Art directed by Metz-based French designer Céline Kriebs, Soyez embrassés de loin [which translates loosely as Be kissed from afar] gathers together the letters of a soldier in the First World War during the time when Alsace-Lorraine, now known as Alsace-Moselle, was part of Germany. Eugène Bernard was 21 when the war broke out in 1914; three years later he was dead. By 1918, the region was back in French hands.
Artists and researchers Cyrielle Lévêque and Aurélie Michel devised the project after the discovery of an unpublished collection of 409 letters, which bear witness to an era of upheaval, expressed in the exchanges of a soldier who was born in annexed Moselle and fought on the German side. ‘Their ambition,’ says Kriebs, ‘was to create a sober and clear artefact with a simple cover, without unnecessary decorative elements.’
With letters, postcards and envelopes to and from Bernard’s sisters, parents, aunts and a cousin, the correspondence, written in both French and German, reveals a turbulent period, recounting everyday life alongside the grim realities of war, waiting for a peace that – for Bernard – never came.
Designer Kriebs chose Fedrigoni Materica Cobalt, which she liked for its ‘rough touch’. The choice of colour was important: ‘It recalls the soldiers’ uniforms (which were light blue-grey) and blends with the original papers,’ she says.
She used Swiss binding to allow the pages to be opened easily, and facsimiles of five letters sent by the family are inserted between the pages of the edition: vivid artefacts of a forgotten soldier’s tale.