Qui suis-je?

  • Mariah Devereux Herbeck


Qui suisje ?” (Œ uvres compl étes 647). 1 With this opening line to Andr é Breton’s 1928 book2Nadja, the narrative agent (who shares the author’s name 3) asks not one, but two questions that motivate the writing of the text. Although translations in English have interpreted this interrogative incipit as simply “Who am I?” and critical studies in both French and English have understood it solely as a question of “being,” the verb “suis” has two distinct meanings in French. It is not only the first-person singular form of the verb “être” (to be) but also of “suivre” (to follow). Quite succinctly, whether conscious or not of its twofold significance, the narrative voice sets up his ontological inquiry, “Who am I?” as inextricable from his interactions and relationships with others by simultaneously asking, “Who do I follow?” To understand the narrative agent’s existence is to know who interests him and with whom he passes his time, as he himself ponders if whom he “haunts” (647), or perhaps, follows, determines his identity.


Tive Agent Autobiographical Narrative Narrative Voice Word Game Title Character 
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© Mariah Devereux Herbeck 2013

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  • Mariah Devereux Herbeck

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