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The blog of author Dennis Cooper

Félix Fénéon Day *

* (restored)

 

Judge: “You know you had on you everything
you need to commit a murder?”

 

Felix Feneon: “Yes, but I also had on me everything
I needed to commit a rape.”

 

 

*

 

‘Félix Fénéon (1861-1944) was a French anarchist, editor, and art critic in Paris during the late 1800’s. Born in Turin, he moved to Paris at the age of 20 to work for the Ministry of Defense. He attended the Impressionist exhibition in 1886, later coining the term “Neo-Impressionism” to define the movement led by Georges Seurat. He was the first French publisher to publish James Joyce. In 1892, the French police searched his apartment, claiming him to be an active anarchist. That summer, along with other intellectuals and artists, Fénéon was placed on trial, a case which is now know as The Trial of the Thirty. Although the charges were dismissed, he was discharged from the Ministry of Defense. Despite the discharge the police didn’t believe in Fénéon’s innocence. Once the prefect told Mme Fénéon who came to complain that the police continued shadowing her husband, “Madam, I’m sorry to say this, but you’ve married a killer.'”

‘Decades before the rise of “flash fiction,” Félix Fénéon mastered the art of flash nonfiction in the 1,220 short items he wrote for a Paris newspaper in 1906. Collected and published in book form after his death, Fénéon’s miniature masterpieces of irony and suspense are a tour de force of Pointillist prose. From adultery, murder, revenge, and traffic accidents to tax collection, labor unrest, suicides, and the occasional well-deserved celebration, daily life in France a century ago was as unexpectedly comic and tragic as anywhere else. But only a cultural figure as central yet self-effacing as Fénéon — quiet dandy and secret anarchist, champion of Seurat and first publisher of Lautréamont, translator of Poe and Jane Austen — could have transformed newspaper hackwork into a modernist mosaic that captures the particular details of a place and an age with such exquisite timing and humor. Novels in Three Lines not only anticipates literary “ready-mades” like Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and Andy Warhol’s a: a novel; it is a unique artifact from the golden age of the newspaper and a window into France in 1906 on the cusp of modernity.’ — from The Anarchist Encyclopedia

 

 

from the writings of Felix Feneon
translated by Edward Morris

 

Scratching it with a hair-triggered revolver, Mr. Ed… B… removed the end of his nose, in the Vivienne police station.

 

Falling from a scaffolding at the same time as Mr. Dury, stone-mason, of Marseille, a stone crushed his skull.

 

Louis Lamarre had neither work nor lodging; but he did have a few coppers. he bought a quart of kerosene from a grocer in Saint Denis, and drank it.

 

A madwoman of Puechabon (Herault), Mrs. Bautiol, nee Herail, used a club to awaken her parents-in-law.

 

At finding her son Hyacinth, 69, hanged, Mrs. Ranvier, of Bussy-Saint-Georges, was so depressed she couldn’t cut the rope.

 

In Essoyes (Aube), Bernard, 25, bludeoned Mr. Dufert, who is 89, and stabbed his wife. He was jealous.

 

In Brest, thanks to a smoker’s carelessness, Miss Ledru, all done up in tulle, was badly burned on thighs and breasts.

 

In Djiajelli, a thirteen-year-old virgin, propositioned by a lewd rake of ten, did him in with three knife-blows.

 

Scissors in hand, Marie le Goeffic was playing on a swing. So that, falling, she punctured her abdomen. In Bretonneau.

 

Not finding his daughter of 19 austere enough, the Saint-Etienne jeweler Jallat killed her. He still, it is true, has eleven other children.

 

“What! all those children perched on my wall?” With eight shots, Mr. Olive, a Toulon property-owner made them scramble down, covered with blood.

 

Marie Jandeau, a handsome girl well known to many gentlemen of Toulon, suffocated in her room last night, on purpose.

 

A Nancy dishwasher, Vital Frerotte, recently returned from Lourdes forever cured of tuberculosis, died, on Sunday, by mistake.

 

Miss Verbeau did manage to hit Marie Champion, in the breast, but she burned her own eye, for a bowl of vitriol is not an accurate weapon.

 

*

 

Felix Feneon, art critic

‘As soon as Félix Fénéon appeared at the eighth and final Impressionist exhibition in 1886, at which Seurat’s La Grande Jatte was shown, he immediately estimated the historical importance of the new art technique. The future generations will remember 1886, because the age of Manet and Impressionism had come to its logical end and the age of Neo-Impressionism began, stated Félix Fénéon.

‘Neo-Impressionism was the term, introduced by him to denote the new movement, it showed on one hand its connection with Impressionism, which experimented with light and color, and on the other hand denoted the new style with its ‘conscious and scientific’ approach towards the problems of color and light. The ‘bull confusion’, so Fénéon called the reaction of the public to the unusual technique of Seurat, Signac and other Pointillists.

‘Actually he was the only critic who “proved capable of articulating an appreciation of Seurat’s picture, and the new method of painting it exemplified, in words notable for their objective tone.” (Hajo Düchting. Seurat. The Master of Pointillism.) Félix Fénéon defined to the public the idea that stood behind the new techniques,

“If one looks at any uniformly shaded area in Seurat’s Grande Jatte, one can find on every centimeter of it a swirling swarm of small dots which contains all the elements which comprise the color desired. Take that patch of lawn in the shade; most of the dots reflect the local colors of the grass, others, orange-colored and much scarcer, express the barely perceptible influence of the sun; occasional purple dots establish the complementary color of green; a cyanine blue, necessitated by an adjacent patch of lawn in full sunlight, becomes increasingly dense closer to the borderline, but beyond this line gradually loses in intensity… Juxtaposed on the canvas but yet distinct, the colors reunite on the retina: hence we have before us not a mixture of pigment colors but a mixture of variously colored rays of light.”

‘Fénéon’s love for art was absolute, and even formed his political tastes. The failure by the “bourgeois” society to understand the real artists, its admiration with commonplace hacks, ‘sugary masters of schools and academies’, and its accusation of new and fresh trends — all this was enough for Fénéon to justify the destruction of that society. Fénéon approved of Anarchistic propaganda, even its extreme forms, which called for action using bombs.’ — Jeanne Picq

 

 

*

 

The Book

 

Novels in Three Lines
Felix Feneon
Translated and with an introduction by Luc Sante
New York Review of Books (August 2007)

Novels in Three Lines collects more than a thousand items that appeared anonymously in the French newspaper Le Matin in 1906 — true stories of murder, mayhem, and everyday life presented with a ruthless economy that provokes laughter even as it shocks. This extraordinary trove, undiscovered until the 1940s and here translated for the first time into English, is the work of the mysterious Félix Fénéon. Dandy, anarchist, and critic of genius, the discoverer of Georges Seurat and the first French publisher of James Joyce, Fénéon carefully maintained his own anonymity, toiling for years as an obscure clerk in the French War Department. Novels in Three Lines is his secret chef-d’oeuvre, a work of strange and singular art that brings back the long-ago year of 1906 with the haunting immediacy of a photograph while looking forward to such disparate works as Walter Benjamin’s Arcades Project and the Death and Disaster series of Andy Warhol.

Fénéon’s three-line news items, considered as a single work, represent a crucial if hitherto overlooked milestone in the history of modernism…. They are the poems and novels he never otherwise wrote, or at least did not publish or preserve. They demonstrate in miniature his epigrammatic flair, his exquisite timing, his pinpoint precision of language, his exceedingly dry humor, his calculated effrontery, his tenderness and cruelty, his contained outrage. His politics, his aesthetics, his curiosity and sympathy are all on view, albeit applied with tweezers and delineated with a single-hair brush. And they depict the France of 1906 in its full breadth, on a canvas of reduced scale but proportionate vastness. They might be considered Fénéon’s Human Comedy.’

— From the Introduction by Luc Sante

 

 

 

More

Life story
Félix Fénéon: The Anarchist and the Avant-Garde
Paris rend hommage à Félix Fénéon
Sur les traces de l’insaisissable Félix Fénéon
Félix Fénéon: anarchist and aesthetic visionary
Félix Fénéon @ Twitter
Art, anarchism & Félix Fénéon
Félix Fénéon Teaches You How To Write

 

Still more


Felix Feneon Exhibition at the Quai Branly in September 2019

—-

*

p.s. Hey. ** Corey Heiferman, Hi. Yeah, getting this relatively small grant kind of legitimises the project for future and larger grants, or that’s how it tends to work here. I haven’t thought about Steven Wright in ages. Interesting. What a curious combo: him and Michael. I’ll listen, duh, and thanks. Dude if your downtime will be less down if you spend bits of making those guest-posts, I would not be unhappy. And thanks for the offer/thought! ** David Ehrenstein, Hi. If you guys were quarantined like we are, the police would be able to be very busy bees checking everybody’s forms, etc. But hopefully it won’t come to that. ** Tosh Berman, Thanks about the grant, man. Yeah, I would think there are many poets out there, and hopefully a few good ones, making poetic sense of this unprecedented mess. And I suppose fiction writers, although the beauty/terror thing seems more poetry-suited to me for some reason. ** _Black_Acrylic, Hi. Oh, cool, about the class’s successful transference into Zoom. I don’t think I had ever even heard of Zoom until about a week ago, and now it’s practically every other word people type. Ha ha, nice joke, even though Parisians aren’t actually power raiding supermarkets (yet). ** Bill, My true pleasure, and it was a big success! You did good, sir. If my Switch doesn’t arrive today, I’m going to ‘kill’ somebody. The French post is in chaos, for understandable reasons, but I need my Switch! Thank you beaucoup re: the Tsai post! You are a saint among d.l.s. ** alex rose, Treat! Oops, but, yeah, there could be sickos in my building easily, I guess. We don’t fraternise in this building. Apart from one asshole on the first floor who started screaming hysterically at me — ‘Hey, American!!!! … ‘ — yesterday for dropping a cigarette ash on the fake grass on his ‘veranda’. Enjoy home life. A friend of mine was wherever Gaahl’s gallery is a while back and went in to look at the show and was telling the guy behind the desk that he liked the show when he suddenly realised the guy he was talking to was fucking Gaahl! Who he said was bizarrely nice! My positivity, and I strangely still have a reasonable amount of mine, is teleporting into you if it hasn’t already arrived. ** Steve Erickson, Hi. Two friends of friends of mine have COVID now, so it’s getting real. They’re both fine apart from feeling quite unpleasant. Same here on the outdoors world you described. I’m trying my best to find it fascinatingly and darkly beautiful, which it is among the terrifying aspects. ** Barkley, Hi, Barkley! My Switch is supposed to arrive today, but it was supposed to arrive twice before and didn’t. Serious grr-ing going on. I’ve watched people play ‘Breath of the Wild’, and, yeah, wow. I loved ‘Animal Crossing’ don’t get me wrong, it was just a whole lot too needy for me, or, err, I guess I was the too needy half of the duo. I hope your ‘AC’ arrives today. Maybe we’ll both get lucky. ** Paul Curran, Hi, Paul! Of course I’ve been wondering how you’re holding up down there in your version of this nightmare. Yes, our Japan trip is on hold until further notice. But as soon as both of our coasts are clear, we’re coming. That’s for sure. Ah, I miss how blasé everyone was here. You can’t be blasé here now even if you want to. It’s illegal. Fantastic that you’re able to work on the novel! I’m still waiting for resignation to arrive so I can work. It’s still pretty stressful and weird and anti-concentration here. As of last night, it seemed pretty certain the Olympics will get delayed, at least to believe the news medias, which, of course, one can’t. You take care very big time, my friend! ** Dominik, Hi, Dominik! So very great to see you! I’m okay. It’s super weird. It’s getting very old even though it has hardly started. But I’m fine, seemingly totally healthy, basically myself, I think. Who knows, but I would advise enjoying whatever degree of freedom to move around you have now because this quarantine thing seems like an inevitability. Or maybe not, but it feels that way. Me too, i.e. being home a lot is normal for me, so it’s not as harsh on my end as it is for people for whom socialising and clubbing and stuff is life’s bread and butter. Oh, shit, about your brother’s eviction. I think it’s illegal to evict people in France. Our rent payment is supposedly cancelled this month, although I’ll believe it when the first of the month rolls around. Good that you guys can be together, and chances are he’s okay, health-wise. Or so my optimism tells me. Zac’s good, or he was yesterday, so I imagine he still is. We’re stuck with phone calls only at the moment. Yes, my new novel has an American publisher, and I should be able to officially announce that this week. So that’s a relief. Otherwise, everything’s getting cancelled — film screenings, shows, projects. The TV series project was finally killed last week, which is hugely depressing. Now we’re going to try to do it as feature film instead. Not sure at all if that’ll fly. Interesting about your revelation. That’s a good one, I think, as revelations go. Wow, there’s so much to suggest, reading-wise. Too much, obviously. Your list is a good one. Sade, Acker, obviously. Sartre, Camus, de Beauvoir … I wouldn’t start with them. Hm, let me think, or we can dialogue further about it. Have you read Bataille’s ‘Story of the Eye’? If not, that’s a good one. Yeah, I’ll think. Well, it’s so good to see you! Obviously, if it would give you pleasure or any other good thing to hang out and talk/type here, that would be cool for me. Have the best Monday possible! Love, me. ** schlix, Hi, Uli! We can have a ‘who stays positive the longest’ contest. Bernhard is a good remedy. I just restored an old Bernhard Day for the future. I haven’t actually read those books of his, strangely. Huh. I’ll try to order them. Cool. I think the post here must have been re: ‘Wittgenstein`s Nephew’ since that is a huge favorite of mine. Take care! ** Jeff J, Hey, Jeff! Yep, ditto, i.e. excellence incarnate to talk with you. I’m ‘praying’ my Switch arrives today, but I have a bad feeling it won’t. ‘Love in the Afternoon’ is terrific, yeah. There was going to be a big Rohmer retrospective with many rarities here at Forum du Image until, yes, it got cancelled along with everything else. There was going to be a big Pedro Costa retrospective at the Jeu de Plume, which is literally two minutes walk from my apartment, with Costa himself there a lot that got killed too. It was going to be a very rich late winter here. Very best of luck that everything is okay with your cat. Holographic hugs. ** Right. Today I decided to restore this extremely old, dead post from at least a decade ago for the simple reason that Félix Fénéon is so wonderful. See if you start to agree. See you tomorrow.


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12 Comments

  1. Feneon’s three line novels anticipate Joe Brainard’s “I Remember.”

    A real shame about cancellation of Rohmer and Costa retros. I love Rohmer so much, especially “Ma Nuit Chez Maud,” “Le Rayon Vert,” and “Triple Agent.”

    Still trying to find out how friend are doing in New York and Italy. Very worried for them.

  2. Our trip to Japan is on hold as well. We haven’t canceled yet, but, the way things are going, I don’t think it’s going to happen. As you know, I’m sort of addicted to Tokyo/Japan life. Oh well, Los Angeles is equally nice as well. And don’t fret, the switch will arrive! Feneon is great. The incredible bone structure of a face as well. Stay sane, or if insane in a good way, and of course, stay physically safe as well.

  3. bill hsu, thanks, if you click on my name it brings you to my website, about 30% of the work there il be posting to norway, all the rest is binned burnt or swallowed

    ” hey american ” hahaa, i laughed out loud at that then checked myself as we are not aloud to laugh post c19

    all is okayish here, ive locked my mum in the garden shed with her cigs & tea, i must take every precaution dennis

    yip, im working on the norway show everyday i guess its a distraction as they will probably close but il hopefully post it all off at the weekend and watch the money pour in, hahhaha

    oh deary me, i spent tons of money and time on all these bits of paper and it will be all shoved into my coffin at the end

    love to you dennis, alex,x

  4. I’d never heard of Feneon before but have just found a new hero. What a CV he had, an anarchist art critic who published Lautreamont and wrote all these delightful three line poems. A progenitor of the nu-metal goatee, but he can be forgiven.

    My friend Katie is doing a zine about the coronavirus, which to me is an inspired idea and I’m very keen to contribute. Deadline is 11th April and I’m trying to somehow figure out a short story with a happy ending. Maybe I’ve set myself too big a challenge haha.

  5. Hi!!

    I’m truly happy to hear you and Zac are healthy and safe and okay, well, as okay as possible right now – this epidemic puts things into perspective a little, no? I mean, I don’t want to get all sappy or philosophical but I don’t think I’ve ever written so many letters and texts simply to ask my friends and sometimes even not-so-close acquaintances if they’re alright. Despite all the stress and ugliness and hardship, in my experience, this situation brings out many very humane gestures of a lot of people. One of them would be if you didn’t have to pay rent – something for which I keep my fingers tightly crossed.
    This is, at least partly, why I was so shocked by my brother’s situation. It’s a pretty long story but he didn’t have any conflicts with the landlord, he always paid his rent on time, etc. Your optimism means so much, thank you; I’m trying my best to think in a similar fashion, I mean it doesn’t help if I’m all anxious (not that anxiety has ever worked by any such logic), we’ll see what happens, and what really matters is that he’s home.

    I’m really, really sorry to hear the TV series got killed, holy fuck, after all the trauma and tons & tons of energy and work! Fuck! I’m so sorry! And, of course, I’m sorry about all your screenings and shows and other projects too. This sucks majorly. Your new novel finally finding a home with an American publisher feels like such a necessary and sparkling treasure among all this rubble. I’m very happy for you. Congratulations!!

    Last time I was in Prague, I bought Bataille’s Story of the Eye so it kind of feels like a sign – if I was to believe in them. Thank you so much for the recommendation!
    I wasn’t sure I could explain myself quite clearly with the whole bubble and reference system metaphor and what really makes this “quest” hard is that there’s obviously such an insanely huge amount of knowledge and books I could devour – I have no idea where to turn or where to start or how to build what I want to build because it simply feels overwhelming.
    Do you think maybe the publisher, Semiotext(e) could be a great source?
    I do realize it’s basically impossible to put together a list or something simple as that so it’s perfect if we, as you said, dialogue about it and thank you so much for that!!

    What do you spend your days with now that your current projects are forced to rest?

    I do hope you have as great of a day as possible & see you soon! Much love!!

  6. Glad the dark films post worked out, Dennis. Feneon’s little novels will be good diversions, now that my short attention span has only gotten shorter.

    I think I’ve figured out this little technical problem that’s been bothering me all weekend, so maybe I can make more coding progress today.

    I just saw all the comments from yesterday that I haven’t responded to…

    Paul, great to see you! Glad you enjoyed the list. I’m in San Francisco, a much better place for me to be homebound than Hong Kong. Hope you and the family are well…

    Schlix, let us know what you think of The Endless and Duke of Burgundy! Jeff, hope the list had a few useful items for you. Let me know what you think when you get around to the movies.

    Bill

  7. Dennis, sorry about TV series thing. I cross fingers that you can make something good out of the situation. Very strange and bad that you work and talk and discuss for years and then everything is over.

    In an interview W.G. Sebald mentioned the five small autobiographical books from Bernhard as an influence. Perhaps that lead me to the them. The books appeared in English in a single volume titled “Gathering Evidence”, what I saw here:

    https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2006/12/25/the-art-of-extinction

  8. Hey Dennis – Nice Félix Fénéon day. That Luc Sante book is a treasure. I just saw in the new Bookforum that there’s a biography coming out soon. It looks interesting.

    What a shame about the Rohmer and Costa cancellations. Have you seen the new Costa? The reviews have been rapturous. I’m still a few behind. Recently rewatched ‘Casa de Lava’ which I love, even if it’s a bit of an outlier in his work.

    Randomly, have you seen the US indie film ‘The Bread Factory’? Put out on DVD by the same folks who released ‘Casa’ and are doing the Straub/Huillet films, plus it got rapturous praise from Rosenbaum who compared it to Rivette. It’s four hours, focusing on theater/art space in upstate NY. Looks cool, tho I haven’t seen it.

    Mostly good news from the vet this morning, which is a big relief amid all the other stress.

  9. I got an assignment today from the Quietus to write a 20th anniversary essay looking back at DANCER IN THE DARK. In retrospect, that was the beginning of Lars von Trier’s decline into empty provocation and self-promotion, after a decade of work I admired a great deal in the ’90s. But I haven’t seen it in 20 years.

    Video chat sessions with friends are a great aid to sanity. I wish I was busier than I am now, as well as more able to concentrate on movies and TV. I tried watching THE GREAT BRITISH BAKING SHOW, which has been frequently recommended as a relaxing, entirely wholesome binge-watch, but I shut it off after half an hour last night because I was too anxious to concentrate.

    I know you don’t like the Weeknd, but the coked-up MIAMI VICE synth-pop sound of his new album made me think of Destroyer’s past 10 years. (“Blinding Lights” is a really outstanding song, although a 7th album full of lyrics about how simultaneously awesome and awful drugs, casual sex with supermodels and going clubbing every night are is getting pretty old.) He collaborated with Daniel Lopatin on several songs, but I’d love to hear Dan Bejar step in for Max Martin next time around and write and produce something like “Tinseltown Swimming in Blood” for him. Maybe if the Safdie brothers or Gaspar Noe introduce them!

  10. Dennis, Hey! Liked Bill’s day over the weekend. And I remember this one. Still haven’t gotten to the book yet. I confuse him with Radiguet sometimes, which I did read.

    I find myself looking at interesting articles that pop up on my Google newsfeed. And I do a little searching and look things up. People send me things, too, and I’ll look at those. As for the plague, I look for scholarly/scientific articles that evidence-based. Keeps me from going crazy and panicking like a mofo.

    I’ve only been out to the grocery store and like a Walmart or whatever for necessities. Sometimes I step outside.

    I’m really hoping some of these therapies they’re investigating are successful, both for the people who are sick and for those of us who aren’t. A little normalcy would be nice.

  11. Felix Feneon is awesome. I discovered him here way back when, whenever you first posted this day. Aww – good memories. And this place continues to inspire me and introduce me to new exciting stuff all the time, which is pretty damn amazing really..

    So glad to hear about the American publisher. I’m wandering if it is with the people you potentially spoke about when we coffee’d in the Tuileries last September/October … I’ll look forward to the announcement! I need that book!

  12. Hey Dennis!

    I wanted to touch base because John at Inside the Castle made most of the books available as free PDF ebooks for the foreseeable future. I don’t know if a copy of Peripatet ever reaches you, but it’s available this way now for free, alongside a ton of amazing stuff! http://www.insidethecastle.org/ebooks/

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