels is the idea of obsessing over the past and fate.
In The Emigrants, the main character follows the lives of four men that are haunted by and often become obsessed with their memories in order to find his own identity. Carol Bere’s essay claims that in Sebald’s work it is not just their memories that cause problems; instead, it is, “…the point at which the cost of not remembering
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The best example of this would be Ludvik’s initial inability to move past his banishment from the political Party. He allows his memories of the incident to cloud his judgement, leading to his social estrangement and internal struggle for his identity. For example, when Ludvik risks everything to go see Lucie and she refuses his advances, he lashes out at her. This is because he no longer sees her as Lucie but as the same entity which had robbed him of his life before he was sentenced to the coal mines. He is unable to move past his mistakes and sees everyone as a threat to his well-being, something that Jaroslav notices after meeting Ludvik again after years had passed, saying, “Ludvik had stopped speaking to me because he was afraid!... He was afraid I would denounce him!” (157). His fear causes a rift between the childhood friends because Ludvik is no longer the person he once was. His initial inability to let go of the past seals his fate, a theme Kundera displays through Ludvick’s continued failure at life until he realizes that he cannot control his fate. Steven Kellman’s essay claims that “Fifteen years after the original incident, Ludvik cannot avenge himself on Zemanek, because Ludvik is no longer Ludvik, Zemanek no longer Zemanek, and even anguish is ephemeral…” (p.2). Ludvick eventually becomes aware of this, and after some reflection, and another plan gone awry, realizes that he will never be able to change what

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