Postcard Palimpsest

While rummaging through piles of old postcards, curiosity was met not only by the usual bits of disparate stories, past-concentrates in which vintage visuals take over the incomplete and often commonplace texts characteristic of the genre. A prolonged moment of grace kept bringing back, in the rapid succession of handwritings, a signature and the name of an addressee. A story thus emerged from fragments, a voice made itself heard through the written text. These were the postcards a young soldier, Alexandre, sent to his fiancée, Agnès, during the First World War. Their story was meant to endure the hardships of war and they got married in 1919 (as I was to find out during the subsequent research). This happy end to the story I had brushed against at the flea market was the beginning of a new one, their life together – which, as I was to find out by getting in touch with one of their grandchildren – was riddled with trials and tragic moments.

But I don’t want to rush too far into the story, which deserves a better framework in which to be told than a blog post. It is quite the contrary direction that I want to take here and rewind it to the very beginning, to those sober and tender words aligned on postcards, carrying the most important information (“I am alive”) and adding the stubbornness of ink to the constantly reminded and reaffirmed affection. “Chère Agnès”, “ma bien chère Agnès”, “ma chère Agnès” coming back, over and over, with their stark initiating force, with the powerful graphic and symbolic room they take on the small “page”, are also best at carrying a voice. See if you can hear it on this postcard palimpsest.cartes.2ndtake

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