Redrawing the Borders of Polish Identity: Transnationalism in Marek Mosakowski’s East Prussian novel Footprints in the Sand

In Footprints in the Sand Marek Mosakowski deals with an uncomfortable subject of identity in the north of Poland, converging elements of Polish, German and European cultures. He writes on the border, since he includes the themes traditionally marginalized or absent from the central cultural canon. Partly inscribed in the tradition of Gunter Grass, recently evoked in Pawel Huelle’s writing, Footprints in the Sand goes beyond the discussion of the German character of Prussia and Polish-German confrontations in the free Gdansk. In a richly woven structure, the novel deals with the decline of that paradigm from the point of view of an individual, Joachim, who sets off on an intellectual and metaphysical journey from East Prussia to France, Italy, and back to Gdansk and Prussia. The political liberation of 1945 marks his end, and the end of the multicultural coexistence in the region. On another level, the novel explores the borders of emotional attachment as well, as Joachim vacillates between hetero- and homosexuality.

This paper will explore the ways in which this novel questions the uniformity of Polish identity in the Gdansk region, postulates a return to a multicultural identity, and, in a larger sense, attempts to restore legitimacy to minorities in Poland. Anachronistic in a way, it belongs to the second wave of modernism, since it seems to reflect a belief that a fragmented identity can be restored to an image “close to the truth” through the process of meticulous reconstruction of the disjointed elements. However, the characters play unexpected roles, beyond a traditional reader’s expectations, unclear to their textual contemporaries, and barely understandable to the characters themselves.