Emma and the New Civilization (“Emma et la nouvelle civilisation”), Martin Page and Samuel Jan



1 min

Emma and the New Civilization (“Emma et la nouvelle civilisation”), Martin Page and Samuel Jan

Today Emma celebrates her 90th birthday, and her body feels it, but not her mind. She marvels at everything and discovers a new civilisation where words march forth as calligrams.

© La Marelle

A bold pair in command


 Martin Page, born in 1975, is a writer. His works include: How I Became Stupid (“Comment je suis devenu stupide”) published in 2001, A Perfect Perfect Day (“Une Parfaite Journée parfaite”) in 2002, and children’s books such as The Boy of All Colours (“Le Garçon de toutes les couleurs”) in 2008.


Samuel Jan, born in 1982, is a graphic designer. He participated in the “Fresh Air Art” (“L'art prend l'air”) exhibition in Nantes with 1.2, tree, a series of tree drawings made on a computer. Very versatile, he works in publishing as well as on the creation of visual identity, animation and web design.


A poetic story


Emma and the New Civilization discusses old age with plenty of humour and poetry. At the age of 90, Emma sees life differently. Rather than suffering a tragedy, she plays with her old age. The changing body and the well-known environment which becomes alien to it as the senses change, she decides to interpret them as a change of civilisation, to be conquered with laughter and determination.


The background and form combine wonderfully to convey her new-found state of grace. When her eyes fail, flowing effects appear over the text of the book. When her hands shake, the text moves the same way. A thoughtful way of using the digital to give breadth and movement to the words in black and white, which as a result have no need of illustrations.



A creation in residence

 Martin Page and Samuel Jan met in Nantes where they worked in the same collective workshop. In 2005, a residence for digital writing at the Friche la Belle de Mai in Marseille gave them the opportunity to work together to write a story in an animated format.


Emma's character emerged quickly. Age-related ills allowed them to exploit the new reading possibilities offered by the digital book. They quickly move towards the idea of typographical games and sequencing the story by using the pages like animated panels.


Surrounded by the best, Martin Page and Samuel Jan benefited from the help of Jiminy Panoz, designer and creator of digital books to bring Emma and the New Civilization to life, but also from the perspective of the other resident artists who supported them for a month.


A voyage to another civilisation

“Time doesn’t make you age, rather it forces you to wear its costumes,” Romain Gary wrote in his novel Lady L in 1963. The "young" Emma dons her costume with humour and panache. The poor functioning of her body is a source of smiles rather than tears. Thanks to this lovely character, Emma and the New Civilization allows us to take another look at old age, which is rarely addressed in literature.


A universal subject which Martin Page and Samuel Jan lay down on paper brilliantly: Far from being a shipwreck, old age is here is a journey to a country that is certainly unknown, but full of promise.

The Institut français and the project

Emma and the New Civilization (“Emma et la nouvelle civilisation”) is presented as part of “Reading Machines” produced by the Institut français, an exhibition dedicated to innovative books which tours internationally across the French cultural network abroad.


It is also part of the selection available on, a platform that collects and promotes works falling under the umbrella of innovative books.