Imagine walking down a street in Paris one morning, stumbling upon a rubbish heap, plucking out a cardboard box from the debris, and finding pages of song lyrics, a war medal and a diary written 100 years ago inside the box. This really happened to French artist Barroux, and his tribute to the unknown man behind the diary is the graphic novel, Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914).
Through charcoal drawings, Barroux illustrates the diary's entries from early August, 1914 until the writing abruptly ends one month later. The haunting, dark sketches show the full range of emotions and experiences of this anonymous French soldier just days into the start of the Great War. Renderings depicting fear, sadness, lonesomeness, and hope accompany the brief diary entries. Pages with the soldier's handwriting are also sprinkled throughout the book. Although the name of this soldier remains a mystery, he was a real man that had to say goodbye to a real family and walk into the forests not knowing what lay ahead. Line of Fire is a way to remember that this brave man existed.
Further information about clues from the diary, the multi-media adaptation of Line of Fire and the background of the artist Barroux can be found here.
– Carole Rosner
Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier (August, September 1914)
by Unknown (author), Barroux (illustrator) and Sarah Ardizzone (translator)
Phoenix Yard Books
2014, 96 pages, 7.2 x 9.8 x 0.5 inches (paperback)
I’ve always been fascinated by WWI trench art – objets d’art fashioned from bullet and shell casings and other materials found in the trenches and battlefields of that hellish quagmire. My general interest in WWI military history has also brought me to other artistic expressions of it, like Benjamin Brittens’ War Requiem and the war poetry of Wilfred Owen. Above the Dreamless Dead: World War I in Poetry and Comics was put together by New York Times’ bestselling editor, Chris Duffy. The collection honors the centennial of the “Great War” in a unique way, by combining some of the most celebrated “trench poets” of the time with some of today’s most accomplished cartoonists. The works of such poets as Rudyard Kipling, Thomas Hardy, Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, and Wilfred Owen are given the comic strip treatment by Garth Ennis, Peter Kuper, Hannah Berry, Anders Nilsen, Eddie Campbell, and others.
The textual spareness of the comic form really does lend itself to poetry, so it seems a perfect marriage. But I have to admit, while I really enjoyed and was moved by the experience of this book, the disparity between the writing style of early 20th century poetry and modern comic art did seem at odds at times. And as poetry is supposed to be personally-evocative, I thought the pieces that worked best were the ones that kept the art sparse, moody, and not a literal interpretation of the verse. I really enjoyed the soldier’s songs and how they were comically interpreted. Read the rest
The following photos were taken from 1914-1918 by my great-grandfather Lt. Walter Koessler during his time as a German officer in the first World War. They're part of a collection of over a thousand photos, stereographs and their negatives that my family has been saving for a century. This is an unusually large and complete collection, and I've taken on the task of preserving it and sharing it with you as I believe it deserves.
These photos have never been published before.