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‘We need the literature of other countries to expand our
horizons and stimulate our ideas. Without it, we are not only
diminished, we are starved’
(The Times, Magnus Linklater 29/06/05)
Line of Fire: Diary of an Unknown Soldier
Age Range: 12+
This poignant diary by an unknown French soldier was discovered by the illustrator Barroux in the rubbish while out walking in a Paris street. Armed with this incredible discovery, Barroux rescued the notebook and subsequently illustrated the soldier’s words.
No one knows what became of the soldier, (although the diary was found with an accompanying notebook of songs which carried on until May 1917); all we have are his own words and Barroux’s extraordinary images. As Michael Morpurgo says in his introduction “We need the voice of a witness to tell the unadulterated truth. We have it in this remarkable book”.
The Line of Fire covers the first two months of the war from August – September 1914. The soldier describes the often mundane daily existence of army life: from the sheer exhaustion and endless marching until his feet bled, the night-time watches and the worry of not hearing from his family back home or the fear as he comes ever closer to the fighting. The horror of being confronted with victims fleeing from bombed out towns riddled with bullet holes, scattered dismembered limbs to his own personal suffering when he is injured in battle. There are uplifting elements too, of the camaraderie and compassion the soldier experiences, which are all captured in this exceptional and striking graphic novel.
Although there are very few words, all the brutality of war is brought to life so vividly in Barroux’s homage to this Unknown Soldier. The distinctive and expressive, comic-style sepia pen and ink illustrations evoke such emotion and perfectly convey the words that were written nearly one hundred years ago. It is fitting that The Line of Fire has been published in the commemorative year of one hundred years since the beginning of the First World War as it is an appropriate memorial to all those millions of men who fought in the Great War, a war that was supposed to be over by Christmas, but which lasted for more than four years.