Marks of Identity

Title: Marks of Identity – A Summary

Author: Juan Goytisolo
Publish Date: 1966
Genre: Postmodern Fiction
Page Length: Approximately 445 pages


Marks of Identity is a postmodern fiction novel written by Juan Goytisolo and first published in 1966. Through its intricate narrative style, the novel delves into the concept of identity and its relationship with politics, history, and memory. This summary aims to provide a clear and concise overview of the book’s plot, characters, themes, and significance without adding any false information or personal opinions.


Set in Spain during the Francoist era, Marks of Identity follows the life of Álvaro Mendiola, a Spanish expatriate. The story is divided into four sections, each exploring different aspects of Álvaro’s life and his search for identity amidst a country torn by political and social turmoil.

In the first section, titled “The Fall,” the novel introduces Álvaro as he returns to Spain after spending several years in exile in Paris. He reunites with his family, but his arrival awakens past memories and unearths deep-rooted tensions. This section focuses on Álvaro’s struggle to adapt to his home country and his gradual realization of the collective amnesia that has taken hold of Spanish society.

The second section, “The Civil War,” delves into Álvaro’s childhood memories. Through flashbacks and non-linear storytelling, the author presents Álvaro’s experiences during the Spanish Civil War, marked by violence, dislocation, and loss. Goytisolo exposes the impact of war on individuals and the lasting scars it leaves on their identities.

In “Franco’s Time,” the third section, Álvaro’s journey of self-discovery takes a political turn. He becomes disillusioned with Spain’s oppressive regime, reflecting the author’s own critique of Francisco Franco and his dictatorship. Within this context, Álvaro encounters various characters who embody different aspects of Spanish society, exploring themes of power, corruption, and resistance.

The final section, “Exile,” focuses on Álvaro’s experiences outside of Spain and his interactions with other expatriates. Through his encounters with artists, intellectuals, and activists, Álvaro reflects on the complexities of identity and the impact of exile on one’s sense of self. The novel poignantly portrays the nostalgia, displacement, and alienation experienced by those forced to leave their homeland.

Throughout Marks of Identity, Goytisolo uses a fragmented narrative style, blending first and third-person perspectives, stream-of-consciousness, and multiple narrative voices. This experimental structure mirrors the confusion and fluidity of Álvaro’s identity, emphasizing the challenges faced by individuals in understanding themselves and their place in a society deeply impacted by historical events.

The characters in the novel are intricately woven into the plot, contributing to the exploration of identity and its relationship with Spanish history. Álvaro Mendiola serves as the protagonist, representing the complexities of self-discovery and the struggle against oppressive systems. Other characters, such as his family members, childhood friends, and fellow exiles, provide insights into different perspectives and experiences.

Marks of Identity tackles several overarching themes throughout its pages. The novel raises questions about personal and national identity, memory and forgetting, the role of history in shaping the present, and the tension between individual freedom and societal constraints. By intertwining Álvaro’s personal journey with Spain’s turbulent political climate, Goytisolo examines the effects of authoritarian regimes on individuals and the lasting consequences for a nation.

Juan Goytisolo’s Marks of Identity is an important literary work that explores the complexities of personal and national identity. Through its experimental narrative style, the novel highlights the impact of historical events on individual lives and exposes the lingering traumas caused by war, exile, and oppressive regimes. By delving into these themes, Goytisolo provides readers with a profound understanding of the struggle to maintain one’s identity amidst challenging circumstances, making Marks of Identity a significant contribution to the field of postmodern fiction.