After the fiasco of my life in Turkey, I moved to Brazil, where I lived for nearly nine years. I learned Portuguese. I learned to appreciate The Beautiful Game for its beauty. I learned the samba, very badly. I fell in love with the Atlantic Rainforest and learned about many of its species.
There was no need to learn to lie to officialdom, for I had become a dab hand at that. My Brazilian identity documents have both of my parents with completely fictional names and my name as it should appear, with no trace of my birth name. The freedom from bureaucratic harrassment during those years was like a stint at a therapeutic spa. After that rest, I returned to France to live and decided to try to force the French government to accept my name.
The January 2012 issue of the English language newpaper in France, The Connexion, has this to say about names:
A couple from the Nord are battling in court to call their son Daemon, a variant of "demon", after the character Daemon Salvator in the TV series Vampire Diaries. The public prosecutor has ordered that the family change the name.
A judgement is expected on January 12. Blandine and Lionel Défontaine registered the name at their mairie, resulting in a summons. Couples may not give children names deemed "against the interests of the child". In France it is difficult - often impossible - to change your name in later life.
How very true that last sentence is! As I wrote in earlier Identity Wars posts, the Ministry of Health and the tax man, among many, insisted on using my birth name. My many complaints had the ridiculous result of their hyphenating my birth name with Morddel. I took a lawyer, who shook her head and told me to expect little. Aware that the chances were slim, I asked her to try anyway. I sent her copies of mountains of documents, showing that, long before I had ever left America and set foot in Europe, my name was Morddel.
At the same time, I went over all of the offensive tax and health bills with a magnifying glass to find the e-mail addresses for complaints. I wrote to them all, including copies of correct identity documents and asked if I needed to come to their offices and stab myself in the throat in front of them before they would kindly use my correct name.
My lawyer rang to say that she had spoken to a couple of officials in Nantes, that den where bureaucrats plot their torment of foreigners, and that things were not really progressing. "The best I can get is for them to use the hyphenated old and new names. You will just have to live with it," she said.
"Indeed, I will not!" I replied. "I will go to the mairie and formally renounce my French citizenship, giving my reason as 'bureaucratic cruelty'. Then, I will leave this country and go I don't know where. I will NOT stay here and have the wrong name on my death certificate!" (Surely only a genealogist would have thought of that?) She was stunned to silence. When she spoke again, her tone indicated she thought she might be dealing with a madwoman. More calmly, I said: "Please try one more time. Make them understand that I did not add a name, I changed my name."
A few weeks later, she rang with the joyous news of success. The trolls of Nantes had caved; the tribunal ruled that I am Anne Morddel. The Ministry of Health people and the tax man wrote, with apologies, and said they had corrected my documents to show my name as Morddel. Did I celebrate this victory? No, not really; I am merely glad I did not have a fit or a stroke over it all.
That could yet come for, snatched from the jaws of victory, my struggle has been brought to utter defeat, not by the French or Turkish or Brazilians, but by my own nation of Americans. Worse yet, by the crassest type of genealogists.
2011 Anne Morddel