Félix Fénéon - Novels in Three Lines, 2007.

Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines

When composing our idea for a series of imaginary dispatches and foreign correspondance from the office at Public Fiction, Lauren Mackler and I were both inspired by Félix Fénéon’s Novels in Three Lines, his fait divers (a phrase that is difficult to translate). The fait divers emanated from the telegraph and are news stories that are more notable than significant. Imagine your local news, love affairs gone murderous, record-breaking sized animals/vegetables, weird weather events, strikes, crashes, wars and sundry disasters. Writing for Le Matin, the Parisian anarchist and art critic Fénéon maintained a series of fait divers, being a poet by nature these blurbs of notable news become truly poems, all published anonymously. What does it mean to work under such restrictions, to make art out of everyday life, out of the news? What does it mean to be both a poet and a

What does it mean to be both a poet and a reporter?

Recently collected and translated into English by Luc Sante, below are a few excerpts from this extraordinary book.


A criminal virago, Mlle Tulle, was sentenced by the Rouen court to 10 years’ hard labor, while her lover got five.


Because of his poster opposing the strikebreakers, the students of Brest lycee hissed their teacher, M. Litalien, an aide to the mayor.


Nurse Elise Bachmann, whose day off was yesterday, put on a public display of insanity.


A complaint was sworn by the Persian physician Djai Khan against a compatriot who had stolen from him a tiara.


A dozen hawkers who had been announcing news of a nonexistent anarchist bombing at the Madeleine have been arrested.


A certain madwoman arrested downtown falsely claimed to be nurse Elise Bachmann. The latter is perfectly sane.


The photographer Joachim Berthoud could not get over the death of his wife. He killed himself in Fontanay-sous-Bois.


In a café on Rue Fontaine, Vautour, Lenoir, and Atanis exchanged a few bullets regarding their wives, who were not present.


Women suckling their infants argued the workers’ cause to the director of the streetcar lines in Toulon. He was unmoved.


“If my candidate loses, I will kill myself,” M. Bellavoine, of Fresquienne, Seine-Inferieure, had declared. He killed himself.


Scheid, of Dunkirk, fired three times at his wife. Since he missed every shot, he decided to aim at his mother-in-law, and connected.


Mme Vivant, of Argenteuil, failed to reckon with the ardor of Maheu, the laundry’s owner. He fished the desperate laundress from the Seine.


After finding a suspect device on his doorstep, Friquet, a printer in Aubusson, filed a complaint against persons unknown.