Saturday, June 16, 2007

Fénéon's Three Line Novels

The July issue of Harper's excerpted from the upcoming book Novels in Three Lines, a series of short news items written by Félix Fénéon for the Paris daily Le Matin in 1906. Fénéon wrote 1,200 such three-line crime shorts that year. They have been translated and collected by Luc Sante for the book due out in August.

These sick little summaries are reminiscent of both Hemingway's famous six-word story (more of a poem, really: For sale, baby shoes, never used.) and the so-called "Bus Plunge" genre of newspaper space filler shorts, in which accounts of buses plunging over cliffs around the world (it happens all the time -- see here or here. Or Google it.) were summarized to fill bare column space in print newspapers.

Here are a few of my favorite Fénéon items from Harper's:
"If my candidate loses, I will kill myself,"
M. Bellavione, of Fresquienne, Seine-Inférieure,
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.

In the vicinity of Noisy-sur-Ecole, M. Louis
Delillieau, seventy, dropped dead of sunstroke.
Quickly his dog Fido ate his head.

What? Children perched on his wall? With eight
rounds, M. Olive, property owner in Toulon,
forced them to scramble down all bloodied.

Le Verbeau hit Marie Champion right on her
breasts, but he burned his eye, because acid is
not a precise weapon.

At the Trianon Palace, a visitor disrobed and
climbed into the imperial bed. It is disputed
whether he is, as he claims, Napoleon IV.

There is no longer a God even for drunkards.
Kersilie, of Saint-Germain, who had mistaken
the window for the door, is dead.

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