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“The first moments of our encounter went exactly as described 
in the strip. Sergeant R. talked non-stop for ten hours, he 
literally never interrupted himself. He was suffering from 
shock because of his friend’s violent death. I understood that 
he had not been able to talk with anyone, and that as a result 
he was in a very fragile state. At first I felt that it was 
important for him that I just listen to him. But soon it became 
very important for myself to listen to him. Painful, but important.” 
This is how Penny Allen, actress, documentary film maker, 
“politically committed” artist, as she describes herself, 
talked to a Mexican journalist about her encounter with an 
American soldier serving in Iraq, on his way to the US because 
he had won a leave as a prize. The two met on a plane out of 
Paris, and the soldier’s painful story, those ten hours of 
testimony about the reality of this war, became the photo 
novel that you see on these pages.
Already published in France, Mexico, the United States and 
in the Netherlands, it has been translated now for the first 
time in Italian on the pages of Rinascita. The images used 
in the story were sent to the artist by sergeant R. after 
their meeting, and a large part have been taken from a video 
the same soldier made during his stay in Iraq.  “I have been 
obsessed with his story for months,” remembers Allen, “and 
when I had not heard from him for weeks I went and looked 
for his name in the death lists published on the web site 
of the armed forces.”(At the time the photo strip was 
published the sergeant was in Iraq again and to protect his 
anonymity the author was not able to contact him; she did 
not know if he had been killed or that he had returned safe 
and sound, at least from a physical point of view.)
A future follow-up of sergeant R.’s story will probably be 
a graphic novel, an illustrated novel that relates the 
soldier’s memories in a more comprehensive way. But the 
story could also become a movie: according to Penny Allen, 
it is “terribly necessary to tell the whole story, because 
of what happened in Iraq during the war and then in the US, 
because sergeant R.’s experience is one of the tragic 
results of the American system.”

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